1951: Heads We Win, Tails You Lose!

La Jolla's Pete Brown stops Point Loma's Dick Long, who gained 15 yards. Trailing is Point Loma's Bob Duncan.

La Jolla’s Pete Brown stops Point Loma’s Dick Long, who gained 15 yards. Trailing is Point Loma’s Bob Duncan. La Jolla won important City League game, 21-14, to protect playoff hopes.

Duane Maley must have felt like the guy who discovered that his wallet had been lifted after being jostled in a crowded theater.

Maley had ended up on the wrong side of the coin minutes after conclusion of an exhausting and competitive City Prep League season.  Maley’s  San Diego Cavemen and Walt Harvey’s La Jolla Vikings, each with a 5-1 record, tied for first.

Lawrence Carr, the President of the City Prep League, conducted a telephonic coin flip which went in favor of the Vikings, propelling Harvey’s club into the Southern California playoffs for the first time since 1938.

Only one CPL representative could be chosen for the playoffs.

You couldn’t blame Maley if he hollered.

That Carr resided in La Jolla and had been the Vikings’ head coach from 1932-35 was a coincidence, but Carr also was one of Maley’s bosses!

Carr was the boys’ vice principal at San Diego High.

Maley’s unpleasant playoff fate was shared by the tall, gentlemanly Carr, who had a long history in athletics (three-sport star at Grossmont) and coaching (La Jolla football  and Hoover basketball), and empathized with his frustrated colleague.

To add to the discomfort, Carr also carried a legacy that went back almost a half century at San Diego High.  His father taught math there for many years and was the Hilltoppers’ baseball coach in 1911.


Supporters of each team could mount a strong argument for their favorite.

La Jolla beat the Cavers’ 7-6 in their head-to-head matchup in Week 4.  The Vikings,  perhaps looking forward to their game with San Diego, ran afoul of Hoover, 20-0, the previous week.

San Diego beat Hoover 13-6 in the season finale.  Both teams had wins over third-place Point Loma.

La Jolla won a taut, 21-14 struggle at Point Loma (“That last five minutes, my goodness, I thought the game never would end,” said  Harvey) on the last afternoon of the regular season and took home the bronze “Shoe”, emblematic of the schools’ long rivalry.

1951 San Diego High School starting team

San Diego starters, plus one, front from left: Harry Backer, Learnold Stallings, Jim Schafer, Eddie Boyle, Arlen Stringfellow, Joe Lytton, Tom Cofield. Back: Frank Johnson, Eddie Duncan, Terry Dale, Alex Hudson, Jim Cole.

San Diego topped the Pointers 15-6 in Week 6 with defense and the kicking game leading the way.  The Hillers’ Jim Duschel blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety and Terry Dale averaged 40 yards on six punts and coffin-cornered three at the Pointers’ 10, 8, and 5-yard lines.


Stan Wyatt was one of Vikings’ many , two-way players.

The La Jolla-San Diego game, before a fog-bound capacity crowd of 5,000 at Scripps Field, turned when the  Vikings’ Gene McClendon  blocked Terry Dale’s punt and Tom Tomaiko recovered the ball on San Diego’s seven-yard line in the third quarter.

A touchdown pass from Dick Greenfield to Tomaiko in the corner of the endzone and Greenfield’s successful conversion gave the Vikings a 7-6 lead.  They held on for the last 19 minutes, 40 seconds, Harvey’s 4-4-3 defense keeping the fleet San Diego runners from running room on the sidelines.

“We played the 4-4 but went to a six-man line on punts,” Harvey said in remembering the pivotal block.

Evening Tribune writer Jerry Brucker termed the La Jolla victory, which ended the Hillers’ 12-game, regular-season winning streak, “astounding.”


La Jolla also manned-up in its first-round playoff with Pomona at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, battling the favored Red Devils before bowing, 27-21.

Harvey’s team couldn’t overcome a blocked punt, which was recovered by the hosts and positioned Pomona at the Vikings’ one-yard line, resulting in a touchdown and 14-7 lead.

Quarterback Marty Keough, a future major league outfielder, also kept the Vikings on their heels, rushing for 92 yards and three touchdowns and completing 10 of 16 passes for 99 yards before a largely Pomona crowd of some 7,000 persons.

Three important Vikings (from left): tackle Andy Skief, coach Walt Harvey, center Dick Blodgett.

Three important Vikings (from left): tackle Andy Skief, coach Walt Harvey, center Dick Blodgett.

As Dick Corrick, the linebacker and blocking quarterback in La Jolla’s single wing observed, “That Keough, he was smooth as glass.”

Pomona went on to win the Southern California championship with a 26-13 victory over Monrovia.


Niedermeyer bowed out with win.

Niedermeyer guided San Diego stars’ victory.

Coronado’s Hal Niedermeyer, who ended a 14-year football coaching stint at Coronad0 after the 1950 season, guided the Southern California All-Stars to a 19-16 victory over the Los Angeles City All-Stars in the third annual  Breitbard College Prep game before 13,000 persons in Balboa Stadium.

Covina’s Jim Hanifan, a future NFL head coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and an assistant to Don Coryell at San Diego State, the Cardinals, and the San Diego Chargers, intercepted an L.A. pass and raced 30 yards for a touchdown that put the Southern Californians up, 19-10.

The game,  played with a rubber football favored by Eastern teams in poor weather and not the traditional pigskin, involved recent high school graduates and included 10 San Diegans on the Southern roster, including San  Diego’s Charlie Powell.

Niedermeyer  joined the Coronado faculty in 1930, and posted a 62-51-8 record in 14 seasons, beginning in 1937.  He bowed out with a co-Metropolitan League championship.

A Long Beach Poly alum, Niedermeyer started at Coronado in 1929-30 and won a Southern California basketball championship his first season.

Niedermeyer’s successor, Lloyd (Jack) Whetstone, guided the Islanders to an 8-2 record this season.

The trans-bay team, in the era of 5-foot-6 Harry Sykes, Swede Grimaud, John Hannon, and others, defeated Vista 32-0 in the first round of the lower division playoffs, and then bowed to eventual champion Brawley, 23-14, in the semifinals.


For years actor and director Dennis Hopper said he was from Grossmont when asked where he went to high school.

Hopper, above, was part of Buzz' gang against James Dean (white shirt) in "Rebel Without a Cause".

Hopper, above, was part of Buzz’ gang against James Dean (white shirt) in “Rebel Without a Cause”.

A star in “Easy Rider”, “Hoosiers”, and other acclaimed movies, including James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause,”   Hopper was correct about attending Grossmont, but must have had a memory lapse about which was his real alma mater.

Before he went on to a legendary Hollywood career, Hopper was voted most likely to succeed in the Helix graduation class of 1954.

Hopper’s freshman year was at Grossmont, but he was in the first wave of students at the new Helix High, which became the County’s 22nd school when it opened in September, 1951.

Because the Helix campus still was under construction, Hopper and the rest of the new Highlanders attended split sessions at Grossmont.

School was for Grossmont students in the morning and Helix students in the afternoon.


The  60-odd candidates for coach Ken Maynard’s first team weren’t able to take advantage of the split session and sleep in.  Football practice for Helix was at 9:30 a.m., followed by classes from 1 p.m. to 5:40 p.m.

Grossmont gridders weren’t taking the afternoon off at the beach.  Football practice began at 2 p.m. School classes went from 8 a.m. until noon.


“West La Mesa High”, which was to open in September of this year, was admitted to the City Prep League when the CIF executive council  met in  Los Angeles in December, 1950.

Voters a month earlier had approved construction of the new “University Avenue High School”, which would be located  beyond the San Diego city limits in western La Mesa at 7323 University Avenue.

Neither of the school names were for long.  The name was changed in January, 1951, when the board of trustees of the Grossmont School district adopted “Helix”


Sophomore halfback C.R. Roberts provided a glimpse of the future, running 46 yards for a touchdown in Oceanside’s Week 2, 19-6 loss at Orange.

Roberts finished the season with five touchdowns and 30 points, a total he would match in single games more than once in his  junior and senior seasons.


Tackle Andy Skieff or La Jolla and guard Jim Schafer of San Diego were all-Southern California first team.  Fullback George Stephenson and end John Van Hooser of Hoover were second team and halfback Frank Johnson of San Diego was third team.

Center Wilson Whitmire and halfback Harry Sykes made the all-Southern California small schools team.


Hoover and San Diego did not meet in the final quarter of the 13th annual City Schools’ carnival, in order to put other schools “on equal footing” with the two longtime giants, as school officials vaguely noted (see “jealousy”).

About 23,000 saw the West of Kearny, Hoover, and Point Loma beat the East’s Helix, La Jolla, and San Diego, 14-7.  Grossmont sat out.

Carnival squads operated under a new CIF rule that allowed a full,  two-platoon system.  The system previously was allowed only on a limited basis.


Hoover unveiled a new uniform of striped jerseys and matching socks when coach Bob Kirchhoff’s squad took the field in the carnival.

The Cardinals, who tied La Jolla 7-7 in the exhibition, were almost perfect in their usual season opener with San Bernardino.

Hoover defeated the host Cardinals 38-7 as George Stephenson rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns.  The only glitch was in Hoover’s kicking game.   John Clinger, who was more effective as an all-City tackle, had his last two conversion attempts blocked.

Stephenson was outstanding player in city.

Stephenson was outstanding player in city.

The Cardinals’ promising season was sidetracked when Stephenson’s backfield mate, Tom Chrones, went down with a season-ending injury in the third quarter of a 20-0 victory over La Jolla in Week 3.

Chrones had scored two touchdowns in the first game and three more in the second as Hoover defeated Helix 32-6.


In what The San Diego Union writer Gene Earl described as a “season vibrant with excitement, explosive individual performances, close contests, and the unpredictable,”   the play of George Stephenson in his final game for Hoover perhaps stood above all.

Stephenson touched the ball 40 times, either by running, catching or punting, and was unbowed, earning the admiration of the 11,000 fans in Balboa Stadium, despite the 13-6 loss to San Diego.

Stephenson was City League player of the year and enrolled at UCLA.

Unhappy, Stephenson  transferred to the University of California and was an unsuspecting participant in the breakup of the Pacific Coast Conference after Stephenson was interviewed by a Look Magazine writer who wrote of payoffs to players at conference schools.

Hoover coach Bob Kirchhoff remained friends with Stephenson, who was Kirchhoff’s partner on the sideline downs-and-markers crew at San Diego Chargers games for more than 20 years.


La Jolla's Greenfield scored 70 points .

La Jolla’s Greenfield scored 70 points .

Harry Sykes of Coronado was the County’s leading scorer with 81 points, 11 more than runner-up Dick Greenfield of La Jolla…Mar Vista coach Gerry pitler resigned after two seasons to take a position in the Marshall Islands as a recreation director…Helix coach Ken Maynard did not profit from the school split, inheriting only two letterman and a few junior varsity and sophomore veterans…the lettermen were nuggets, halfback Ernie Merk and end Howard Fackrell…San Diego dominated old tormentor Long Beach Poly 31-7 despite three first-half touchdowns called back because of penalties…the Cavers’ Week 2 game against L.A. Roosevelt was their first against an inner-city Los Angeles school since it met Manual Arts in 1925…freshman Karl Jordan  quarterbacked Helix in its first-ever game, a 19-13 win over St. Augustine…Kearny’s Kirby Woods ran 73 yards in the carnival, La Jolla’s Frankie Rivas 80 against Chula Vista, and San Diego’s Alex Hudson 83 against Long Beach Poly, but all were short of touchdowns…Rhode Island transfer John Mellekas became a second  team all-City lineman for San Diego, matriculated at Arizona, was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears, and played eight seasons in the NFL…Week 1 was bad for the Southern Prep League…Ramona, Mountain Empire, Army-Navy, Brown Military Academy, and Fallbrook were a combined 0-4-1…Ramona was beaten by Wildomar Elsinore 40-6, but was the only league team to score…Empire struggled to a scoreless tie with Calipatria…Erwin Hedstrom kicked a 30-yard field goal for the difference in Oceanside’s 9-7 win over San Dieguito, the first three-pointer in the County in several years…Hoover’s John Clinger and San Diego’s Learnold Stallings, a pair of 200-pound tackles, each kicked 27-yard PAT’s after penalties set their teams back against La Jolla and Helix, respectively…press accounts of teams’ preseason prospects stressed whether the T formation was the offensive formation of choice  or the single and double wings, which some clubs still preferred…Hoover was offside on a kickoff return against Point Loma, negating a 65-yard return  by George Stephenson in a 14-0 loss…”We were terrible,” said Hoover’s Kirchhoff, whose team fell to 2-1 in league play…”It was like two sluggers pounding each other and we had the most punch,” said Point Loma’s Don Giddings, whose team went to 3-0 and added,  “Give all the credit to Hil Crosthwaite and Bennie Edens, who coach our defense”…San Diego’s 25-0 victory over Grossmont was vintage Cavers running game: Alex Hudson had 103 yards in 6 carries, Eddie Duncan 76 in 11, and Frank Johnson 64 in 6….


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5 Responses to 1951: Heads We Win, Tails You Lose!

  1. Rick Smith says:

    Thanks for writing, Stan. I see coach Harvey at least every couple months with a group from Lincoln and Crawford and sometimes a La Jolla grad or two. Coach is going on 95 and sharp as a tack. I call him often for information and insight. He has remarkable recall. He was my gym class coach at Lincoln.
    La Jolla tied San Diego in ’51 and ’52 and won the telephonic coin flip both years to gain the playoffs. Coach Harvey said Duane Maley was very unhappy and that the City League found other ways to break ties..
    According to my newspaper records it was Gene McClendon who blocked Terry Dale’s punt in 1951. McClendon recovered the blocked punt on the Cavers’ seven-yard line. Dick Greenfield then passed to Tom Tomaiko for a touchdown and Greenfield kicked the extra point for a 7-6 lead. The Vikings held on for the next 19 minutes and 40 seconds on a foggy evening at Scripps Field.
    Pomona won the playoff game at Mt. San Antonio JC 27-21. Too much Marty Keough, as you pointed out.
    I never met Joe Beerkle or his daughter. A good friend was Harry Taylor, the track coach at Chula Vista (he had the 4-minute miler Tim Danielson, who is now awaiting trial on a murder charge) and was a San Diego High grad. I could be mistaken but I think Taylor once told me that he was married to someone (niece, cousin?) in coach Beerkle’s family.
    Thanks again for corresponding

  2. Stan Wyatt says:

    Hello Rick,

    I’ve been spending too much time, early in the wee hours, looking for trivia on La Jolla High football and discovered your site.

    It has been fun to go back to my days while attending LJHS ’49 – ’52 —- we just celebrated our 60th reunion last month and honored our 93 year old Coach Walt Harvey !

    Our only loss in the Fall of ’51, was to Hoover…. but then we came back and beat mighty SDHS 7 – 6 ( blocked punt ) as I recall. Always wondered if that was the case or not and if so, who on the La Jolla team blocked it. [ we played Pomona @ Mt. San Antonio College in the quarter finals SCIF, and lost to their triple threat, Marty Keough.] 14 – 20

    As you might expect, the sports writers back then didn’t always have a clear view, nor an assistant to verify key plays, so they usually guessed and hoped that someone would correct them later, if necessary.

    Always interested in following local football history and would enjoy following any future work that you may do.

    A side note: Coach Joe Beerkle ( SDHS ) ’39 – ’43, became my father-in-law when I married his only daughter, Bailee, who was the Band Majorette for SDHS – ’52.

    Good Luck with future work on this project.
    Best Wishes,
    Stan Wyatt
    La Jolla Vikings !
    LJHS Alum – Class of ’52
    DVD/60th Reunion Project

    • Norm (Pete) Brown BS USF, MS USC says:

      Hello Stan

      After reading your entry, maybe I could clear up a confusing point.

      In the San Diego game of ’51, there was no “blocked punt”.

      Shortly after the game started, Coach White called me off the bench, and said for me to go in for Charlie Smith at right guard. I went in, and after a few plays, San Diego had a third down and Terry Dale took the ball and started to fade back, probably to pass. It looked like the play was designed for a trap on me, but no one trapped me (they were not used to the new 4×4 defense which we had just installed). As Dale faded back to his left side, he kept looking at me over his shoulder he finally tried to hand the ball off to Eddie Duncan (number 22) and I grabbed Duncan and he fumbled the ball as I wrestled him down. I didn’t see who recovered the ball.

      There was no “blocked punt”.

      I made a couple of tackles, and Coach kept me in on defense for the rest of the game.

      Hope this provides some clairification and doesn’t provide any bad feelings.

      • Rick says:

        Thanks for writing, Norm. I cited the article of Oct. 21, 1951, written by Jerry Brucker in the Evening Tribune: “The big break came in the third quarter. With ball on San Diego’s 29, Gene McClendon broke through to block quarterback Terry Dale’s punt and recover on the seven. On the first play, (Dick) Greenfield flipped to end Tom Tomaiko, cutting left in the end zone. The spunky La Jolla tailback then split the uprights with the decisive point, 7-6.”

        San Diego’s Learnold Stallings had missed an extra point earlier leaving San Diego in front, 6-0.

      • Rick says:

        Stosh Wyatt originally told me he had blocked the kick. I went back through the files and found Brucker’s account. Maybe it was Stosh who blocked the kick and Brucker was in error. Would like to hear McClendon’s take on the play. Thanks again.

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