Morse’s 31-28 victory over Orange Glen in the AAA finals ranks among the most exciting of all San Diego Section championship games.
And that game followed Rancho Buena Vista’s 21-10 AA victory over San Pasqual, climaxing Rancho’s meteoric rise in the school’s second season.
Long runs, NFL-style passing and two of the County’s all-time coaches, David Lay of Orange Glen (12-0) and John Shacklett of Morse (10-2) competing against each other, made this a game to remember for the crowd of 12,611.
A quick bow to “Cowboy” Ken Maynard.
Not to the 1930’s Western movie shoot-’em-up hero but to the coach with the same name and who was Lay’s and Shacklett’s mentor when the two offensive linemen starred at Grossmont in 1956.
In 13 seasons at Sweetwater and Orange Glen, Lay posted a record of 102-34-5. Shacklett was 229-118-9 in 31 seasons at Morse and was in the middle of a three-year, 36-5 run centered around sophomore Teddy Lawrence, who burst on the scene in this game.
Lawrence knew no fear.
He intercepted Cree Morris’ pass deep in the Morse end zone, hesitated a moment, then took off on a record 106-yard return with 2:30 remaining in the first half.
Awhile later, with halftime nearing, Lawrence stood in punt formation, saw something he liked on the right side of the defense and took off on a 54-yard touchdown run, the first half having ended as he sped to the end zone.
BEST PLAYERS SHOW UP
Shacklett: “They threw the ball so well with (Cree) Morris and that receiver (Jake) Nyberg. We played zone, not wanting to get beat, but down around the twenty we’d go man-to-man.
“The thing I remember most about Teddy’ interception is that all of the best players on the field were in about a 10-yard circle on that play. Ty Morrison pressured Morris and Darrell Lewis hit Nyberg as Nyberg was coming across. Teddy had an open field.”
Shacklett quizzed Lawrence as he set up to punt as the half was ending. “I said, ‘What are you looking at if the defensive end comes in to block the kick?'”
“It was a high snap,” Lawrence explained to Steve Brand of The San Diego Union. “I saw number 2 (Lenny McGill) coming in at me and I faked outside. I got a great block from Jimmie Rose and was gone.”
Brand’s game account noted that Jessie Campbell’s 54-yard touchdown run and German Puentes’ 38-yard field goal for a 31-13 fourth-quarter lead “all but broke Orange Glen’s back.”
But Morris, who completed 17 of 31 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, and Nyberg, who caught 12 for 207 and two TD’s, kept the Patriots coming.
Two touchdown passes by Morris and a late drive positioned Orange Glen at Morse’s 20. Three incomplete passes left the North County squad still 20 yards away. Lay called for a game-tying field goal but Shannon Vinje’s 37-yard attempt was wide left.
“I just felt at fourth-and-10, you haven’t made it in three plays, you might as well get part of the championship,” Lay told Brand.
“We could have put twenty guys on Nyberg and he still would have caught all those passes,” said Shacklett. “The guy is amazing.”
So was Lawrence. “Teddy was a great player and great athlete, certainly our best quarterback,” said Shacklett, when asked to compare Lawrence to the dozens of outstanding players he coached through the years.
Lawrence did not want to be a quarterback when he turned out for spring practice after his sophomore season, Shacklett remembered. “Teddy said he wanted to be a wide receiver; I told him we didn’t have anyone who could throw the ball.”
The coach knew he wanted this 160-pound bundle of energy handling the ball on every play.