2015: John Kovac, Started Mesa College Football Program

John Kovac, the first head  football coach at Mesa College and coach of Coronado’s 1955-56 Southern California basketball championship team, passed away at age 89.

Services for Kovac, who moved from San Diego to Palm Springs in October, will be Jan. 20 at St. Brigit’s Parish, Pacific Beach, on Jan. 20 at 11 a.m.

Kovac opened the Mesa program in 1964 and posted a 30-14-2 record until he stepped down to become the college’s athletic director after the 1968 season.

Kovac (right) and track coach Dick Coxe (left) honored track's Sterling Jenkins and football's Richard (Prime) McClendon at San Diego Junior College's 1963 fall sports awards banquet.

Kovac (right) and track coach Dick Coxe (left) honored track’s Sterling Jenkins and football’s Richard (Prime) McClendon at San Diego Junior College’s 1963 fall sports awards banquet.

The 1966 Olympians squad posted a 9-1 record and scored a 12-0 victory over San Bernardino Valley in the Elks Bowl game in the Northern city.

Kovac succeeded George Schutte as head coach at San Diego Junior College and his teams were 11-15-1 from 1961-63.

Kovac was a graduate of Penn State University and was the freshman coach at Penn State for future NFL Hall of Famer Lennie Moore and future Pro Bowl defensive lineman Roosevelt Grier.

Kovac’s first coaching position was as  basketball coach at Coronado High.  From 1953-56 his teams posted a record of 63 wins and 15 losses, going 15-8, 21-4, and 27-1, respectively.

The Islanders were the first County team to score at least 100 points in a game when they routed Rancho del Campo, 103-34, in 1953.

Coronado reached the Southern California small schools finals in 1954-55 but was beaten, by Azusa Citrus, 63-58, in front of more than 2,000 persons at Point Loma High.

Kovac’s small, quick Islanders won a championship rematch, 60-54, before another turnaway crowd of 2,300 at Azusa in the 1955-56 season.

Coronado, whose tallest player was 6-foot, 1-inch Roger Nix,  held Citrus star Billy Kilmer to 19 points, several points below his school-record average, and outplayed the Cougars’ starting five, which averaged 6-foot-3.

The Islanders’ only defeat that season was an early December decision, 49-45, to Hoover, which posted a 25-5 record and was the third-place finisher in the Southern California large-school playoffs.


Bob Lusky, who played on Chula Vista’s 1953 and ’54 Southern California small schools champions that had a combined, 23-1 record.

Lusky was all-Metropolitan League in football and baseball for the Spartans and pitched for San Diego State’s 1958 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship squad.

Lusky taught and coached many years in the South Bay and at Palomar College in San Marcos.


Bob Wueste held the Carlsbad High single-game scoring record of 40 points for several years and was a standout on coach Dimitri Poradowski’s 1961-62 squad that posted a 15-4 record and tied for first in the Palomar League.

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