1972:  Usurped By…Basketball?

Several Eastern League schools found themselves locked out of playing sites by, get this, the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association.

The preps, in keeping with years of tradition, thought Aztec Bowl was reserved for them for games Oct. 13, 20, and 27.

Trouble was those were  the same nights the Q’s were playing at Peterson Gym.

Hoover, Patrick Henry, Crawford, Morse, and St. Augustine were out of luck.

Since Peterson Gym and Aztec Bowl share the same parking lot, San Diego State officials declared they would not allow prep football and pro basketball games to be held simultaneously.

The basketball Q’s were a few steps ahead of the apparently sonambulant city schools and made arrangements first.  Grossmont College also snared football dates for home games at Aztec Bowl.

“Everybody thought somebody was taking care of the contracts, but nobody did,” said a San Diego State spokesman.

San Diego Section commissioner Don Clarkson was blamed for the scheduling lapse.

Scheduling was Clarkson’s responsibility when he also held the post of Supervisor of Secondary athletics for the City Schools.

Clarkson said that he had retired from the supervising gig and that he had notified schools that they would have to make their own arrangements for playing facilities.

Eastern League athletic  directors were contacted but claimed they never received such notification.

Nearby College area homeowners long had complained about traffic, vandalism,and other problems involving events at the venues.

After some scrambling and  finger pointing the schools  found alternate sites.

WHO WON FIGHT?

Sweetwater and Castle Park rolled in the dirt in a South Bay imbroglio that matched coaches who were close friends and college teammates.

Lay and Warren were old friends.

Lay and Warren played together.

That Dave Lay’s Red Devils defeated Gil Warren’s Trojans, 20-14, almost was forgotten in the frenzy of a mini riot.

As Castle quarterback Don Bohnstein moved his team toward a game-leading touchdown in the fourth quarter, another of several skirmishes that earlier had taken place in the stands spilled onto the track surrounding the Castle Park gridiron.

Will Watson of The San Diego Union estimated that as many as 200 persons were involved and that they almost reached the end zone to which the Trojans were marching.

COPS ARE COMING!

Police were summoned and 13 squad cars and a helicopter responded, including three Highway Patrol vehicles and a police van.

Watson reported that the mob got closer to the end zone than the Trojans, who reached the eight-yard line before Bohnstein was sacked for a 13-yard loss.

The Red Devils’ Leroy Brown acquired a nickname and knocked out the Trojans with touchdown runs of 10, 38, and 70 yards.

“BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN”

 “…the baddest man in the whole damn town…badder than old King Kong, and meaner than a junkyard dog…”

Legendary singer-songwriter Jim Croce’s recorded that classic around the time Brown was the baddest.

Opponents learned not to “tug on Superman’s cape….”

Arm tackles could not bring down the big Sweetwater running back.

Arm tackles could not bring down the big Sweetwater running back.

The 205-pounder  teamed with Rudy Nanquil to give the National Citians a devastating running game, key to their 12-0  record and San Diego Section championship.

Sweetwater-Castle Park was the premier South Bay rivalry during the ’seventies. Warren and Lay, who played on Don Coryell’s first San Diego State teams in 1961-63, were 4-4-1 against each other from 1969-77.

DO YOUR THING, SON

Stalled at San Diego’s three-yard line, Crawford coach Bill Hall turned to kicker Dale Hall, who booted a 21-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining to give the Colts a 23-21 victory over San Diego.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Celebrities, no, but celebrity names, yes.

Bob Hope played tailback for Orange Glen.  Cesar Romero was a wide receiver for Montgomery.  Hilltop offensive lineman Billy Casper, Jr., is son of the champion golfer.

MORE SUCCESS IN NFL

Hoover’s 2-7 record was no fault of tight end William Gay, who went on to play at USC and was a second round draft choice of the Denver Broncos in 1978.

Gay came into the league as a tight end and even was  a two-way player, tight end and defensive end, from 1979-88 with the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.

Gay had 44.5 sacks in his NFL career.

ELEVEN THOU?

A pitch to Nanquil was bread and butter for Sweetwater against Patrick Henry.

A pitch to Nanquil was bread and butter for Sweetwater against Patrick Henry.

Sweetwater won its first playoff game, 32-27, over Patrick Henry before an overflow, standing-in-the-aisles, watching-from-the-outside crowd of 11,000 persons, according to writer John Nettles of The San Diego Union.

“It seemed like half of National City was there, plus a healthy number from San Carlos,” Nettles said of the mass of humans at Southwestern College.

No actual attendance figures were available (the Evening Tribune estimate was an overflowing 8,500), but all on hand witnessed postseason football at its best.

Nanquil was a perfect running mate for Brown.

Nanquil was a perfect running mate for Brown.

Sweetwater spotted Henry a 13-0, first-quarter lead but stormed back to go ahead, 24-13, at the half, then fought off the Patriots as Leroy Brown and Rudy Nanquil combined to rush for 314 yards.

Nanquil had 155 yards in 17 carries and scored on a 69-yard run, while Brown contributed 149 yards in 20 carries and scored on runs of 1, 1, 35, and 1 yard.

Leading, 32-27, Alan Gutzamer ended a last Henry threat, intercepting Scott Brisbin’s pass, and Sweetwater ran out the last four minutes.

ANOTHER  BIG TURNOUT

Eleven-thousand persons were on hand the next week at Aztec Bowl as Sweetwater edged Escondido, 14-13, in a battle of old Metropolitan League antagonists.

The game may have turned on a decision by Escondido coach Chick Embrey, whose team, having just gone ahead, 12-8, with 1:30 left in the third quarter, opted for a one-point conversion.

“I couldn’t believe it,”admitted Sweetwater coach Dave Lay.  “I couldn’t figure it out.”

The Cougars became more vulnerable with only a five-point lead, which finally vanished when Brown scored from one yard with 6:47 left in the game.

“I blew it,” Embrey told Jack Williams of the Evening Tribune.  “I wasn’t thinking. I guess my mind is getting old and clogged up.”

RUDY AND LEROY, AGAIN

Nanquil rushed for 187 yards and Brown for 136 on a soggy field as Sweetwater won its first championship  by defeating Lincoln , 22-12, before 11,088 at San Diego Stadium.

Lincoln punted only once but lost three fumbles and had one pass intercepted.

“I was just happy as hell when I read in the papers  at the beginning of the season we weren’t supposed to be good, “ said Lay, “because I really thought we could have a helluva team.”

The coach said the emergence of sophomore quarterback Ron Schraeder was key.  “When he played super in a scrimmage against Oceanside I knew we could good, but I never thought about 12-0.”

RED DEVILS READY

From the outset, Lay had positioned the Red Devils for their championship run.

“If we come through in certain areas, this could be our best team ever,” Lay told Will Watson on the eve of the season opener with Bonita Vista.

The Red Devils returned seven defensive starters, five offensive starters, and 19 players who started at least one game in 1971. They did it with speed and toughness, despite a defensive line that averaged only 168 pounds.

HORNETS BACK IN  BUSINESS

Lincoln, picked fourth in the preseason, won its first Eastern League championship since 1965.

Wally Henry, who transferred from San Diego as a sophomore, scored 21 touchdowns in leading coach Earl Faison’s team to the finals again Sweetwater.

Faison (left) guided Hornets and standouts James Shelby (center) and Wally Henry.

Faison (left) guided Hornets and standouts James Shelby (center) and Wally Henry.

Henry scored on runs of 80, 71, 67, 58, 57, 50, 65, and 38 yards.

WALLY’S WORLD

Henry’s exploits were followed by an outstanding career and a game-changing touchdown for UCLA in the 1976 Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

Henry played six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL and earned a Pro Bowl invitation as a kick returner in 1979.

A throwback to the great running backs of decades past at San Diego High,  Henry was destined to be selected to the all-time, all-San Diego prep team in 2012.

Henry's career reached stardom on three levels, high school,. college, and pros.

Henry’s career reached stardom on three levels, high school, college, and pros.

Faison was the American Football League’s rookie of the year in 1961  and was all-AFL from 1961-66.  He was head coach at Lincoln from 1969-73 and then left coaching and had a long career in school administration.

SIX GOOD MEN

Francis Parker, La Jolla Country Day, and San Miguel moved  from eight-man to six-man football.

The San Diego schools competed in their own league and played several other 6-man schools from a similar league in the CIF Southern Section.

Francis Parker lines up on defense as football is played six to a side by San Diego Section's small schools.

Francis Parker lines up on defense as football is played six to a side by San Diego Section’s small schools.

The locals played each other twice and at least two of the Los Angeles schools.

WHAT OFFENSE?

A capacity crowd of 15,000 at Aztec Bowl went home scratching its head after the 12th annual Grossmont League carnival ended with a 3-0 score.

Santana’s Wes Hancock kicked a 24-yard field goal against Monte Vista with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.  Santana was joined by Granite Hills, Grossmont, and El Capitan on the winning East.

The West was comprised of Helix, Mount Miguel, El Cajon Valley, and Monte Vista.

El Cajon Valley almost stole the show, controlling the ball for more than 11 minutes and 17 plays before short-circuiting with an interception on El Capitan’s 11-yard line.

MENOTTI MIFFED

Jack Menotti’s Madison Warhawks were the No. 1-ranked team in the County with an 8-0-1 record on the field but 6-2-1 legislatively.

A transfer from Kearny had played in two games in the middle of the season but was found to be scholastically ineligible.

Menotti self-reported his program’s “dreaded administrative glitch,” but the Warhawks still hoped to make the playoffs in a title-deciding Western League showdown against Kearny.

Kearny, trailing, 15-0, finally caught the Warhawks at 15-15, after Kearny coach Birt Slater opted to go for a one-point conversion instead of a two-point attempt and victory.

Tom Barnett was a first-year assistant coach at Kearny. He had replaced Menotti, who had gotten his coaching start at Kearny under Slater.

Slater saw no reason to go for 21 when 1 would suffice.

Slater saw no reason to go for two-point conversion when one point would suffice.

“Jack was livid after the game and told Birt that he couldn’t believe Birt kicked and didn’t go for two points,” said Barnett.  “But Don Wadsworth told Birt that a tie was  as good as a win for Kearny.”

Wadsworth was an assistant coach and valuable presence on the Kearny sideline, monitoring downs and distances, number of available time outs, and clock management.

“Birt wasn’t too happy about going for the tie either,” said Barnett.

But kicking for the tie was the safe decision, giving Kearny a final, 4-1-1 league record.

Had Kearny gone for two and failed, Madison would have finished 4-1-1 in the league and gotten into the postseason. The Warhawks instead were 3-2-1 and fourth.

“All we needed was a tie,” Slater.  “If we had needed to win, who’s to say we wouldn’t have?”

Kearny claimed its seventh successive Western League championship, but was knocked out of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, bowing at Vista, 13-12

SLATER FIRES BACK

The Kearny coach was in a foul mood.

Haines got under Slater's skin.

Haines got under Slater’s skin.

Slater thought game officials made two egregious calls against the Komets and that Vista coach Dick Haines was cracking wise.

Haines’s remarks were to the effect that North County coaches always shake hands after a game, but that San Diego coaches go around with their heads between their legs when they lose.

”I tried to find Haines after the game,” Slater told Jack Williams of the Evening Tribune.  “Hell, he won the game.  Why didn’t he look me up?  He’s a bleep if he thinks I had my head between my legs.”

CIF TURNS DEAF EAR

Madison still had hope before the playoffs, but the Northeast Clairemont school was doomed.

“All I can say a great injustice has been done,” said Menotti after the CIF board of managers rejected the No. 1-ranked Warhawks’ final appeal to be part of the eight-team eliminations.

Menotti lamented to Bill Finley of the Evening Tribune:  “What they’ve shown is it doesn’t pay to be honest. I’ve cost these kids a once-in-a-lifetime chance.  It’s my fault all this happened.”

“I think we need to take a look at our rules,” said Madison athletic director John Hannon.  “This is 1972.”

Madison’s plea was based on “an inadvertent” error by an admissions secretary.

When the ineligible player transferred to Madison and turned out for football his transcript was mixed up with that of another student with the same last name.

HE’D KICK FOR  CRITTERS

Benirschke would go on to kick for San Diego Chargers.

Benirschke would go on to kick for San Diego Chargers.

La Jolla’s Rolf Benirschke was one of the Western  League’s top scorers with 36 points, including eight field goals, more than any other kicker, but Bernirschke became better known as a San Diego Chargers icon.

Benirschke was a 12th-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders out of the University of California at Davis and was claimed on waivers by the San Diego Chargers.

After a battle with ulcerative colitis that saw the entire community rally behind him with a record-shattering blood drive, Benirschke went on to finish an outstanding  career with the Chargers.

Every field goal and point after kicked by Benirschke  included a matching donation by Rolf  to his charity, which he called “Kicks for Critters,” benefiting  research at the San Diego Zoo.

 

QUICK KICKS

Kearny’s streak of 33 Western League games without a loss and 29 league wins in a row came to end in a 13-12, league opener loss to University… Leroy Brown’s 171 points was 23 points shy of the County record of 194 by Oceanside’s C.R. Roberts in 1953…after losing its first 18 games, Montgomery won its first three in the school’s third season…the Aztecs finished with a 4-5 record…Escondido quarterback Dan Embrey is son of head coach Chick Embrey.  Herb Meyer of Oceanside also had a quarterback son, Dave Meyer…two seasons after 0-9, Mount Miguel posted a 7-2 regular-season record and made its first playoff appearance since 1961…

San Diegans at UCLA included, top row (from left): Tom Daniels, University; Bill Standifer, Oceanside; Tom Waddell, Oceanside; assistant coach Terry Donahue; Earl Peterson, La Jolla; Steve Bubel, Chula Vista. Bottom row (from left): Pat Callahan, Chula Vista ; Matt Fahl, Grossmont; Greg Norfleet, Morse; Paul Moyneur, Orange G;len, and Bruce Walton, Helix.

San Diegans at UCLA included, top row (from left): Tom Daniels, University; Bill Standifer, Oceanside; Tom Waddell, Oceanside; assistant coach Terry Donahue; Earl Peterson, La Jolla; Steve Bubel, Chula Vista. Bottom row (from left): Pat Callahan, Chula Vista ; Matt Fahl, Grossmont; Greg Norfleet, Morse; Paul Moyneur, Orange Glen, and Bruce Walton, Helix.

San Diegans at USC included top row (from left) Pete Adams, University; Lou Williams, San Diego; Steve Riley, Castle Park), and Jeff Flood, Escondido. Bottom row (from left) Dale Mitchell, Carlsbad; Bill Fudge, El Capitan, and Pat Collins, St. Augustine.

San Diegans at USC included,  top row (from left) Pete Adams, University; Lou Williams, San Diego; Steve Riley, Castle Park), and Jeff Flood, Escondido. Bottom row (from left) Dale Mitchell, Carlsbad; Bill Fudge, El Capitan, and Pat Collins, St. Augustine.

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4 Responses to 1972:  Usurped By…Basketball?

  1. Dean A Bennett says:

    Another Masterpiece.

  2. Bob Cluck says:

    Great football piece. How about a story on the Nettles family and all they accomplished in this town…

    • Rick says:

      We’ve mentioned John Nettles a few times. There is a lot of athletic history in the Nettles family, starting with twin brothers Bill and Wayne, who played on Grossmont’s undefeated teams in the early 1930s.

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