1984: In Search Of a Better Life

Losing had become an unshakable habit for Coronado.

It had come to this for the Islanders:  Point Loma essentially begged the Islanders to play a scheduled game.

Outscored, 104-0, in the season’s first four games, down to maybe 17 able-bodied players, and facing a strong city school, Coronado was thinking long and hard about exposing its athletes to another gridiron slaughter.

Pointers coach Bennie Edens made an offer.

Edens assured Islanders athletic director Ernie Dickerson that Point Loma would play no starting seniors, provide a running clock in the second half of the game, and halt the contest at anytime if Coronado did not feel it was safe to continue.

Point Loma won, 36-0.

Four games later, staring at a South Bay League game against powerful Chula Vista, the Islanders forfeited and ended their season with a 0-9 record and a scoring total of 6 points, with 242 against.

It was the culmination of 18 losing seasons in the last 22.  The nine losses tied a record set by Islanders teams of 1953, ’65, ’75, and ’81.


With an enrollment of just over 700 and surrounded by water, Coronado was a small fish in a big pond, with virtually no immediate chance of increased enrollment or improved  talent level.

The Islanders once were a viable member of the Metropolitan League, annually jousting several of the teams now in the South Bay League.

They won a league championship with a 7-0 record in 1951 and were 8-2 overall after advancing to the Southern California lower division playoff semifinals.

But successive seasons of 3-5-1 and 0-9 made it easier to merge the Islanders into the new Avocado League in 1954.

When the Avocado, with most of its members located in North San Diego County, began to expand the Islanders bounced back to the Metropolitan League in 1963.


A 15-49-2 Metropolitan League record from ’63-’72 prefaced another move to the new, seemingly more palatable Coast League, which disbanded after three years, not before Coronado posted a 2-15 loop record.

The Islanders were headed  back to the Metropolitan League, promising more pain.  They were 15-22-2 with two winning seasons from 1976-80. The Metro, with 10 schools, was forced to split.

The Islanders found themselves in more deep water.  They were 5-31-3 in the Metro South Bay circuit from 1981-84.

Survival necessitated another change.

The Islanders would move to the 1-A Mountain-Desert league for the 1985 season.


What better than a matchup of the best, from far reaches of the San Diego Section?

El Camino of Oceanside was 12-0 and Sweetwater, 51 miles South in National City, was 12-0.

El Camino had outscored its opponents 377-31 and Sweetwater, working on a 24-game winning streak, had 420 points to its opponents’ 52.

It was the first time since 1970, when Grossmont (11-0) met St. Augustine (11-0) that two unbeaten, untied teams had reached the finals.

A dream game in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium?

One problem.  Sweetwater was in the AAA final, facing Vista (10-2) and El Camino was in the AA championship, meeting Chula Vista (11-1).

Still,  an outstanding doubleheader matchup that drew an announced attendance of 16,911.

The four teams came into the Stadium with a combined,  45-4  record,  better than any grouping in the 25-season history of the San Diego Section, and the geographical divide ensured a North County-South County, bragging-rights twin bill.

The 200-;pound Martell Black teamed with Terry Rodgers to propel Sweetwater running attack.

There was no mistaking that the best teams were in the finals, although Mira Mesa gave No. 1-ranked Sweetwater an argument before bowing 16-6 in the semifinals. Vista routed Mount Miguel 35-0.  Chula Vista thumped Kearny 42-14, and El Camino defeated Clairemont, 42-0.

Sweetwater’s record,  24th consecutive victory,  28-13,  repeated a 20-0, semifinals win over  Vista in 1983  and that win that was followed by a 21-13 championship triumph over Mira Mesa.

But the second straight AAA title was more rewarding than the first for a pair of Sweetwater’s less heralded players, seniors Ronnie Cortell and Rolando  Jarin.

The pair still was on the field an hour after the game, kneeling at the 50-yard line and taking in the moment. Cortell probably still was catching his breath.


A 5-foot, 9-inch, 160-pound running back and linebacker who would go on to a fine career at Colorado  State, Cortell concluded his season by being named San  Diego Section defensive player of the year and was a repeat,  first-team all-Section choice at linebacker.

The wiry, heady  inspiration of coach Gene Alim’s defense, Cortell made 10 tackles, had two pass interceptions, and scored on a fumble recovery to give Sweetwater a 28-7 lead.

Cortell also made his weekly contribution on offense, gaining 37 yards in seven carries and scoring the ‘Devils’ first touchdown.

Cortell, who returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown during the regular season, took over when Terry Rodgers left the game early with a sore ankle and complemented running mate Martell Black, who rushed for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“If he doesn’t make All-World off this game, nobody will,” said Alim.

Sweetwater would enter the 1986 season with a 25-game winning streak, longest in California.


“I’d hate to be in our shoes,” said George Ohnesorgen, who must have meant he would have been happy to be in El Camino’s shoes.

The Chula Vista coach figuratively was wearing a pair of 11s but needed 12s.

“This is their third straight championship game and the third time is a charm,” the coach said of the Spartans’ opponent, which  tied Point Loma, 6-6, in 1982 and was beaten by Chula Vista, 17-13, in ’83.

Ohnessorgen’s feet must have been killing him.

Meyer got a ride on some El Camino shoulders after AA title victory.

Meyer got a ride on some El Camino shoulders after AA title victory.

El Camino defeated the Spartans, 24-17.

For awhile it looked as if Herb Meyer’s Wildcats would come up short again, trailing, 17-7, at halftime.  But the El Camino defense, which had pitched nine shutouts in its last 10 games and had given up only 31 points in the first 12, gave the offense second-half field position.

El Camino’s two, second-half touchdown drives started at Chula Vista’s 42- and 33-yard lines.


Sweetwater of National City and Chula Vista were both undefeated for the fifth time when they matched up in their 38th consecutive game since 1947.

The Red Devils and Spartans, both 8-0, never had played each other with clean records this late in the season.  Chula Vista was 6-0 and Sweetwater 5-0-1 in 1953 and there were three years in which each team came into the game at 3-0.

Sweetwater, closing in on the County record for most consecutive victories, increased its lead in the series to 28-10 with a 24-8 victory before a packed house at Chet DeVore Stadium.

The win was Sweetwater’s 21st a row.  They tied the 24-game, unbeaten streak of 1932-35 Grossmont and 1963-65 Kearny with a 16-6 win over Mira Mesa in the AAA semifinals.

“We don’t even talk about winning streaks,” head coach Gene Alim told Steve Brand of The Union. “Maybe in thirty years I‘ll look back and it’ll mean something, but not now.”

After stopping Vista for No. 25 and  the AAA title the next week, Alim was more interested in Sweetwater’s place in history. “This shows our program is an ongoing one, not just a one-year thing,” said the coach.


When Mira Mesa and Patrick Henry tied 14-14 in the opening Eastern League game, the schools were supposed to use the California tie-breaker to determine a winner.

Coaches Walt Baranski (Henry) and Brad Griffith (Lincoln) and game officials didn’t remember.

“Everyone just  forgot,” said Wayne DeBate, secondary athletic consultant to San Diego  City Schools.  The rule, in use for playoffs, was adopted as a regular-season measure by city schools the previous spring.

The tiebreaker allows each team to put the ball in play for four plays beginning at the 50-yard line.  The team that has the most yardage or outscores its opponent wins.

“Nobody remembered until it was too late,” said DeBate.

Rodgers ran away from Chula Vista defenders in Sweetwater’s 3-A championship.

The unintended consequence was that if Mira Mesa and Patrick Henry tied for first or second in the league they’d be at the mercy of a vote for playoff consideration.

Not to worry.  Mira Mesa finished first with a 4-0-1 record and Patrick Henry was  third at 3-1-1, making a vote unnecessary.


El Camino took a 33-0 drubbing from Fallbrook in Week 3 of the 1983 season but gave an  indication of what to expect this season when the Wildcats suffocated the Warriors, 23-0, in Week 3.

An aroused El Camino held the Warriors to zero first downs until the last minute and half of play.

Fallbrook rushed for minus 24 yards and sophomore quarterback Bill Dunckel might have considered taking up another sport, or changing positions.  Dunckel completed 1 of 23 passes for 3 yards, with 4 interceptions.

Herb Meyer was asked if his team was in a pay-back mood.  “We don’t point for games and if we did we wouldn’t point for a nonleague game,” said Meyer.

Dunckel recovered.

He scored 166 points as a kicker-wide receiver two years later as Fallbrook won the AAA championship.


“El Cajon Clears First Rebuilding Hurdle” shouted the headline in The San Diego Union.

The Braves had beaten Coronado 27-0 in the season opener the night before.

El Cajon Valley coach Gene Watkins talked about players lifting weights at 6 in the morning, the enthusiasm on campus, and the good thoughts all around the Madison Avenue school.

The Braves’ victory ended a 21-game losing streak, but they started another, dropping their last nine.


Monte Vista’s Tom Wurth set a San Diego Section record with a 54-yard field goal in a 35-3 win over Valhalla.

Wurth was successful on two other field goal attempts but missed two points after.

One of the extra point failures was from 47 yards, after a series of penalties.

Another twist to Wurth’s season came in the opening game when his 50-yard field goal gave the Monarchs a 3-0 win over Mira Mesa.

Ten weeks later Wurth toed a 48-yard field goal on the Monarchs’ first possession, but Mira Mesa won the quarterfinals playoff, 30-3.  Matadors quarterback Rick Joseph, recovering from should surgery, missed the teams’ first game.

Healthy, Joseph marshaled the Matadors’ attack and completed of 11 of 13 passes for 187 yards.


Francis Parker won a rematch with Borrego Springs for the Coastal League championship and was declared San Diego Section 8-man winner, then was added to the field of the Southern Section  8-man playoffs.

As was usually the case during this era, the San Diego representative usually was seeded last in an eight-team field.  The Patriots were beaten by Canoga Park Faith Baptist, 61-10, at Northridge State.


Choia Lin Liu staked his place in The Bishop’s history  when Lin Liu scored six touchdowns in the Knights’ 68-0 victory over Midway Baptist.

The win was The Bishop’s first ever in football after seven straight losses in 1983..


“The Rock”, a monument to concrete on Pacific Highway, was going to undergo a $2.9 million renovation.  The consulting architect described the seven-story edifice as a “fire hazard”.

Erected in 1942 by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft (Convair) and now serving as headquarters for the United Port Authority, The Rock was built virtually without  windows, because Consolidated executive Reuben H. Fleet desired air conditioning, which was to  have been more effective without windows.

Panoramic views of neighboring Lindbergh Field and the Embarcadero exist only from the seventh floor and the only the first and seventh floors are used extensively. The third through fifth floors were to be sealed off.


San Diego Section commissioner Kendall (Spider) Webb changed kickoff times for the AAA and AA championship games.

Nothing earth-shattering about that information.

But it was the third time in three weeks that Webb was compelled to switch.  Webb’s problem had nothing to do with San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium availability.

It seems that bands from all contending teams had day gigs and would not have been able to make originally suggested starting times of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Webb finally settled on kickoffs at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. after times of 5 and 7 also had been announced.


Aaron Petrich, son of former Chargers linebacker Bob Petrich, kicked field goals of 33, 26,and 27 yards, as Granite Hills beat Helix, 16-0.

Ken Zampese, son of Chargers assistant coach Ernie Zampese, was a starting  wide receiver at University and Granite Hills’ leading rusher Bruce Weber was son of Chargers linebackers coach Chuck Weber.

Terry Rodgers of Sweetwater came from a family of football royalty.  Terry’s father, Johnny Rodgers, was the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner and a first-round draft choice of the Chargers in 1973.


Kearny defeated Clairemont, 19-0, for its first Western league title since 1977… the shutout was Clairemont’s first since 1979, a span of 54 consecutive games…Patrick Henry’s game at  Inglewood Morningside Oct. 6 was canceled…the teams agreed to play before realizing that date was the evening of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur…there was a standing-room crowd of more than 4,000 when Patty Henry turned on the lights in its football stadium for the first time in the school’s 17 years…Henry defeated Mt. Carmel, 21-7…Crawford’s 25-14 victory over Lincoln clinched the Central League championship on the last day and ended a Hornets league winning streak of 19 games…Vista, paced by Sal Aunese’s 132 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 485 yards and had 496 total in a 40-8 win over Poway…El Camino’s Darron Norris was one of the state’s fastest with a best of :10.45 for 100 meters and played four years at Texas before becoming a ninth-round draft choice  of the New England Patriots…Francis Parker’s 22-7 loss to Borrego Springs was its first in three seasons in the Coastal League…when Borrego defeated Julian, 26-20, the Rams celebrated the Coast title and their first championship in any sport…Parker turned the table the next week, defeating Rams, 31-12. for the 8-man title…Carl Parrick continued to make a difference at Southwest, which was 7-4 after logging 2-7, 5-6, and 6-5 records in Parrick’s first three seasons as head coach….


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