1964: Bull Durham…er, Trometter!

Retired after an honored career in the Marine Corps, Robert E. (Bull) Trometter took a high school job.

Trometter could employ a figurative steel fist in the Marines (head coach at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in 1947-48, at Camp Pendleton in 1949, and at MCRD from 1953-59, his teams posted a combined 87-7 record),  but Trometter also would need a velvet glove  at University of San Diego High.

The man used both, with aplomb.

Trometter took over the second year school with no tradition and less-than-adequate facilities in 1960 and went to playoffs, finishing 3-4.  He was 4-3 in 1961, then 5-2-1, and 6-2-1 in succeeding seasons.

Year 5 started badly against the strongest schedule in school history.

Trometter (left) was lead blocker for MCRD Devildogs and ball carrier Don Gibson (rear) in 1937.

Trometter (left) was lead blocker for MCRD Devildogs and ball carrier Don Gibson (rear) in 1937.

The Linda Vista school dropped a 19-13, opening game to Lincoln and then was run off the field in a 39-0 rout by Morse.

“If you’re going to play football, you might as well play good teams,” Trometter told Harlon Bartlett of the Evening Tribune.  “I don’t know how much harm or good it’s done; it remains to be seen.”


Trometter then got to the meat of his message.  “I know one thing, this is the first time a team has quit on me.

“I don’t think my kids know how to tackle.  We started knocking heads yesterday and we’ll keep at it all week until I find out who wants to play.  If we’ve got enough players left, we’ll play.  If not, we’ll forfeit.”

Uni lost its next game, 14-12, to Madison, then won its last seven, including a 40-0 destruction of Carlsbad in the Class A finals.

Trometter explained the Dons’ success after an Avocado League-clinching, 34-0 win over Vista. “We put in a boom series,” said Trometter.  “The Boom Series is when you block people.”

Trometter also begged off a trip to the showers from his exulting players.  “I have only one  suit,” he pleaded.

Uni’s success would have an impact in the future.  The Dons would move from Class A to AA in 1965.


How difficult is this?

About  60 teams annually make the San Diego Section playoffs in the 21st century, selected and seeded efficiently (if not agreeably) almost as soon  as the final whistle is heard in the regular season.

Granted, computers ensure a fast, handy set of brackets.

But go back to this year  and to a cantankerous Eastern League as it tried to determine one playoff spot out of a field of two.

That’s two, as in this should be easy.

San Diego and Lincoln tied for first place in the Eastern League, each with a 4-1 record.  Lincoln lost to Crawford, 25-7, while San Diego defeated Crawford, 21-19.

However, Lincoln  edged San Diego, 14-12.

Solution seems fairly simple.

Lincoln won the head-to-head, so it was the logical choice.

But the Hornets’ selection wasn’t made until the next evening, 24 hours later, after a 13-0 victory over St. Augustine had clinched a share with San Diego of Lincoln’s first title since it began playing in 1954.

Trometter and Dons starters John Silva, Bob Beckman, Roger Leonard, Stan Stress, Rick Costigan, and Charlie Duke (from left) were ready for Carlsbad.


By comparison, the Grossmont League resolved its playoff question less than two hours after Helix and Granite Hills came to the finish line with 4-1-1 records and in a tie for first.

Bob Divine, Monte Vista’s vice principal and retired Helix basketball coach, conducted a telephonic poll among the six other league representatives and got the issue settled in Helix’ favor.

But the Eastern League was slow to respond.

No reason was given for the delay, but that circuit long had a quasi fratricidal history, dating to 1950, when city schools broke from the Coast League and formed the City Prep.

There was no love lost.

News accounts seemed more attuned to the quick and professional response by the Grossmont group.


Lincoln eventually would be aligned in the AA  first (semifinals) round against Kearny, the Western League champion and defending San Diego Section titlist.

Helix got Castle Park, a second-year Metropolitan League school that had improved from 1-7-1 to 6-2-1.

San Diego High was unhappy, believing it was the league’s strongest entry.

The Cavemen closed strongly with 4 straight wins and their 7-2 record was the best since 1959.

San Diego suggested that open voting in lieu of a telephonic poll would eliminate politics and perceived bias.


Kearny coach Birt Slater got involved.

“I’m unhappy with the whole situation,” said Slater.  “You’d think there’d be a better way to run an election.  I called fifteen people Sunday morning and couldn’t find anyone who knew anything.”

Slater was miffed because he had summoned assistant coaches to his residence in Lemon Grove to plot a game plan.

Instead, the Kearny staff was forced to game plan for two teams, said Slater, wasting valuable time.

“Most of the schools were represented at the Lincoln-Saints game; they could have voted then,” the Kearny coach scoffed.  The head coach, however, sprung for the cold cuts, chips, and sodas.

A parting shot by Slater and echoed by most interested others was why would the CIF have a first round pairing of city versus city and country versus county?  Why not the other way around?

The CIF generally was tone deaf to anything other than the establishment of rules and the prosecution of violations.


Kearny (11-0) actually improved on the 10-1 record of the powerful 1963 club, defeating Castle Park, 34-19 in the finals and extending its winning streak to 21 games.

Kearny returned just 2 starters, all-Western League lineman Dan Fulkerson, end Frank Oberreuter, and only seven lettermen.

“I knew this would be a good team some day, but at the start of the season I thought it was a year away,” said Slater.


The Komets thrived on a rushing attack that was unrelenting and varied.

Fullback Jim Townsend (he became known as Jamie Townsend in college at San Jose State) had 801 yards, averaged 6.7 yards, and scored 80 points.

Junior Bobby Johnson, leadoff man on the Komets’ 880-yard relay team that ran 1:27.5 and was third in the 1964 state meet, averaged 7.2 yards for 102 carries and scored 50 points.

Quarterback Bolden and fullback Townsend represented two-thirds of Kerarny's ground-chewing backfield.

Quarterback Bolden and fullback Townsend represented two-thirds of Kearny’s ground-chewing backfield.

The apple of Slater’s eye was junior quarterback Billy Bolden, who averaged 5.1 yards for 99 attempts and had a 52 per cent completion average and 738 yards passing. Bolden’s emergence was such that he was  San Diego Section player of the year.

Lincoln had no chance, bowing 26-7, as Townsend rushed for 89 yards in 18 carries, Johnson 70 in 14, and Bolden 39 in 8 as all three scored touchdowns before a crowd of 7,000 in Balboa Stadium.

Kearny was outgained, 316-298, and outdowned, 19-11, by Castle Park,  but Bolden and Johnson scored 5 touchdowns between them and the Komets raced to leads of 20-6, 26-12, and 34-13.


Johnson, scoring on runs of 83 and 51 yards, and Bolden accounted for all but 66 of Kearny’s total yardage.

Castle Park was the most surprising team in the County, riding out of the South Bay on the passing arm of 5-foot, 7-inch, Billy Miller, who was intercepted three times by Kearny but was a tough and fearless leader of the emerging Trojans.

Castle Park shocked Helix, 26-20, in the first round as Miller threw for touchdowns of 71, 45, 37, and 52 yards after winning the Metropolitan League in a showdown with Sweetwater before an overflow crowd of 5,000 at the Red Devils’ Hudgins Field.

Three points after touchdown were the difference in the Trojans’ 21-19 victory at Sweetwater.  The winning conversions came on a seven-yard halfback pass from Doug Grace to Art Gawf after a penalty, on a Gawf plunge, and on an another pass, Grace to Tommy Bullis.

Grace also passed for 25 yards and a touchdown to Gawf.


Point Loma manfully battled Kearny to a 13-13 tie entering the fourth quarter, despite losing its best player, fullback Greg Slough, controversially ejected for fighting in the first half.

Slough took long road to NFL.

Slough took long road to NFL.

Two Kearny touchdowns, the last a 38-yard scramble by Bolden with 34 seconds left, delivered a 26-13 victory.

This was not the last heard from Slough.

After playing at San Diego City College, Slough enlisted in the Army and did battle in Viet Nam, then returned to school, started at linebacker at USC and was drafted in the sixth round in 1971 by the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.

Slough left football after a third season with the L.A. Rams and one with the World Football League Hawaiians.


San Miguel School coach Mervin Houston declined a small schools playoff bid against Carlsbad after the Knights had posted a 6-3 record that included a 12-7 win over a Mountain Empire team that qualified for the Southern Section small schools playoffs.

“We are just too small to compete with Carlsbad,” said Houston, who also cited a litany of bumps and bruises to his squad of 15 players. “We could probably stay with Carlsbad for 10 minutes.


The 16th annual College Prep All-star game now featured San Diego City vs. San Diego County.

From 1949-55, the game matched Southern California all-stars versus all-Los Angeles City. The contest was all-Los Angeles vs. all-San Diego from 1956-63.

Before the game, which the City won, 20-0 before 11,218 persons in Aztec Bowl, a moment of silence was observed for F.W. (Bill) Whitney, the executive director of the sponsoring Breitbard Athletic Foundation since its inception in 1946.

Whitney, who served as game managing director since 1949, passed three weeks before this year’s game.

The San Diego businessman, who was a volunteer foundation employee (he received a token payment of  $100 a month), also served for many years as San Diego’s only voting representative on the Helms Athletic Foundation all-Southern California selection committee.

The Southern California squad had a record of 5-2 against the L.A. City entries.  All-Los Angeles held a 5-3 edge on all-San Diego.


Olander was a big name for a decade in the East County foothills.

Grossmont’s Roger Olander was one of the leading pole vaulters in the nation in 1958,  with a career best of 13 feet, 5 ¾ inches, before the revolution of technology in the pole vault.

Olander was the County's fastest, in football in the fall, and in track in the spring.

Olander, running against Castle Park in playoffs,  was the County’s fastest, in football and track.

Rick Olander cleared 14 feet, 7 inches, 10 years later at Helix.

In between Roger and Rick was Byron, who set records at Helix with a :09.6 100-yard dash and :21.4 220 in 1965.

Byron also was a standout on  coach Warren Vinton’s 6-2-1 football Highlanders, who were  surprised in the playoff semifinals, 26-20, by Castle Park.

Olander scored 12 touchdowns, had a 10-yard rushing average and was the most dangerous open-field runner in the County.


Don Henson, 25-37-6 in six seasons at Kearny and Clairemont, stepped down as head coach.

“I guess the nervousness and tension caught up with me,” said Henson, a former University of Arizona player who was an assistant at Hoover, 1953-55, head coach at Kearny, 1956-58, and started the Clairemont program in 1959.

The Chieftains were 6-4 in Henson’s only winning season in 1962, led by the Western League’s player of the year, Bill Casey, who quarterbacked the Chiefs into the San Diego Section finals before they bowed to Escondido, 28-14.

Madison's Brandt Crocker gets ride from teammates after kicking field goal to defeat San diego.

Madison’s Brandt Crocker gets ride from teammates after kicking field goal to defeat San diego.


Madison players rushed the field after Brandt Crocker’s 20-yard field goal with six seconds seemingly clinched a 3-0 victory over San Diego.

But the Warhawks then  unconventionally tried an onside kick and San Diego took over on  its 40-yard line with time for one play.

Quarterback Michael Marrs dropped back to pass, but was cornered.  Marr pitched to halfback Dennis Maley, who drilled a spiral downfield to Alex Dantzler.

Dantzler had two blockers in front of him when he caught the ball, but one  was an ineligible receiver.  Penalty, game over.


Sweetwater’s Jim Finnerty  jogged the memories of longtime National Citians.

Finnerty’s father, Ralph, was a standout athlete and member of  the 1930 Sweetwater squad. Jim’s twin uncles, Lyle and Leon, starred on the 6-1-1 team of 1934 and Lyle was the County’s leading scorer with 73 points.

Jim more than honored the Finnerty name.  He set a school record with his 15th touchdown pass and was a standout in basketball and baseball.


El Cajon Valley won the Grossmont League junior varsity title with a 20-19 win over Helix in the final game…the loss snapped a Highlanders JV winning streak at 47 games…Crawford sophomore Bob Petretta ran 20 yards for a touchdown on his first career carry…Coronado improved its all-time series record to 26-16-4 with a 41-20 victory over Escondido and snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Cougars, dating to 1955…the Islanders first played Escondido in 1914….Hoover and Kearny had to move their season opener to Hoover from Westgate Park, because the baseball Padres were in the Pacific Coast League playoffs…Mountain Empire’s 6-1 regular season record was the best in school history, but the Redskins made an early exit from the Southern Section small schools playoffs, ushered out by Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World, 48-12….

College prep game County head coach Chick Embrey of Escondido was flanked by Oceanside's Herb Meyer (left) and Bill Green of Escondido.

College prep game County head coach Chick Embrey of Escondido was flanked by Oceanside’s Herb Meyer (left) and Bill Green of Escondido.

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2 Responses to 1964: Bull Durham…er, Trometter!

  1. Roger Conlee says:

    On that “Devine Intervention” item, it was Bob Divine (not Devine) and he was vice principal at Monte Vista in ’64, not Helix. After stepping down as a Helix coach, Divine became a counselor at Granite Hills, then vice principal at Monte Vista. (He was my basketball coach at Helix a decade earlier.)

    • Rick says:

      Good, good catch. I had forgotten that Divine had left Helix. Years later, in retirement and correct me if I’m wrong, Divine lived in Coronado and did some travel agent business. He had become involved with the Charger Backers, I believe, and attended many of their luncheons at the stadium. Divine had some outstanding
      basketball teams at Helix. His last club, with Jim (Bones) Bowers leading the way, lost a 2-point game to Long Beach Poly in the Southern California playoffs. Poly went on to win the championship. Again, good catch, Roger.

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