1948: High School Football is No. 1!

A small item in The San Diego Union revealed that the Coliseum Arena in San Diego would be dark on Sept. 24.

A scheduled boxing card  was called off, because the promoter didn’t want to compete for gate receipts with the annual City Schools’ football carnival.

The carnival, kickoff to the high school season, was so popular with the city’s sports fans that even events as unrelated as professional boxing matches deferred to the preps.

It was the way we were in 1948.

Kearny band members give cheerleader Beverly ull a lift (left), while Marilym Harness of San Diego High leads a cheer at ninth annual City schools' football carnival.

Kearny band members give cheerleader Beverly Dull a lift (left), while Marilyn Harness of San Diego High leads a cheer at 10th annual City schools’ football carnival.

Television had arrived but had yet to change American  entertainment habits. The NFL’s popularity was in the formative stage, and major league baseball was a game played at least two time zones and 1,800 miles to the East.


Football attendance in San Diego, beginning with the Carnival, still was at levels that would be considered unattainable just 10 years into the future.

The pomp, pageantry, and action of the carnival drew an estimated overflow crowd of 27,000, about as much as attended the 1947 Hoover-San Diego game, but less than the all-time record of 30,000 at the 1946 carnival.

San Diego outscored Hoover, 21-0, in its 15-minute debut and the Hillers and West compatriots La Jolla and Point Loma defeated the East contingent of Grossmont, Hoover, and Kearny, 28-2.

San Diego High had the largest home attendance, but Grossmont, ousted from the Metropolitan League because of increasing enrollment, proved to have a strong following as the third local member of the Coast League, joining San Diego and Hoover.

The Foothillers and Cavers played before 11,500 in their Coast League game at Balboa Stadium, and the Foothillers and winless Hoover drew 6,000 to Aztec Bowl.

Hoover, with no chance to win, helped San Diego draw 15,000 to Balboa Stadium for the annual renewal of the city rivalry, and 6,000 overflowed the Hoover stadium (before a stands-destroying fire) for a game with San Bernardino.

There was an overflow crowd of 5,000 at La Jolla for the Vikings’ Metropolitan League showdown with Coronado, and a jam-packed crowd of 3,000 saw host Vista win its Southern Prep title-deciding encounter with San Dieguito.

Eight-thousand were on hand at Ramsaur Stadium in Compton for San Diego’s big Coast League contest with Compton.

The numbers were up everywhere.


The Spanish word is correctly pronounced with  an “e” emphasis, but no one in the distant North County community was interested in  linguistics.

Not the way the local football team was playing.

The Panthers outscored four Southern Prep League opponents, 148-0, and defeated San Dieguito, 20-0, for the league championship on the Nov. 11 Armistice Day, later named Veterans’ Day.

Jack Goddard and Vista's ground attack reined in San Dieguito Mustangs.

Jack Goddard and Vista’s ground attack reined in San Dieguito Mustangs.

The Panthers met Tustin in a one-game, Southern Section Minor Division Southern Group playoff.

The Tillers trailed the host Panthers, 13-7, at the half but rallied to win the title 20-13.

But Vista’s 294 points in nine games,  the most scored by a County team since the 1945 San Diego team of coach Bill Bailey had 385 points in nine games, made the Panthers more popular than their bigger North County neighbors, Oceanside and Escondido.


San Diego High had a new coach.  Bill Bailey resigned to become head coach at the neighboring Junior College and was replaced by Duane Maley.

Maley was a 1939 graduate of San Diego and played collegiately at USC.

Maley’ first team was 7-0-1 in the regular season, and then felt the pain of  the first of several disappointments in the Southern California playoffs.


The Cavers were beaten by Long Beach St. Anthony, or rather fullback Johnny Olszewski, 20-12, in a first-round game at Long Beach Wilson.

The 185-pound Olszewski, destined for an All-America career at California and a 10- season stint in the NFL, battered the Cavemen with pile-driving rushes, inside and outside, averaging 7.8 yards, gaining 187 yards in 24 attempts, and scoring two touchdowns.

St. Anthony led 20-6 in the waning moments when the Cavers’ Neal Henderson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.

Olszewski eliminated Ontario Chaffey the following week with touchdown runs of 80, 65, 41, and 22 yards, but was injured in the first quarter and out of the championship game versus Santa Barbara.

St. Anthony and Santa Barbara tied, 7-7, but the Saints were awarded the championship trophy with a 16-12 advantage in first downs.

Johnny O. actually was contained somewhat by the Hillers, at least in comparison to other opponents.  He averaged 11.99 yards a carry and gained 1,655 yards in 138 carries for the season and  scored 164 points in 12 games.


There would be a Labor Day weekend holiday for the rest of the citizenry, but no rest for new coaches Duane Maley of San Diego or Bob Kirchhoff of Hoover.

On Saturday Maley was in the school gymnasium issuing equipment from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Six miles away in East San Diego, Kirchhoff was doing to same thing, but pulled the plug at 3 p.m.


Hoover principal Floyd Johnson disclosed that San Diego may have its own league of city schools by 1950.

Officials from Coast, Metropolitan, and Imperial Valley schools discussed the possibility at a meeting Johnson chaired.  A City Prep League would include San Diego, Hoover, La Jolla, Point Loma, and Kearny.

Cavemen advertised with schedule poster.

Cavemen advertised with schedule poster.

A sixth school, the projected Southeast High, would join the others.  That school turned out to be Lincoln, which opened as a junior high, grades 7-9, in September, 1949.

The Presidents, as they were first known, became the Hornets and fielded a varsity team for the first time in 1954.


The penalty gods wouldn’t cut a break for the Sweetwater Red Devils.

Lloyd Bishop’s National City squad appeared to have snapped a 0-5 streak, leading 7-6 and intercepting a desperate Coronado pass as the final gun sounded.

Sweetwater, however, was off side.  The infraction put the ball on the Red Devils’ 12-yard line. From there the Islanders’ Jim Voit swept end for a touchdown.

Kurt Storch kicked the point after and Coronado left the field with a 13-7 victory.

The reeling Red Devils ran the table in reverse, losing all 10 games.


For 46 minutes Grossmont and Pasadena staggered to a 0-0 deadlock.  You could hear the snores of 3,000 attendees in the cavernous Pasadena Rose Bowl.

Suddenly, the game changed.  On second down from the Foothillers’ 44, quarterback Phil May arched a pass in the flat to Hal Norris on the 50-yard line.

Kenny Whitcomb was trailing Norris, who lateraled to Whitcomb, who juggled the ball, fumbled, then picked the ball up on a bounce and raced to the end zone.  Foothillers won, 6-0.


With Hoover  comatose, the San Diego-Grossmont game was billed as a battle for the “City Championship,” although the Foothillers’ campus had a La Mesa address.

St. Augustine coach Dave DeVarona was not pleased when he read the headline over the story written by Gene Earl.

Grossmont battled manfully against favored San Diego, which pulled out a 13-7 victory.

DeVarona, who saw the game, kept his counsel, but a couple weeks later, after a 25-0 victory over Grossmont, DeVarona reminded Earl that the Saints also resided in the city and hinted that his club could beat San Diego.

Earl was a St. Augustine alumnus.

Charlie Davis has only one defender to shed as he scored first touchdown ibn San Diego's 39-7 win over Hoover.

Charlie Davis has only one defender to shed as he scores first in San Diego’s 39-7 win over Hoover.

There would be no San Diego-St. Augustine clash.

In the teams’ only other contest against a common opponent, San Diego lost to Long Beach St. Anthony, 20-12, in the Southern Section playoffs, a week after St. Anthony put a 64-33 whipping on the Saints.


A fire, suspicious in  origin according to Fire Department officials,  destroyed Hoover’s grandstand, forcing the Cardinals to hit the road, starting with a “home” day game in Aztec Bowl against Pasadena Muir.

A new structure would be ready for the Cardinals in 1949 but would not have lights, forcing the Redbirds to continue traveling.

It would be 1950 before the Cardinals played a home night game on their campus field.


Hoover’s Del Teter boomed a punt that went 55 yards in the air, over the heads of San Diego players, and teammate Jack Roznos downed the ball on the Cavers’ one-yard line.

Teter’s 78-yard kick could not be downed inside an opponent’s 10-yard line, according to a statute in the rule book of the day.

San Diego got the ball on its 20-yard line.


Ream Field’s 11th Naval District football team in Imperial Beach, boasting a 3-1 record, was forced to cancel football in the middle of the season because of an outbreak of polio.

Floyd Buchi, the team’s starting quarterback, died four days after being diagnosed with the disease.  Midshipman Fritz Krauth, a starting end, also fell ill and was rushed to Navy Hospital in Balboa Park with fever and muscle pain.


In action by the student council, San Diego Junior College adopted “Knights” as its athletic mascot name, replacing the unflattering “Jaybirds”.


Long Beach Wilson had six touchdown plays negated by penalties but still took Hoover apart, 56-0… rare is the game won by a field goal, but that’s how Army-Navy defeated Fallbrook…Jim Salisbury’s 35-yard placement with 42 seconds left in the game pushed the Cadets past the Warriors, 3-0… Jim Voit averaged 10.4 yards and rushed for 120 of Coronado’s 138 total yards in an opening-game, 12-6 loss to St. Augustine…35 San Diego players, plus coaches and staff flew to Phoenix Saturday afternoon at 2 and returned that night…the Saints were in the Pasadena Rose Bowl for the Southland Catholic League carnival… St. Augustine outscored  Santa Monica St. Monica’s, 20-0, in a 10-minute exercise…teams played six, 10-minute quarters…starting at end for the  Cavers: sophomore Charlie Powell, 6-2, 225 pounds…for three years, Powell excelled in downfield blocks, intercepted passes, touchdown catches, and touchdown runs…the “Imperial Valley Shuttle”, which ran for years, saw Cowboy Ken Maynard move on from Calexico to assist Lee Bogle at Grossmont…Walt Harvey was in his second year at La Jolla after serving in 1946 at Holtville, where Harvey coached all sports and drove the school bus to games…Bill (Red) Burrows joined the San Diego staff after apprenticing  at San Diego County Mountain Empire…La Jolla’s Jay Gutowski also was identified in press reports as “Ray” Gutowski and “Gay” Gutowski…his brother Bob was a world record holder in the pole vault in the late 1950s…Oceanside defeated Fallbrook, 20-19, in the season’s final game, dubbed the “Avocado Bowl”…six different Cavers, Charlie Davis, Curtis Everett, Neal Henderson, Granville Walton, Fred Davis, and Jim Mellos, scored touchdowns and Frank San Fillipo kicked four extra points in the 39-7 rout of Hoover…two other Cavers touchdowns were called back because of penalties…center John Davis of San Diego was a first-team, all-Southern California choice…no other locals were chosen on the three teams….


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4 Responses to 1948: High School Football is No. 1!

  1. Dean Bennett says:

    Good stuff Rick!

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