“We couldn’t convince ourselves that this team was as good as the Sweetwater and Oceanside teams we defeated.”
Such was the lament of Chula Vista coach Chet DeVore, whose Spartans’ season ended with a 19-0 loss to Laguna Beach in a CIF lower division, Southern Group semifinal playoff.
The small crowd of about 2,500 at Coronado’s Cutler Field was deflating enough, but the weary Spartans also lost 6 fumbles and their edge.
Chula Vista’s first blush with success since the school opened five years before had resulted in a Metropolitan League championship.
But Laguna Beach was the third consecutive opponent in a pressure-packed trilogy.
The Spartans didn’t have much left after a dramatic victory against Sweetwater and game-of-the-year win over Oceanside.
TWO TEAMS A COMBINED 16-0.
C.R. Roberts, a 180-pound Oceanside running back, had scored 181 points, led the Pirates to an 8-0 record, and created a loud buzz around Southern California prep circles.
Years later Chet DeVore would clear the dinner table and gather his sons John and James. DeVore would place a bottle of catsup here, a salt shaker there, until he had 11 “players” in a defensive alignment.
DeVore would use the items to show his sons how Chula Vista defensed Roberts on a rainy night in the North County community before an estimated 6,500 fans.
Roberts scored once on a 17-yard run, but was met by a flock of defenders wherever he went. Chula Vista won, 28-7.
DeVore figured the best way to stop Roberts’ sweeps would be to overload the weakside on defense, short-circuit Roberts’ blockers, and stack Oceanside’s run game.
Defensive end Bruce Cornwall was a hero in this defense, as Cornwall was left to almost singlehandedly patrol the strongside should the Pirates come in his direction.
Junior Bob Neely was the offensive and defensive star for the Spartans, scoring on runs of 18 and 2 yards, and intercepting 4 passes.
“Make no mistake, that boy is great,” DeVore said of Roberts. “Neither myself nor my boys were disappointed. He was all he was said to be.”
Chula Vista’s season would end with its own disappointment, but many Spartans would be back for another run in 1953.
So would Roberts, joined this year by Spartans defender Don Cameron on the all-Southern California small schools first team.
Roberts also was player of the year.
Coach Barney Newlee’s Red Devils, scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 13-7 lead into the last play of the game at Chula Vista.
Spartans quarterback Lavon Baker was tackled for a loss at the Red Devils’ 39-yard line and Sweetwater players and fans began celebrating as the final gun sounded.
The game could not end on a defensive foul.
SPARTANS GET LIFE
Sweetwater was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer. Chula Vista was given another play and DeVore dug into his mental playbook.
Ray Speitel took a handoff from Baker on an end around play, then lofted a lefthanded 24-yard pass, to Baker no less.
Baker caught the wobbly spiral in the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. Bob Wilson toed an extra point and Chula Vista escaped, 14-13.