An outstanding run by Sweetwater, starting in the 1960s, actually was just beginning.
The Red Devils went 12-1, won a championship for the first time since 1972 and launched a 36-game winning streak.
They would claim another title in 1985 and posted an ’80-’87 record of 80 wins and 11 losses, 73-9-2 under coach Gene Alim.
Starting in 1968, David Lay’s second season as head coach, the Red Devils compiled a 20-season record of 172-40-6 and a stunning, .803 winning percentage. Between Lay and Alim, Al Jacobus was 23-7 from 1978-80.
Alim retired after the 1987 campaign and later came back to coach at Sweetwater, Eastlake, and Otay Ranch. His success at Sweetwater from 1981-87 is unparalleled in San Diego Section history.
The 1983 season was Alim’s third. He was 10-1-1 in each of his first two, knocked out in the playoff semifinals each year.
Alim, a 1970 Mar Vista graduate whose 22 pass interceptions tied for the career high in San Diego Section history, was not the most popular coach, but he commanded a grudging, sneering respect and usually was a step ahead of his competition.
Alim didn’t push the envelope. He shoved it or ignored it.
BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU SAY
A possible, 37-game Sweetwater winning streak was short circuited in the opening game. The Red Devils defeated Morse 10-0 but had to forfeit because of an improper residential transfer.
Morse quarterback Carlos Siragusa transferred to Sweetwater during the 1982-83 school year and was quoted in newspapers after the opener as saying he was better suited to the offensive system used at Sweetwater, rather than the predominant wishbone of Morse’s.
Siragusa’s remarks caught the attention of San Diego Section commissioner Kendall Webb. “I mentioned to Gene that even if he had changed schools for the reason he mentioned, it didn’t look good to say so,” Webb told Steve Brand of The San Diego Union.
Alim’s conversation with Webb begged a question, usually posed only in situations involving interscholastic athletics: Did Siragusa’s family move with him? “It turned out there was a violation of rule 218 in the CIF green book,” said Webb.
Siragusa, according to Webb, was living with his mother and brother in the Sweetwater district, but the father remained at a residence in the Morse district.
Morse is a city school, Sweetwater a county school but they’re barely five miles apart, a quick ride up and down Sweetwater Road.
“We’ll take it to court if Carlos is ineligible, or if we’re forced to forfeit the Morse game,” Alim huffily told Steve Brand. “We know we won. The County knows we won.”
Webb said that although Siragusa would be eligible as soon as his father established Sweetwater district residence, the forfeit would stand, because legal residence had not been established before the Morse game.
Siragusa was declared clear to play later in the week.
Three games later the Red Devils were working on their fourth straight shutout. They led Marian 47-0 after three quarters when Marian coach Bill Kinney raised the white flag.
Kinney still was furious with Alim three days after the game: “I’ve never been in a situation where one team was 40 points ahead and didn’t play the reserves,” said Kinney.
“I can understand him playing his first-string defense,” Kinney said. “They hadn’t allowed a point all season, but he had two fourth-and-long situations in the third quarter and he passed. I’ll never play him again.”
Sweetwater was in the AAA Mesa League and Marian was in the AA South Bay League. As part of the Metropolitan Conference the Mesa and South Bay leagues annually scheduled interleague games.
Marian and Coronado wanted the right to decline a game with an AAA team. Metro Conference bosses voted down the two schools but the San Diego Section board of managers sided with Marian and Coronado.
Kinney stepped down at the end of the year and Sweetwater and Marian went on hiatus.
Sweetwater was 15-0 against the Crusaders since Marian joined the Metropolitan League in 1967. Marian didn’t play the Red Devils again until 2000, when it went on a four-year rampage, punishing its old antagonists, 35-27, 44-6, 48-13, and 60-17.
Coronado and Sweetwater had played 64 games in a rivalry that started in 1914, but the Islanders had not been competitive since Harry Truman was president, losing 35-0 this season and having gone 1-20-1 since 1952.
Few people remembered but Coronado once dominated the rivalry and knew about piling on, a point brought home in 1929 by Frank Greene’s 11 touchdowns and 14 extra points in a 108-0 Islanders victory.
POLITICAL ROAD TO STADIUM
The San Diego Section was in a financial fourth and long. It cost money to play the football championships in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
The rental fee and assorted expenses were beyond the CIF’s reach in 1982 and the AAA and AA championships were played at Southwestern College and Mt. Carmel High, respectively.
“We saved $10,000 in expenses,” said Kendall Webb. That was the good news, quickly followed by the bad news. “We simply did not get the gate receipts,” said Webb of attendance at the smaller venues.
The rental free was $5,000 at the Stadium, but other costs, for ushers, ticket takers, lighting and scoreboard use would bring the total to than $15,000.
The 1983 playoffs would present the same problem. Webb went to the Stadium Authority, a board made up on local businessmen-sports fans, and asked for the stadium rental fee to be waived.
The Sports Authority, not the most powerful entity, was sympathetic but declined, saying it did not want to set a precedent.
The CIF geared up for a stronger push and found an ally in Councilman Ed Struiksma, who was able to place the CIF request on a City Council meeting agenda.
Webb marshaled support from the media, had the mother of Marcus and Damon Allen prepared to read a letter to the Council from Marcus, and was supported by numerous ex-athletes and burgeoning politicians, including ex-Charger Mike Garrett, who along with the supporting Bob Filner, was seeking a Council post.
The Council was proactive. In chamber, before the scheduled Oct. 1 meeting, the policy-making group voted to support the CIF and underwrite the Stadium rent fee for the next five years.
GOOD MORNING, VIET NAM!
Ba Ly, a general in the South Vietnamese army, ordered his family to leave four days before Saigon fell during the war with North Viet Nam in 1975. Ba Ly stayed behind.
The general’s son Chau Ly, was 10 years old, did not speak English and had never seen or heard of American football when he relocated that year with his mother and siblings in Carlsbad.
Two years later Chau signed up for Pop Warner, mainly because of his newfound friends. Three years of Pop Warner and a year each of freshman and junior varsity competition took the 5-foot, 5 ½-inch, 135-pound junior to the Lancers’ varsity as a running back and cornerback.
“I love the contact,” said Ly. “I love to run with the ball and I love to hit. Even when I get hit I get a good feeling.”
Ly caught three touchdown passes in the first two games, threw a 33-yard pass completion to set up the winning touchdown in the third game, and ran 80 yards for a touchdown against El Camino in the fourth game.
Carlsbad’s 3-1 start translated into a 7-3 finish, third behind playoff powers El Camino and San Pasqual.
“If I had 11 Chau Lys I wouldn’t care about their size. We’d do all right,” said Carlsbad coach Mel Galli.
Ly’s father still was held in a North Vietnamese prison. Chau sent his dad a photo that the father did not receive, but Chau reported that his father was allowed to write occasionally and to receive mail.
THE VAQS ARE BACK
Snow on neighboring El Cajon Mountain, better known to locals as El Cap, was becoming more common than victories over Helix and winning seasons at El Capitan High.
The Vaqueros had one victory in 1982, no winning seasons since 1977, and five straight losses to Helix, during which they had been outscored 139-13.
So East County rodeo buffs, 4-H aspirants, and state highway 67 commuters took notice along with the rest of the Grossmont League when the Vaqueros beat Helix 20-7 to open the season 4-1.
El Capitan would run the table with an 8-0 league record. The Vaqueros’ overall, 8-2 mark tied the 1963 San Diego Section finals team for best in school history.
Running back Allen Murray scored 102 points, second in the County, and reminded Lakeside denizens of the Friday night exploits of former Vaqs Dave Duncan and Bill Fudge.
Guided by ex-Helix standout Joe Rockhold, in his second tour as head coach, the Vaqueros lost only their opener, 21-7, to Mira Mesa, which advanced to the AAA finals, and to Castle Park, 34-21, in the AAA quarterfinals.
NEIGHBORS AT A DISTANCE
Lincoln and Morse, not more than 2 miles apart, got together at Mesa College, 15 miles away.
Morse, which won the AAA title in 1979, then fell back, would emerge again in what would be great last half of the decade for John Shacklett’s Tigers. Declining enrollment and optional school choice would continue to bedevil Lincoln.
Shacklett had begun to discard his traditional wishbone offense for a straight, power I. The Tigers put a 57-25 whipping on the Hornets, equaling the most points ever scored by Morse, tying a similar outburst against Hoover in 1975, and the most ever allowed by Lincoln.
Darrel Rosette ran 60 and 10 yards and returned a punt 62 yards for first-half touchdowns as Morse opened a 40-13 lead. A rare, official counting of the house took place at Mesa, where the attendance was announced at 4,457 persons.
In an era when you actually had to be a good team to earn a playoff bid, the Tigers were 8-2 with 262 points against 134, but finished third in the Eastern League and out of the postseason.
It didn’t take long for Helix to find a successor to graduated record-breaker Scott Webb. Joe Nikodem kicked field goals of 20, 37, 40, and 37 yards and 1 point after for all of the Highlanders’ points in a 19-19, opening-game tie with Montgomery.
GOT YOUR BACK, COACH
“Chula Vista coach George Ohnesorgen prepared to inspire his unranked, 2-0 team as the AA squad took on AAA power and neighorhood tough Castle Park.
“They wouldn’t let me say a word,” said Ohnesorgen, a former San Diego State star who, in 1970, scored 21 touchdowns for his alma-mater, Castle Park.
“They were all shouting, ‘This game’s for you, coach!'”. I couldn’t respond. I guess I really didn’t have to say anything.”
Bud Maloney wrote in the Evening Tribune that “Ohnesorgen probably came as close to giving into his emotions as he ever will.” The coach tightened up and his voice was hushed as he described the pregame moment after Chula’s 21-9 victory.
“This is the best win I’ve been associated with anywhere any time,” Ohnesorged managed to say.
Ohnesorgen may have changed his mind after the season’s final game, a 17-13 victory over El Camino for the AA championship. The Spartans’ 12-1 season was stalled only by a 20-14 loss to Sweetwater in the 37th meeting between the backyard rivals.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Port District commissioners granted amnesty to taxi drivers, who had been given almost 300 citations in the last 13 months for illegal parking at Lindbergh Field…a driver in downtown San Diego sported a “Don’t let San Diego become another Waikiki” bumper sticker but also was wearing a Hawaiian aloha shirt…condos were priced from $71,000 to $142,000 in “North City West.”
Brothers Kevin (senior) and Terry (sophomore) Rodgers scored all of Sweetwater’s points in the 20-0, AAA semifinal win over San Pasqual… Kevin returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, shades of his Heisman Trophy-winning father Johnny Rodgers… San Diego failed on two field goal tries in the final 3 seconds against Kearny… a 35-yarder missed, but the Komets drew a penalty… the second attempt was botched by a bad snap from center… Crawford opened 4-0 for the first time since 1973 (and 1972 and ’71) when the Colts’ Alex Bolden intercepted a blocked pass and Crawford drove 95 yards in the last three minutes to beat Kearny 14-7… Point Loma had a 14-game winning streak snapped by Carlsbad, 13-10…the Pointers were 16-0-2 from 1938-40… Lincoln forfeited two games with uncommon scores, 26-4 over Inglewood and 8-8 with Madison… the Hornets overcame a third and 10 to go 98 yards and top Hoover 13-7 in the final three minutes… Lincoln went 66 yards to beat Crawford 19-13 in the final 13 seconds… Pro Football Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff was assisting Paul Moyneur at Orange Glen and ex-Chargers tight end Pat Curran helped Lynn Cole at Grossmont… Tom Pack’s passing game, orchestrated by guru Jack Neumeier, was in full bloom at Fallbrook, with junior varsity graduate Jaime Miramontes at quarterback, brothers Kirk and Erik Hanson as flanker and slot receivers, and Paul Newlan at running back… the Union’s Steve Brand said Fallbrook’s passing game made the Chargers’ Air Coryell look like a commuter airline… Fallbrook scored 327 points in a 10-1 season, ended by a 24-21 playoff quarterfinals loss to Mira Mesa… Sweetwater and Chula Vista each was 6-0 when they kicked off, the latest since the 1953 season that both teams were undefeated….