1989: Gene Edwards Retires, Passes Away

Edwards (right) with Harry West kn 1960, became Vikings'  head coach in 1961.

Edwards (right), with Harry West in 1960, became Vikings’ head coach in  1961.

The Handyman set aside his tools when one job was finished and was preparing to use them in another.

Gene Edwards’s 29-year run as head coach at La Jolla ended with a 27-0 victory over Clairemont in his final game.

He was going to continue working for the school in a role best described as “facilities fixer-upper.” Gene had accepted a position upon retirement.

He would utilize his skills around the campus as a general handyman.

This was no extension of goodwill to keep Edwards occupied.

He had supervised and helped in the construction of his home in the La Jolla Muirlands and knew his way around a Skil saw.

Edwards’  playing and coaching career of more than 40 years on local gridirons began at San Diego High in 1945. Gene was an all-Coast League lineman  in 1946 and ’47 and played for San Diego Junior College, Oregon, and San Diego State.

Edwards began his coaching career at Brown Military Academy in 1954, followed by a stint at Mar Vista.  He moved to La Jolla in 1958, and succeeded Harry West in 1961.

The Vikings were 136-128-9 during Edwards’ tenure, with three league championships, six seconds, and 6 playoff appearances.  His 1980 team went to the AA finals, losing to Lincoln 39-22. Edwards also coached baseball, softball, golf, and wrestling.

Gene’s  best team may have been his first.  Led by quarterback Dan Berry, a future second-round draft choice of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, and scatback Butch Taylor, the Vikings were 7-1, their best record since 1948, and they defeated San Diego 27-19.

The victory over the Cavers was La Jolla’s first  since 1951, a period in which Vikings losses to San Diego included blowouts of 57-0 in 1955 and 59-0 in 1958.

That the 1961 game was played at La Jolla on a Thursday night contributed to a curtailed coverage of the game. The San Diego Union sent a representative but the Evening Tribune did not.

A win over San Diego was considered very large in the Jewel City and afternoon newspaper-reading residents were outraged that the victory did not command front-page headlines.

The telephone rang off the hook in the La Jolla offices of newspaper publisher James Copley.  An edict soon came down from the fourth floor at the Union-Tribune building on Second Avenue in downtown San Diego.

Massive coverage, including a full picture page of game action, henceforth appeared in the Saturday Evening Tribune.  Prep followers everywhere were elated. The affable and respected Edwards had something to do with that.

Seven  months following his final game Gene passed away at age 60 from an apparent heart attack.  His cremains were scattered over the gridiron at the Vikings’ Scripps Field.


The rapid rise of Rancho Buena Vista continued. The Longhorns’ 56-36 win over Point Loma in the AAA semifinals almost boggled the imagination, virtually a weekly occurrence for coach Craig Bell’s team.

Rancho rushed for a stunning total of 596 yards before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 5,500 at Mira Mesa.

“Jeepers,” Pointers coach Bennie Edens groaned.  “They’re so versatile.  You stop them off tackle, they run the trap.  Take away the trap and they run the option.  Take away the option, they run something else.”

Bell apparently had seen enough of the passing game. Quarterback David Roberts’ first attempt, on the fourth play of the team’s first possession,  was intercepted by Michael Driver and returned 56 yards for a touchdown.

Rancho's O.J. ran for more yards than the other O.J.

Rancho’s O.J. and mates ran opponents into ground.

Perhaps the Pointers should have allowed the Longhorns some receptions, to keep them off the ground. O.J. Hall rushed for 288 yards in 20 carries and scored three touchdowns.  Markeith Ross gained 218 yards in  18 carries and scored 4 touchdowns.

Almost as an afterthought, tailback James Lewis gained 76 yards in 4 carries and caught Roberts’ only other pass for a 30-yard gain.

“Their running attack rates with anything I’ve seen in high school,” said  Edens. “We scored enough points to beat most teams.  I wish I had an answer for how to stop ’em.  I don’t.”


Point Loma defeated the Longhorns 42-35 early in the season and also had an outstanding offense, with quarterback Danny White, who threw for more than 3,100 yards in an 8-5 season, most of the passes  to J.J. Stokes and Brett Callan.  Stokes later was a No. 1 NFL  draft choice of San Francisco out of UCLA.


Morse’s defense was more up to the task in the finals, but the Longhorns, making the jump from AA to AAA, won their second straight title, 21-7.

As Steve Brand put it in The San Diego Union, some observers were saying the Morse-RBV final was the best game they’d never seen. Seasonal fog rolled in, draping  a shroud on the stadium in the second half.

The 12,119 fans in attendance could only hear as the scoreboard operator, statisticians, and announcer walked the sidelines.

The fog brought back memories of San Diego Section title contests in 1974 and ’81, not to mention many games in the area’s prep history, including San Diego’s incredible, fog-delayed playoff loss at Fullerton in 1950.


Madlanganham (lower left) and teammates gave El Camino coach Meyer victory ride.

Madlangbayan (left) and teammates gave El Camino coach Meyer a victory ride.

Coach Herb Meyer’s Wildcats presented just one player who rose above 6 feet, 1 inch, and went all the way down to 5-4 Joe Malek, their starting quarterback. “It’s the biggest (shortest?) collection of midgets we’ve ever had,” said Meyer.

‘Camino didn’t come up short on the field, posting a 13-1 record and taking out Lincoln 38-6 in the AA championship behind the 4 touchdowns by 5-6 running back Brian Madlangbayan.

Of a playoff run in which they outscored opponents 184-20, Meyer said:  “It’s scary to play this well.”


Deadlocked at  25, Lincoln and Grossmont went into overtime in the AA quarterfinals. Lincoln’s Charles Brown needed just two of his team’s allotted 4 plays to score from the 10-yard line under the California tie-breaker rule.

Grossmont sophomore Jason Eskridge, who rushed for 182 yards in 29 carries and blocked an extra-point kick, came up a half-foot short on fourth down.

Although the game went into the books  a tie, it still was a bitter “loss” for the Foothillers. Lincoln advanced.

The season ended witrh a  10-1-1 record for the Foothillers, who overcame a 12-point disadvantage at halftime and led 25-19 when they punted with two minutes remaining.

Lincoln’s Victor Dean fumbled the punt on his 25-yard line but recovered and took the ball 75 yards to tie the game.

In another California tie-breaker Point Loma advanced over Orange Glen after a 28-28 standoff.  J.J. Stokes caught 79, 59, and 19-yard touchdown passes in regulation play and a 14-yard scoring pass in the tie-breaker, which was determined by Pointer Brett Callan’s 99-yard interception return.


Vista missed the playoffs in 1987, when coach Dick Haines did not make a presentation at the seeding meeting, an absence construed by some members of the selection committee as that the Panthers weren’t interested in participating.

Haines stormed and fussed  but  was  one of the first  to arrive at the postseason parley this year, advocating for the 4-6 Panthers.Vista was awarded with a first-round game against No. 3 seed Chula Vista (9-0-1).

Sweetwater’s Andy Sanchez almost did not make the meeting.  His car broke down near the E Street on ramp on I-5 in Chula Vista.  Fearing he’d be victimized by the “Dick Haines Rule,” (if your team is on the bubble and Sanchez’s was at 5-5, you’d better be there) Andy called his defensive coordinator, Dan Prager.

Prager picked up Sanchez and the pair rushed to the seeding site  “I thought, ‘Who’s going to believe this?'” said Sanchez.


Four other losing teams also gained playoff berths as the tournament was  expanded to 16 teams. More teams did not make the process easier, according to committee member John Shacklett of Morse.  “This was much more difficult (than when 12 teams were given berths),” said Shacklett.

Not everyone was rejoicing.

“I think it stinks,”St. Augustine coach Marty Martin said of the pairings, “but you have to play them all anyway.”  The 6-4 Saints were matched in AA against Western League champion Kearny (9-1) and won their first-round game 18-16.

“My opinion is that the playoffs are diluted,” University City’s Steve Vukojevich said of the expanded format.  “I personally think eight-team playoffs are better; it would produce a quality championship.”

Vukojevich told Steve Brand that “if I can’t finish in the top two (of the league) I think it would be a waste of time to participate, but i’d leave it up to the kids.  I don’t think 4-5 is a playoff record.”

The Centurions took their 4-5 eventual record into the AA eliminations and gave San Pasqual a test before losing 27-23.


Chula Vista eliminated Vista in the playoffs 24-22 after some Vista gamesmanship. On Monday, following the playoff meeting, Haines informed Chula Vista officials that he did not have head phones, which, according to high school rules, meant that Chula Vista also would have go without  communication  from field to press box.

Haines called Chula Vista again later in the week and said that he was going to borrow communication equipment from Torrey Pines, where his son, Rik, is head coach. Then Haines called again, saying the agreement “fell through”.

Chula Vista assistant coach Gary Chapman was able to obtain headphones from nearby Castle Park. Haines, burning the coaxial cables from North County to South,  dialed Chula Vista again on the same day and informed the Spartans that he did not have enough white jerseys, the required color for visiting teams.

Haines wanted his squad in Vista red.

“We told him it didn’t matter if he put his team in junior varsity jerseys,” said Spartans coach George Ohnessorgen.  “We were wearing our home blues and he would have to find a way to dress his team in white.”

Haines told Chula Vista coaches before kickoff  that his borrowed headphones weren’t working.  It was soon determined that someone had unplugged the connection behind the Panthers’ bench.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories about Dick and I can’t blame him,” said Ohnessorgen.  “He was just playing a little cat and mouse.”


Not old enough to play varsity football, Rashaan Salaam had to wait until his 15th birthday, which came the week La Jolla Country Day played Francis Parker.

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 185-pound sophomore started the season on the Torreys’ junior varsity.  “But that was a joke,” said athletics director Patrick Murphy.  “He scored every time he got the ball.”

Salaam had 19 rushes for 216 yards, caught 5 passes for 98, and had three returns for 57–371 yards combined–and scored five touchdowns. ‘Day beat Parker, 48-30, for its first victory over the Lancers since 1985.

Salaam ran for 1,246 yards and scoered 21 touchdowns in 6 games.

A lot more would be heard from Salaam, who would play in 11-man and 8-man games in the next two seasons.


“I’d say it’s about time we beat them again,” said Mission Bay’s Dennis Pugh when the coach was informed that Kearny held an all-time advantage of 24-1 against the Buccaneers, whose only victory over the Komets was a 12-6 decision in 1958.

Timing was not on the Bucs’ side.  Willie Matson’s Komets won the Western League championship with a 20-10 triumph. Kearny profited by the transfer from Sumner High in St. Louis of junior Darnay Scott, who returned a kickoff 92 yards and caught a 10-yard pass for touchdown.


Julian defeated Midway Baptist 53-31.  The Eagles’ Eric Fredburg rushed for 455 yards in 19 carries and scored on runs of 76, 64, 53, 26, and 23 yards.  The listed San Diego Section 8-man record was 286 by Borrego Springs’ David Glantz in 1984.


Roberts guided Broncps with spare use of pass.

Roberts threw few passes for Longhorns.

For the season Rancho Buena Vista’s Dave Roberts, a future major league outfielder who spent time as a player and coach for the San Diego Padres, never threw more than 4 passes in a game…his season totals were 21 attempts, 17 completions…top top three teams in the decade of 1980-89 were Sweetwater (90-22-2), Lincoln (90-26-1), and Helix (89-22-5)…Rancho Buena Vista’s O.J. Hall and Markeith Ross each rushed for more than 2,000 yards and were named San Diego Section co-players of the year…no duo had ever achieved the yardage milestone in California…Mission Bay’s 9-3 record represented a school record for wins…the Bucs won 7 in 1954 (against a largely junior varsity schedule), 1958, 1973, and 1974…Holtville defeated Imperial 34-13 for the Mountain-Desert title, then beat the Tigers 42-7 the following week for the Section A championship…”From Day I it was the only thing on our minds,” said Vikings coach Sam Faulk. “We were behind only once all season”…from the season’s seventh game through the first round of playoffs Lincoln outscored its opponents 171-0…Lincoln’s Victor Dean scored on his second long return when he went 77 yards with a kickoff in the 38-35, II semifinal win over San Pasqual…the Eagles led the Hornets, 35-32, when they kicked to the Hornets with 34 seconds left in the game…thing perked up at Calipatria, a winner of one game in two seasons and outscored 339-10 in 1988…the Hornets improved to 4-6…Lincoln’s Terrell Davis was a rare avis…the 6-1, 195-pounder was a fullback and played on the defensive line in football and was a quarter miler and shot putter in track, diversified skills, size and speed which contributed to a brilliant NFL career with the Denver Broncos…St. Augustine earned a playoff berth for the first time since 1970, and finished with its first winning season (7-5) since 1982 and second since 1973…3-year-old West Hills competed on the varsity level for the first time…Borrego Springs did not field a team….

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2 Responses to 1989: Gene Edwards Retires, Passes Away

  1. Stan says:

    Wasn’t around during Gene’s tenure but became aware of his prolific influence on the LJHS scene in later years, after visiting with Coach Harvey.

    Naming Gene Edwards Stadium after him says it all.

    Well done, Rick.

    • Rick says:

      I was the reporter the Tribune didn’t send to La Jolla for the San Diego game. I was in my second year when Gene took over for Harry. You couldn’t get any luckier, as a cub reporter, going from Harry to Gene.

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