1996: Essence of the Game

Virtues and moments that identify high school football:

–Overflow crowd of more than 4,000 at San Pasqual High, under Friday night lights, for neighborhood bragging rights.

–Tom Kirovski carried the ball on 24 of San Pasqual’s 28 second-half possessions and gained 173 yards as the Eagles defeated Orange Glen, 28-17, in the “Battle of Bear Valley Parkway.”

–To the winner goes the polished, wooden “Bear” trophy.

–“This is a big game, the game of our lives!” Kirovski exclaimed to Tom Shanahan of the Union-Tribune.

Kirovsky ran often and hard as Golden Eagles won "Bear."

Kirovsky ran often and hard as Golden Eagles won “Bear.”

–“It’s for the Bear,” Kirovski reverently added after scoring on runs of 4, 13, and 2 yards.

–About his workload in the third and fourth quarters, the 6-foot, 1, 190-pound junior said, “That’s my job as the fullback, run hard and knock people around.”

–Kirovski gained 18 yards in 5 carries in the first half.

–Said Orange Glen coach Rob Gilster:  “Officials killed us in the first half (when Glen led, 17-7) and San Pasqual kicked the stuffing out of us in the second half.”

The schools’ addresses are about three miles apart, on Bear Valley Parkway.


The honor of being a team captain at Orange Glen required  a little more than calling the coin toss or being the BMOC.

Nate Nyberg gets a cooling lift during a hot preseason practice, after hiking in chilly mountain air.

Nate Nyberg gets a cooling lift during a hot preseason practice, after hiking in chilly mountain air.

Nate Nyberg and 3 other captains led a summer exercise with the team that would make the Navy SEALs proud.

The Patriots hiked six miles up in the High Sierras, strapped to 40-pound backpacks, and camped in the elements for three nights, with snow on the ground.

Part of this bonding experience required the captains to sing the school fight song while standing in a near frozen lake.

“That’s the fastest I’ve ever sang (sic) that song,” Nate recounted to  Mascari-Bott.


Raging flames from a Santa Ana-driven fire created havoc around the La Costa Canyon campus, but a youngster named Victor Yoshida brought some joy to the community and etched his name forever in Mavericks history.

Yoshida’s 36-yard field goal with 6 seconds left gave the Carlsbad school its first-ever victory,  16-15 victory over Escondido.

“Winning makes food taste sweeter and smiles bigger,” said coach Tim Smith after the victory, which put the Mavericks at 1-6.  “I was so happy to see the looks on the kids’ faces after the game. It was utter elation.”

The victory was especially significant, considering  damage from the fires, which caused a short week of practice for the team, and countless hours of anxiety.

“It’s quite a victory to give back to the community,” the coach told Paula Mascari-Bott of the Union-Tribune. “It’s a symbol of rebirth, a regeneration in the community.”

MEYER TAKES STOCK IN 38TH SEASON                        

El Camino coach Herb Meyer, at 288 victories, visiting with the Union-Tribune’s Nick Canepa:  “I’ve been doing this for so long it’s like butting your head against the wall.

“Do it enough times and it starts to feel good.  It’s still fun.  When it’s not, I’ll know it.  I’ll quit.”

Meyer would win 51 more games, retiring with a state-leading 339.


After a 20-7 loss to San Pasqual, Meyer channeled his inner “Fumin’ Human”:

“It would appear that this is the best we are capable of playing, because we don’t want to play any better than that.

“We have players who don’t want to listen to the coaches, who are hung up in the wrong place.  Football intelligence? We proved to be a very stupid team.”

Meyer was specifically hacked off about three second-quarter turnovers that San Pasqual turned into 20 points.

Meyer's fuming was directed at officials this time.

Meyer’s fuming spared the Wildcats after this play, but officials heard him loud and clear.


Heading into the Division I semifinals, Morse was ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, 20th nationally by Associated Press, and 22nd in USA Today.

After a 21-16 loss to Vista in the D-I finals, Morse dropped to 12th in the state, sixth in D-I, and eighth in Southern California.

Castle Park, the San Diego Section D-II champion, was No. 1 in the state in its division, tenth overall, and sixth in Southern California.

Vista’s win over Morse elevated the Panthers to 19th in California.  Mission Bay was eighth in D-II, and The Bishop’s third in D-V.

It was a strong football season in San Diego.


Hoover, 0-10 in 1995 and without a winning season since 1986, defeated Marian, 21-6.

Most impressive is that the Crusaders stood No. 1 in Division IV in the most recent Cal-Hi Sports’ rankings.

The victory was too much for the Cardinals, who lost their last 4 to finish 5-6, while Marian regrouped to 10-3 and was runner-up to The Bishop’s in the section D-IV finals.


Francis Parker was in position to kick a field goal late in the fourth quarter that would have beaten La Jolla Country Day, 3-0.

The Lancers’ offensive coordinator cautiously instructed his quarterback to spike the ball on third down and allow time to set up the placement.

Parker’s quarterback took the snap and downed the ball.


It was fourth down.

La Jolla Country Day took possession.  The season opener ended in a 0-0 deadlock.


Helix coach Jim Arnaiz was walking to his car in the Helix parking lot about 10 p.m. after Arnaiz had counseled at Helix Adult School.

As he neared his automobile Arnaiz, sensing that someone was behind him, turned around and was confronted by a youth who was holding a baseball bat.

The attacker took two violent swings, but Arnaiz ducked and jumped away. The assailant fled.

Arnaiz told authorities he thought the attack was random and not one of a student or someone seeking revenge for an imagined slight.


Mission Bay rode to championship behind Darryl Conyer's dynamic running.

Mission Bay rode to championship behind Darryl Conyer’s dynamic running.

Mission Bay not only won its first league championship since the school opened in 1954 but went on to claim the D-III championship, 12-10 over St. Augustine.

The Buccaneers gave notice in 1995, when they caught fire toward the end of the season and went to the  finals before bowing to Oceanside, 31-20.

“Sometimes I pinch myself,” said coach Jerry Surdy after the Pacific Beach squad forged  a 6-0 record and 12 wins in its last 13 games.

The Bucs went to 7-0 and finished 12-1. They avenged their only loss  in the regular season, 34-31, St. Augustine.

Mission Bay rolled behind all-state running back Darryl Conyer, who was the top scorer in the San Diego Section with 31 touchdowns and 186 points in 13 games. Conyer scored 11 touchdowns in  3 postseason games.


Nate Wright played in 156 games in the NFL, intercepted 34 passes from his cornerback position, and was all-pro twice, but his son Nate says, “I consider myself a running back.”

Even after playing defense at Point Loma for two years.

When the Pointers’ offense stalled, Pointers coach Bennie Edens called Nate’s number on offense.

Wright gained 260 yards in 24 carries and scored two touchdowns in a 31-22 victory over University.

Young Nate turned poet when he paraphrased a line from the movie “Field of Dreams”, before racing 68 yards with 5:27 remaining  for the clinching touchdown.

“I told the line, ‘If you do it, I’ll run,’” said Wright, who got the blocks he needed and sent a Homecoming Game crowd happily on its way.


Mt. Carmel drove 80 yards in less than a minute and scored the winning touchdown with 11 seconds left on the clock, giving Gary Jolk his first victory as a head coach, 31-27 over Mira Mesa.

J.R. Tolver had run 17 yards for a touchdown seconds earlier to put the Marauders in front, 27-24.


Midway Baptist and Horizon opened their seasons with a game in Ensenada, Baja California North.  Horizon won, 32-6, but coach Dan Stolebarger said the game was only part of the reason for the trip.

Stolebarger hoped his squad would learn from the differences in the countries’ approach to football.

Among others, “I wanted our kids to see how they played (in) sweatpants with knee pads and shared helmets (because there weren’t enough to go around),” said the coach.


Torrey Pines’s Ed Burke completed his 11th season as head coach with a record of 86-37-3 (.694)  Four other coaches, in the Falcons’ first 12 seasons, had a combined record of 48-64-4 (.431).


NFL's Allen, Brock, Lynch, and Saleamua were among  San Diego's prep alumni.

NFL’s Allen, Brock, Lynch, and Saleamua (from left) were among the area’s  high school alumni.

Twenty-nine area high school football graduates made it on to NFL rosters at the start of the season.

Name Position Year Team College High School
Eric Allen CB 9 New Orleans Arizona State Point Loma
Marcus Allen RB 15 Kansas City USC Lincoln
Tony Banks QB R St. Louis Michigan State Hoover
Tommy Bennett Safety R Arizona UCLA Morse
Matt Brock Defensive Tackle 8 N.Y. Jets Oregon University City
Brad Daluiso Kicker 6 N.Y. Giants UCLA Valhalla
Terrell Davis RB 2 Denver Georgia Lincoln
Charles Dimry Corner Back 9 Tampa Bay UNLV Oceanside
David Dunn Wide Receiver 2 Cincinnati Fresno State `Morse
Donnie Edwards Linebacker R Kansas City UCLA Chula Vista
Ray Ethridge Wide Receiver 1 Baltimore Pasadena City Crawford
La’Roi Glover Defensive Tackle R Oaklan d San Diego State Point Loma
Robert Griffith Safety 3 Minnesota San Diego State Mount Miguel
Sale Isaia Guard 2 Baltimore UCLA Oceanside
Lincoln Kennedy Tackle 4 Oakland Washington Morse
Chris Johnson Safety 1 Minnesota San Diego State Crawford
Ted Johnson Linebacker 2 New England Colorado Carlsbad
Jeff Kysar Tackle 2 Oakland Arizona State Serra
John Lynch Safety 4 Tampa Bay Stanford Torrey Pines
John Michels Tackle R Green Bay USC La Jolla
Lenny McGill Corner Back 3 Atlanta Arizona State Orange Glen
Rashaan Salaam Running Back 2 Chicago Colorado La Jolla Country Day
Dan Saleaumua Defensive Tackle 10 Kansas City Arizona State Sweetwater
Darnay Scott Wide Receiver 3 Cincinnati San Diego State Kearny
Sean Salisbury Quarterback 8 San Diego USC Orange Glen
Junior Seau Linebacker 7 San Diego USC Oceanside
J.J. Stokes Wide Receiver 2 San Francisco UCLA Point Loma
Rich Tylski Tackle 1 Jacksonville Utah State Madison
Tommy Vardell Running Back 5 San Francisco Stanford Granite Hills


Wideout Nate Nelson’s step-mother was a longtime employee of the San Diego Chargers, who could have used a performance such as Nate’s in Scripps Ranch’s 28-0 win over Kearny.  Nelson  caught three touchdown passes and made seven tackles on defense.

Zeke Moreno led Castle Park's championship defense.,

Zeke Moreno led Castle Park’s championship defense.,


Gil Warren was head coach at Castle Park from 1967-77 and won a section title in 1978, then moved on to be an assistant coach for the next 14 years at Southwestern College.

Warren finally returned to Castle Park and won another championship in 1994, the first for a South Bay school since Sweetwater in 1984, and rolled through 13 opponents without defeat for another championship in Division II this season.

Castle Park topped Carlsbad, 37-10, in the D-II championship. Quarterback Gabe Lujan was San Diego Section offensive player of the year and linebacker Zeke Moreno was co-defensive player of the year with Vista’s Robbie Robinson.


Coach Gil Warren could not be accused of running up the score in Castle Park’s 61-13 win over Montgomery.

Seven different Trojans scored and Warren was able to get 14 different running backs into the game.


After a 41-6 loss to Bonita Vista, Ramona coach Rick Foley was upset.  “This is the worst experience in my 17 years of coaching,” he said.

The Bulldogs were penalized 8 times for 78 yards and the host Barons celebrated the school’s first victory over a North County team.

Bonita was 0-7 dating to 1968, although Ramona, considered North, actually is East County.

There would other similar setbacks for Foley’s team, which finished with a 1-9 record and a three-year score of 6-24 for Foley, who left after the season.


Torrey Pines’ Hayden Epstein kicked a 56-yard field goal, second longest in Section history, as the Falcons beat Oceanside, 29-23…Epstein also added placements of 48 and 34 yards…La Costa Canyon in Carlsbad, the public school replacement for San Dieguito when the Encinitas school became San Dieguito Academy and dropped football, was beaten in its inaugural game by another newcomer…Scripps Ranch, in its second season, defeated the Mavericks, 36-13…Marian rushed for 290 yards and a 42-7, first-half lead and totaled 509 yards on the ground in a 55-7 win over St. Augustine…some 6,000 were on hand at Vista, when De La Salle of the North Coast section, defeated Ranch Buena Vista, 36-19, for its 52nd consecutive victory…Dwight Morris, 20-9-1 as Mount Miguel’s head coach from 1971-73, returned to the sideline 23 years later for another three-year stint (14-19) with the Matadors…New England guard Ted Johnson, on the NFL all-rookie team in 1995, donated $10,000 to his Carlsbad alma mater so the school could upgrade its weight room…El Cajon Valley made its first trip to the postseason since 1974 and was escorted out, 47-7, by El Capitan, which beat the Braves , 45-14, during the regular season…the Braves were 8-0-1 when they met a first-round defeat 23 seasons earlier, 26-8 by Mission Bay…unhappy with what he had been seeing up close, Vista coach Steve Silverman moved to the press box and directed the Panthers’ 17-14 victory from high atop the field…Mount Miguel, wiped out, 68-0, in 1995 by Monte Vista, recovered to beat the Monarchs, 18-13….


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