John McFadden’s announced decision to step down as head coach at Eastlake leaves nine active San Diego Section coaches with at least 100 victories.
McFadden became the Titans’ head coach in 2000 and posted a record of 120 wins, 42 losses, and 4 ties in 14 seasons.
McFadden’s .735 winning percentage is third only to the active John Carroll of Oceanside (234-74-6, .755) and the late Birt Slater of Kearny (134-41-9, .753).
Duane Maley of San Diego was 97-19-2, .826, from 1948-59, when County schools were in the Southern Section.
Other 100-game winners still listed as active heading into the 2014 season: Rob Gilster (183), Willie Matson (166), Sean Doyle (145), John Morrison (140), Gary Blevins (129), Chris Hauser (115), Matt Oliver (115), Jerry Ralph (111), and Mike Hastings (111).
McFadden’s teams won eight Mesa or South Bay League championships, tied for another, and earned two San Diego Section championships.
His replacement has not been announced but John Maffei of U-T San Diego reported that Lee Price, a longtime assistant at Eastlake, is McFadden’s likely successor.
Price was 6-5 and won the Harbor League championship at Coronado in 1992.
A complete list of 100-game winners can be accessed by linking to “Football” and Coach 100 Club on the drop down menu.
With training camps still weeks away, eight new head coaching appointments have been announced:
|Drew Westling||Chula Vista||Judd Rachow|
|Joe Kim||Clairemont||Ron Gladnick|
|Jon Goodman||Classical||Jon Burnes|
|John Roberts||El Camino||Pulu Poumele|
|Tyler Hales||La Jolla Country Day||Jeff Hutzler|
|Lance Christensen||Otay Ranch||Anthony Lacsina|
|Jason Patterson||Orange Glen||Kris Plash|
|Ron Gladnick||Torrey Pines||Scott Ashby|
The result of the Eastern League’s vote to determine its champion after a three-way tie for first was considered so egregious that even the coach of a potential playoff opponent led the shouting.
San Diego High was the selection of the league’s principals after the Cavemen finished with a 5-1 record, same as St. Augustine and Patrick Henry.
That the Cavemen were in the playoffs for the first time since 1960, following a 2-7 season in 1968, should have been enough for a collective doffing of headwear to Allan (Scotty) Harris.
FROM MARINES TO PREPS
Harris, a retired major and former coach of the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot team, took over the Cavers’ program in 1968 and the team found its stride after a 2-3 start this season.
San Diego won the renamed City Conference playoffs and went on to tie County Conference titlist Escondido, 21-21, for the AA title, but not before critics, including Kearny coach Birt Slater, were heard, loudly.
One complaint was that San Diego’s closing run of victories over Crawford (57-6) and Hoover (56-7) gained too much currency with the league’s voting representatives.
Another charge was that the Eastern League schools, by going with the Cavers, “were punishing St. Augustine” for unproven charges of misconduct.
St. Augustine virtually had to shoot its way into the City Prep League in 1957 and some schools still chafed at the Saints’ perceived advantages of recruiting and in eligibility.
The most vocal beef was that St. Augustine’s head-to-head victory over San Diego and the Saints’ superior team statistics were dismissed.
The issue even got the attention of the San Diego Section board of managers, made up of district superintendents or their appointees.
The CIF bosses had been fielding their own dose of criticism from coaches, fans, and media about another subject, the short, two-week football playoff.
The bosses finally extended the postseason one week for the first time this season, allowing the two conference champions to play in a winner-take-all, AA title contest.
The ruling body of the San Diego Section also hung with the Eastern League, citing Article 24 of the CIF bylaws.
The article states…“leagues shall determine their own champions in any way they see fit, provided their methods are not contrary to the rules of the San Diego Section.”
San Diego entered the playoffs with a 6-3 overall record and with a 21-14 victory over 6-3 Patrick Henry but with a 24-21 loss to St. Augustine, which was 8-1 and with a 7-0 loss to Henry.
The eight playoff teams, four in each conference, posted a combined record of 62-11.
Escondido (9-0) was the County’s top seed. Kearny (9-0) was the City’s top seed and would play a lower-seeded, at-large team, one that was to be added to the bracket after league winners were positioned.
SLATER IS CODE RED
Kearny suddenly was forced to the take on at-large St. Augustine in the first round.
Birt Slater fumed. He figured his first opponent would be San Diego, a team the Komets whipped, 21-7, early in the season.
“There is no question which team proved itself this season,” Slater told Bill Finley of the Evening Tribune. “It would (even) have made more sense to choose Patrick Henry than San Diego. At least (Henry) was good enough to beat San Diego.”
Slater compared the San Diego selection to a student who “flunks the first half of the semester, then passes the second half. You don’t give him an ‘A’.”
Slater veered to another direction. “The reason we have two separate playoffs (since 1967) is because the County has always distrusted us. This is why.”
The Kearny mentor, a former San Diego High assistant, was referring to a selection process the County felt always favored the city schools.
Slater, never one to duck controversy, railed that the “democratic” league vote was faulty because “there’s too much self-interest.”
The coach’s solution was a “dictatorship”. He favored allowing CIF commissioner Don Clarkson to select the teams. “He’d be fair and this type of thing wouldn’t happen.”
Kearny was pushed out by St. Augustine, 14-6, and San Diego had the last laugh. The Cavers, behind the thrusts of Robert Jones, cousins Lee and Paul Davis, and Arnold Miller, rushed for 321 yards and ran St. Augustine into a 31-7 submission in the City final.
The Eastern League had gotten it right.
SEA OF WHITE
Greg Durrant was a fledgling teenager and his parents helped guide Greg’s passion for football, taking the youngster to all 11 Castle Park games.
According to Durrant, citing the Castle Park Trumpet newspaper, the Trojans were the first high school team in the country to be outfitted with white shoes, joining the pros’ Joe Willie Namath and Fred (The Hammer) Williamson as history makers of this color footwear.
When Castle Park came out on the field for the pregame warmup before their kickoff against Morse, the Trojans were in all white.
“Morse thought Castle Park was wearing only socks,” remembered Durrant.
The Trojans scored a 24-0, opening game victory in a battle of 1968 conference champions, then ran off nine more victories in a row.
Maybe it was the shoes.
COUGARS CLAW BACK
Escondido fell behind, 27-14, in the second quarter but finally knocked out Castle Park, 35-33, in the County final at Aztec Bowl.
Escondido coach Chick Embrey called a quarterback sneak as the San Diego Section championship ended before 13,572 at San Diego Stadium. This after the Cougars had tied San Diego with 2:09 remaining.
“Sure, I’d be in favor of sudden death,” said Embrey, fearing the worst after a series of mishaps leading up to the last play, “but it’s unfair to say we were playing for a tie.”
The 21-21 deadlock was only the third in Embrey’s 14 seasons and 136 games as Escondido coach. San Diego had a 17-7 advantage in first downs.
“A” GETS SQUARED AWAY
For the first time since 1966 the Southern League was able to formulate a true playoff bracket.
The eight-team circuit (three would be added for other sports) was divided into two divisions, with each division’s winner meeting in a championship game.
La Jolla Country Day, San Miguel School, Army-Navy, and San Diego Military were in the Coastal Division and Borrego Springs, Mountain Empire, Julian, and Ramona comprised the Mountain Division.
Ramona (6-3) topped Army-Navy (3-5), 32-0, for the title.
FOR ONE OR FOR TWO?
That was a new and often anxious decision awaiting coaches.
Eleven years after the colleges, nine years following the American Football League, and 25 years before the NFL, the nation’s high schools, including the 48 football-playing squads in the San Diego Section, opted for the rule allowing the two-point conversion try following touchdowns.
Football scientists over the years determined that the 2-point option probably is successful 50 to 55 per cent of the time, depending on time and situations in the game.
Accordingly, San Diego Section teams attempted 22 two-point attempts and converted 12 on the first weekend of games. The success rate was 52.2 per cent.
PASSES MORE SUCCESSFUL
Teams were good on 7 of 10 passing attempts and 5 of 12 running attempts. None of the successful two-pointers played a direct role in the outcome of the game.
The traditional, one-point kick still was en vogue.
Mission Bay’s Mike Marquez, who scored touchdowns on runs of six and nine yards, booted two points after to give the Buccaneers a 14-13 victory over Mar Vista.
Kicking also was going to become more optimal, suggesting a long-delayed acknowledgement of the vintage and mostly unused field goal.
Goal posts were being widened from the existing 18 feet, 6 inches, to 23 feet, 4 inches, in compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines.
Football cleats also would be reduced from 7/8-inch to ½-inch in an effort to decrease knee injuries. The goal posts and cleats would be implemented gradually but become mandatory by 1971.
Kearny’s season came to an abrupt end but the Komets and Escondido, completed the first decade of the CIF San Diego Section as the preeminent teams from 1960-69:
|Escondido||67-29-3||.687||Bob (Chick) Embrey|
|Helix||62-25-2||.701||Dick Gorrie, Warren Vinton, Al Hammerschmidt|
|Lincoln||61-27-4||.677||Shan Deniston, Earl Faison|
|University||56-29-5||.640||Robert (Bull) Trometter|
|Grossmont||55-25-1||.688||Ken Maynard, Sam Muscolino,Pat Carroll, Pat Roberts|
|St. Augustine||55-33-3||.636||Tom Carter, Ed Doherty,Joe DiTomaso|
|Point Loma||54-32-6||.607||Bennie Edens|
|Carlsbad||53-35-3||.592||Sveto (Swede) Krcmar|
GROSSMONT ROLLS NINE
A state CIF decision near the end of the summer allowed the Grossmont League to count its preseason carnival as a scrimmage.
District schools now were allowed to schedule a ninth regular-season game. The ninth annual Grossmont League carnival, which spun off the original Metropolitan League carnival that began in 1956, attracted almost 12,000 persons to Aztec Bowl.
SOUR ON CARNIVAL
But the carnival “leaves most of the league’s coaches cold,” said the Evening Tribune’s Jack Williams. “I’d play my JV if I could get away with it,” said one coach.
A complaint that dated to the City Schools’ carnival in the 1940s was that teams often had to play full games the next day in order to fill nonleague schedules.
Coaches worried about the quick turnaround and carnival injuries and deplored the interruption of season preparation.
A City Schools carnival comeback?
No, but it was under consideration because of the rising cost of athletic programs.
The City Schools carnival, a September fixture since the second carnival in 1940, was discontinued after the 1962 contest when schools asked for, and were granted, the option of scheduling a ninth game, according to Bill Center of The San Diego Union.
But a strong contributing factor to its demise was that the carnival also had become a hot potato for city honchos as rowdiness and violence in and around Balboa Stadium seemed to occur each year.
WENT DAYTIME IN 1959
The carnival had been under the lights since its origin at the end of the 1939 season until moving to the afternoon in 1959. Program costs were such that numerous budget measures were on the table, including, but not confined to, the scary idea cutting of coaches’ game film and equipment.
STARS AND SONS
Castle Park standouts included future NFL first-round draft choice Steve Riley, a tackle out of USC, and future Metropolitan League coaches George Ohnessorgen and Andy Sanchez.
Another lineman was Coronado’s Ken Huff, who became a first-round selection after playing at North Carolina. Coronado’s quarterback was George Murphy, son of a former USC player and longtime NFL game official.
Fallbrook quarterback Eddie Feigner was the offspring of the world-famous fast-pitch softball star of the same name.
Point Loma tight end Peter McNab was the son of San Diego Gulls hockey coach Max McNabb and a future, 15-season NHL player.
Mar Vista quarterback and all-purpose Gene Alim, who went on to dominate the 1980’s as head coach at Sweetwater, may have intercepted as many as 12 passes from his safety position. Years later Alim was reported to have ended his career with a CIF record-tying total of 22.
Alim’s three field goals, from 15, 21, and 17 yards, were enough for Mar Vista to defeat Coronado, 9-7.
Kearny wide receiver Dwight (Shaky) McDonald went on to play at U.S. International in San Diego.
McDonald’s senior season was across town at San Diego State. Dwight led the nation with 86 catches in 1974 and caught the eye of NFL scouts.
He signed as a rookie with the San Diego Chargers and played four years with the local pros.
David Plaut was the student representative from Patrick Henry High, reporting on Patriots games to the Union. Plaut followed a journalism path at Northwestern University and has enjoyed an award-winning career as a writer and director for NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
HIATUS FOR PALOMAR
The unwieldy Palomar League, featuring Marian in South County, Ramona in the East County, and Army-Navy and San Marcos in North County, shut down, to return in a subsequent year.
While Ramona and Army-Navy stayed together in the Southern League, in separate divisions, Marian found residence in the Metropolitan League and San Marcos in the Avocado.
HENRY JOINED BY PARKER
The Patrick Henry Patriots played a complete varsity schedule in their second year and in the school’s first year with sophomore, junior, and senior classes.
The Francis Parker Lancers teed it up for the second time in the school’s 57-year history, playing a junior varsity schedule. The school, then located in Mission Hills, played an abbreviated schedule in 1924.
MIKE’S NO FAKE
Sweetwater’s Mike Faketty, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 220-pound tackle, recovered a fumble, sacked the quarterback twice, blocked a punt, was in on 11 tackles, and provided the essential block on a touchdown run.
“It was the finest game I’ve seen a linemen play in the four years I’ve been here,” said Red Devils coach David Lay.
Faketty’s fury was directed at Mount Miguel, a 30-0 loser to Sweetwater.
In the Red Devils star system, which awards outstanding performance, Faketty received five stars. “Nine or ten is the most we’ve had, in a whole year,” Lay told writer Jack Williams.
Marian’s new coach, Bill Craven, was at Buena Park High in 1968 after stops at Norwalk Excelsior, Artesia, San Juan Capistrano (now San Clemente), and Garden Grove Bolsa Grande.
Craven moved on again following the overmatched Crusaders’ 0-9 debut in the Metropolitan League.
When you’re winning you can say almost anything, witness Grossmont coach Pat Roberts’ description of his linemen for Union writer Bill Center: “We’re so slow we’d drown in a car wash”…Hilltop’s A.J. (Art) Sisk resigned about a week before the season to take a job in the publishing business…Byron Meyers replaced Sisk, who was 29-24 in six seasons…coach Scotty Harris on San Diego High’s defense, to Bill Finley: “They don’t care about their lives. They just throw their bodies at the ball”… Helix coach Al Hammerschmidt estimated that quarterback Steve Coover threw almost 3,000 passes since the end of the 1968 season and before the start of September practice…La Jolla fans were cheering hurrah when Jim Harrah was on the field…the riffs in the Sweetwater offense were orchestrated by sophomore quarterback Steve Riif…Brad McRoberts went from being a quarterback at El Cajon Valley in 1968 to a tailback-linebacker at Santana this season…Mount Miguel coach Ben Cipranic listed nine assistant coaches on his staff, including Duane Freeman, a star on the 1960 team…after a 0-0 first quarter, Castle Park savaged Marian, 54-0, setting a school record for most points and amassing 524 yards in total yards…three Castle touchdowns were called back by penalties…Coronado’s 63-0 victory over Army-Navy represented the most points by the Islanders since a 73-6 win over La Jolla in 1929….
Call it the case of “The Missing First Downs”.
La Jolla and Calexico engaged in a Southern California Lower Division playoff at La Jolla.
The game ended in a 6-6 tie, but The San Diego Union reported the next day that the Vikings “won” 7-6 and advanced to a championship encounter.
As Union writer Mitch Angus noted, “An extra point tossed in for an edge in first downs made gave La Jolla High school a 7-6 victory over an invading Calexico High eleven in a bitter minor league football playoff on the Jewel City gridiron.”
“The Vikings scored 13 first downs to nine for the visitors to win the game on a CIF ruling,” wrote Angus.
Headlines the next few days tell a story.
Calexico did not protest but asked CIF commissioner Seth Van Patten for clarification of the rule pertaining to tied playoff games.
According to a Mr. Lawson, the principal at Calexico, the commissioner said that because no official record of first downs was kept the game either would be replayed in Calexico or go down as a tie.
(Van Patten had ordered replays before. See Calexico vs. Grossmont, 1927).
The Union conducted a review and reported that in an unofficial count of five newspapermen and “other interested parties”, La Jolla was given the edge in four first down tabulations and one was even.
Days later the matter still was unsettled as thoughts turned to Christmas and basketball.
The game wouldn’t be replayed.
According to the Union, the head linesman assigned to the game was responsible and failed to keep a record of first downs.
The official in question was Joe Beerkle, the head coach at San Diego High.
Area coaches manned the other officiating positions. Grossmont’s Jack Mashin was referee, Morris Gross of San Diego State was back judge, and Sweetwater’s Cletis (Biff) Gardner was umpire.
The CIF Southern Section record book lists no lower division champion for 1938.
METROPOLITAN PLAYOFF OUT
There was talk of a postseason, Thanksgiving Day game for the Metro League title after Point Loma and La Jolla tied for first with 5-1 records (La Jolla beat Point Loma, 22-7, and Coronado upset La Jolla, 6-0).
A decision not to play was made after principals from each school met with coaches.
Point Loma honcho Clarence Swenson stated, “We felt it might hinder the chances of the Metropolitan League entry in the CIF minor league playoff.”
Point Loma had won league titles in 1936 and 1937 but had declined invitations to participate in the postseason.
La Jolla later won a coin flip with the Pointers to determine the league’s playoff representative against Calexico.
FIVE TROJANS FROM SAN DIEGO
USC coach Howard Jones mined the recruiting fields in San Diego with great success during his tenure as the “Head Man” at USC from 1926-40.
From left: blocking halfback Joe Shell (Hoover), end Sal Mena (San Diego), guard Ben Sohn (San Diego), fullback Roy Engle (Hoover), and quarterback Oliver Day (San Diego).
WHAT DO YOU REALLY MEAN?
Coach-speak could be ponderous at best, or did sportswriters of the day just report quotes the way they wanted to hear them?
La Jolla boss Marvin Clark was quoted thusly when Clark spoke of the team’s prospects after 40 candidates turned out:
“Since we have no outstanding threat—no player capable of breaking away for touchdowns with enough frequency to be considered a menacing ball packer—we must work extra hard for our touchdowns, which means that we are not apt to be more than a good defensive (sic) team.
“The club is too small to be overly powerful, for our players will not average more than 150 pounds, and that means we will have to content ourselves with making trouble for the big fellows.
“We hope to have a good team but our prospects are not brilliant.”
La Jolla, 3-5 in 1937, improved to 8-1-1.
TOO MUCH HYPE
Coach Joe Beerkle moved from Point Loma to San Diego and one of his standout Pointers, halfback Paul (Red) Isom, followed Beerkle, accompanied by much hoopla.
The coach complimented Isom, sort of.
“They’re trying to put Red on the spot,” said Beerkle. “He’s no flashy, triple threat man. He’s good, however.”
Isom played through injuries and led the Cavemen with five touchdowns and 30 points.
Red guided the Cavers 70 yards to the winning touchdown in the final minutes as San Diego defeated Phoenix Union, 19-14, on the sixth annual Homecoming weekend. The school honored graduates from the class of 1891.
The Cavers had met the Arizona squad 12 times since 1923 but the series was suspended because of travel concerns and wouldn’t be renewed until 1946.
Alhambra won the Coast League championship after the Cavers missed a point after touchdown in a 6-6 tie, but the Moors were ending an affiliation with the Coast that began in 1925.
Games on the road with San Diego and Hoover usually were two-day trips, sometimes three.
Ground breaking for Mark Keppel High meant a new school would open on the east side of the city, cutting into the enrollment of the largest school in Southern California.
Alhambra would join the Foothill League, made up of mostly neighboring San Gabriel Valley schools, and the Coast League would be reduced to three teams, San Diego, Long Beach Poly, and San Diego Hoover.
3 LEAGUES MEET
A meeting in Long Beach among the 16 Bay League, Coast and Foothill schools resulted in a realignment proposal that was adopted at a meeting at South Pasadena High in early 1939.
Representatives, including San Diego High vice principal Edward Taylor, agreed to guarantee five league games in 1939-40 for the six Foothill, seven Bay, and three Coast League squads in football, basketball and baseball.
San Diego would play Hoover, Poly, Whittier of the Foothill League, and Compton and Inglewood of the Bay.
The Bay League’s Long Beach Wilson and the Foothill League’s Alhambra and Glendale Hoover were scheduled to be San Diego Hoover opponents.
The intersectional games would count in the teams’ league standings and hopefully revitalize the struggling Coast League.
NO PLAYOFFS URGED
Rivalries, partisanship and potential charges of bias were noted by commissioner Seth Van Patten when opponents were to be selected.
Van Patten named an executive committee that was charged with drawing up schedules. Members of the select group did not have any connection to the schools involved.
Another recommendation that was not passed at the subsequent meeting called for the elimination of all playoffs. The postseason apparently was not profitable and therefore not popular, but they would continue.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Seventeen bomber planes, from Navy Patrol Squadron 4, flying in formation all night, set a record for air time from San Diego to Honolulu on Sept. 7.
The planes covered the 2,150 miles in 17 hours, 17 minutes.
The trip, described politely as a “routine transfer of patrol bombers,” was made at an average speed of 145 knots, according to officials. Converted, 145 knots was equal to 167 miles per hour.
The San Diego temperature of 94 degrees on Oct. 2 broke the record of 88 set in 1893. Six weeks later, on Nov. 12, the temperature dropped to 18 in Descanso 25 in El Cajon and 30 in Escondido.
Tomatoes suffered in El Cajon and water froze on Palomar Mountain.
WHO’S GOING TO PAY?
The San Diego State Aztecs attended the USC-Notre Dame game in Los Angeles and then spent the night in a downtown L.A. hotel.
The next morning, after a team breakfast, graduate manager Al Morrison prepared to pay.
Morrison discovered that his wallet had been emptied of its contents. A further check revealed that currency had been removed from the billfolds of head coach Leo Calland and athletic director Morris Gross.
One other hotel guest reported that he, too, had been robbed. The Aztecs made good on the breakfast tab after returning home.
Bobby Cifers, a triple-threat halfback from Kingsport, Tennessee, set a national high school record with 233 points in 12 games. Cifers scored 34 touchdowns and 29 PAT to break the mark of 211 set by Chicago prep Bill DeCorrevont in 1937.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
They were mostly former San Diego High players and they represented the Golden Hill Gophers, who defeated the Hilltoppers’ junior varsity, 12-0.
COOVER OF HOOVER
Chuck Coover was a 140-pound, second-team all-Coast League end and one of many future coaches mentored by Hoover’s John Perry.
Coover coached many years in San Diego, taking on almost impossible tasks at football-barren St. Augustine (1947), Mar Vista (1952-53), and Mission Bay (1959-61), before moving to Morse.
The school South of Encanto in the city’s Skyline District opened in 1962 and Coover built the program from the ground up. He retired after a 9-2 season in 1968.
ADVERTISING FOR PLAYERS
Joe Beerkle was desperate for backfield help and placed a faux help-wanted ad in the morning newspaper.
“Any halfback, quarterback, or fullback not regularly employed at present kindly report to the San Diego High practice field at 2:30 this afternoon for a tryout.”
Beerkle was elated when Dempsey Holder, a 180-pound halfback, transferred in from a school in the Phoenix area in Arizona.
Like some Hollywood marriages, the relationship was brief and ended unhappily for Beerkle.
Holder, who stepped in at right halfback against Long Beach Poly, was gone three weeks later, moving back to Arizona.
EVENING TO REMEMBER
The first night game at Coronado turned in a frenetic last quarter.
Coronado scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes to overcome St. Augustine, 13-6, after the Saints took a fourth-quarter lead on Les Duffy’s 100-yard punt return.
Film study still was in its development stage, but San Diego coach Joe Beerkle took up most of one practice say by showing the squad “slow motion pictures” of the California-UCLA game from the previous week.
Beerkle hoped the film would aid Cavers backs blocking for Red Isom.
Guards Bill Seixas of San Diego (first team) and Dave Cobb of Point Loma (third team), and halfback Al Walden of La Jolla (fourth team), earned all-Southern California honors.
A fight almost started at midfield over possession of the game ball after San Diego defeated Hoover, 14-0, before 16,000 in City Stadium…the ball finally was delivered to San Diego coach Joe Beerkle…San Dieguito spoiled dedication of Escondido’s new field, edging the Cougars, 7-6, in the season opener for both teams…Fallbrook, in its third season of football, welcomed a turf playing field; so did San Dieguito…Ramona won its inaugural game, 7-0 over Fallbrook…Metropolitan League rivals Oceanside and Escondido played a Thanksgiving Day nonleague game with proceeds setting up a fund for injured players…Escondido made it two in a row over the Pirates, winning, 20-0…Hoover and Tucson drew 5,000 spectators in the Arizona city the day after Thanksgiving…the Badgers beat the visitors, 14-6…Point Loma’s ace blocking back and defensive star Jack Farrell turned 20 in the middle of the season and had to leave the team, having exceeded the CIF age limit…
As far back as early 1989, Morse coach John Shacklett was able to smile through some struggles, supported by a mantra that the best was yet to come.
This after the Tigers had defeated Orange Glen, 31-28, for the 1988 AAA championship and not about the potential of the team that would reach the AAA finals again before losing, 21-7, to Rancho Buena Vista.
Shacklett was thinking further ahead, to 1990, and to Teddy Lawrence’s senior season.
Built around the explosive running and passing of Lawrence and junior running back Gary Taylor, Morse returned 29 lettermen and 18 players who started at least one game in 1989.
Rancho, El Camino, Helix, Mira Mesa, Chula Vista, Orange Glen, Oceanside, and Kearny also would be formidable. Morse met five of those teams, but only George Ohnessorgen’s Chula Vista Spartans, in the AAA semifinal, came within a touchdown.
Did this group of gifted players gathered on the 28-year-old campus at 69th Street and Skyline Drive represent the all-time, No. 1 San Diego County team?
Better than the 1955 San Diego High national championship team?
Better than the 1985 Vista juggernaut?
Or some of the Oceanside, Vista, Rancho Buena Vista, and El Camino teams that reflected the population explosion and increased talent pools in the 1970s and ‘80s in the North County?
Not to mention Birt Slater’s 1963 Kearny Komets; any of a number of Duane Maley’s other San Diego High clubs; the Helix teams coached by Jim Arnaiz and Gordon Wood, or the Sweetwaters of David Lay and Gene Alim?
The Tigers built a case for themselves, game by game, beginning in Hawaii Aug. 26.
MORSE 55, @PUNAHOU 15.
Barack Obama’s alma mater, a storied program on the islands, was no match. Teddy Lawrence rushed for 206 yards in six carries and scored on runs of 85, 42, and 67 yards and passed for touchdowns of 65, 11, and 36 yards.
A couple weeks later Punahou defeated St. Louis, Hawaii’s No. 1 team.
MORSE 28, RANCHO BUENA VISTA 14, @Mesa College
Modified Sportsmen race cars and the arrival of the San Diego Chargers may have saved night football in the foothills east of San Diego.
An unusual alliance.
Grossmont School District teams, faced with an illumination problem, played many games on the infield of the dirt track oval near the Gillespie Field airport from 1958-66.
New schools (Mount Miguel, 1957, El Capitan, 1959, Granite Hills, 1960, and Monte Vista, 1961) created an exponential need for lights on East County gridirons.
No lights, no night football.
Helix and Mount Miguel were the only schools this year in the new, seven-school Grossmont League that were able to host games after dark. Cajon Speedway, formerly County Stadium, became increasingly important.
The Speedway in North El Cajon near the future Eastbound State 52, was home for El Cajon Valley, Granite Hills, and Grossmont.
El Capitan played home games at Aztec Bowl.
BASEBALL AT GILLESPIE?
Earle Brucker, Sr., who played and coached for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics and had a long career in the minor leagues, had baseball on his mind when he became involved in plans to build a spring training facility for a major league team.
A plot of land next to Gillespie Field seemed destined to become the site, according to Bob Gardner, an El Cajon Daily Californian staffer who later became publicist at Cajon Speedway.
A hotel chain sought a lease from the County of San Diego to build on the land in 1955. The corporation also hoped to erect a major hotel on one of the hills west of the city. But a change in state tax laws forced the innkeepers to abandon their plan.
Brucker, according to Gardner, stepped up and acquired the lease.
“At the time the idea still was to build a ball park,” said Earle Brucker, Jr. “After we got it built the baseball team (Detroit Tigers) decided to go elsewhere.
“Since the high schools around here didn’t have anywhere to play night football and since we were committed to put in some lights, we converted the baseball field into a football stadium,” said the younger Brucker.
A motorcycle track was installed after the first year of football. “The money we got from the motorcycles was the only income we had other than the minimal amount we got from the high schools,” said Brucker.
The struggling Bruckers would be gifted with some good luck.
PRO FOOTBALL COMES TO TOWN more »
There wasn’t just a millennium going on.
Wholesale league changes and the San Diego Section’s annexation of schools in the Imperial Valley were creating a new landscape.
What started in 1980 with the addition of Calipatria, Holtville, and Imperial, was complete after Blythe Palo Verde, El Centro Central, Brawley, Calexico, El Centro Southwest, and Calexico Vincent Memorial left the Southern Section.
Winterhaven San Pasqual also joined in 1980 and Salton City West Shores became a member in 1998, but neither of those schools was in for the long run.
DID VALLEY GET SHAFT?
Not everyone was happy.
Brian Hay wondered about his new associates. The El Centro Southwest coach was miffed when his 7-3 team was left out of the playoffs and three with losing records were bracketed into D-III.
“All of the San Diego-area team reps teamed up to keep us out,” Hay told Steve Brand of The San Diego Union. “There’s something wrong when you’re 7-3 and don’t get into the playoffs.
“Only one of the Imperial Valley teams (Brawley) made it,” Hay added. “I’d like to see the top two teams from each league be included.”
Hay was determined: “We’re looking for a game against a San Diego-area team next year, so this won’t happen again.”
CAN’T BEAT ‘EM? JOIN ‘EM
Hay didn’t get that game for El Centro Southwest.
He went one better.
The Southwest mentor headed west to San Diego to become head coach at Hilltop and became a fixture in the South Bay area, moving on to Mar Vista and then Sweetwater.
OTHERS UPSET, TOO
University was in the playoffs with a 3-7 record, but Rancho Bernardo (4-6-1) and San Diego (6-3-1) received the veritable rubber key.
“They say they want the best teams playing each other, so we play marquee teams and get punished because of our record,” said Rancho Bernardo’s Ron Hamamoto. “We’re one of 12 best teams in the County.”
The Broncos defeated Vista, 6-3, and Rancho Buena Vista, 28-27. Those teams received first-round byes in D-I.
67 YEARS FOR METRO
The Metropolitan Conference, which started as the eight-team Metropolitan League in 1933, servicing city and county schools, became two-headed, splitting into Mesa and South Bay circuits.
Sweetwater, San Diego Southwest, Montgomery, Chula Vista, and Bonita Vista came together as the Mesa League, all with larger enrollments than their South Bay brethren.
Marian (enrollment about 450), was by far the smaller entry among Mar Vista, Castle Park, Hilltop, and Eastlake, which made up the South Bay.
The Metro split once before, in 1960, when it divided into Northern and Southern divisions as the San Diego Section began play.
The Central League, born in 1980, went to the Great League in the Sky (to be resurrected in 2005) and its passing was felt throughout the city.
The Western League greeted Crawford, San Diego, and Madison from the deceased Central, and Hoover, which bid bon voyage to the Harbor. Western holdovers were La Jolla, Lincoln, and Kearny.
The Eastern League, which debuted with the Western when the City Prep League divided in 1959, also was involved.
University and St. Augustine moved from the Western to the Eastern.
The parochial schools joined Morse, Mira Mesa, Paddy Henry, Scripps Ranch and Point Loma.
TAKE THIS SPLIT AND SHOVE IT
Despite attempting to level the field based on enrollment, Mesa and South Bay teams still were scheduled to play interleague games.
There were unintended consequences.
Large school San Diego Southwest (Mesa) was run off the field, 66-0, by small-school-but-traditionally-formidable Castle Park (South Bay).
“We shouldn’t have had to play this game,” Southwest coach Joe Gonzalez fumed to writer Tom Shanahan. “We’re struggling. We’re overmatched. We should be in a different league.”
Gonzalez added, “Give us a couple years to turn this around, but don’t force us to play strong competition we’re not ready to play.”
In a 0-10 season the loss to Castle Park was not the most humilating. Mesa League rival Sweetwater defeated the Raiders, 72-0.
The North County Conference also was shuffling. Torrey Pines moved from the Avocado League to the Palomar and Oceanside went from the Avocado to the Valley.
This made for three, more symmetrical alignments–five-team Avocado and six-team Palomar and Valley.
BAPTISM BY FIRE
Chris Hauser’s first game as head coach at Vista was against the most storied program in California.
It was a formidable assignment, but the fiery Hauser had been preparing for the moment.
Hauser was a wide receiver and defensive back in the early 1980s for legendary Vista coach Dick Haines.
After college Hauser returned to the school as a classroom teacher, was married to a Vista graduate, coached the Panthers junior varsity from 1990-93, and was varsity defensive coordinator from 1994-99.
The Panthers dropped a 20-14 decision to Long Beach Poly, ranked second in California by Cal-Hi Sports and third in the country by USA Today.
Hershel Dennis’ 65-yard touchdown run with 5:07 remaining clinched the victory for the visitors.
“We talked about spilling our guts and our guys spilled their guts tonight,” Hauser said to writer Mick McGrane. “It’s neat to see them leave with a different taste in their mouth.
“They came in here pretty arrogant, thinking they were going to mow us down. It’s great it was a close game, but I want to win.”
Mission Bay’s 13-0 season included a stiff regular-season test when the Buccaneers went to 9-0 with a 10-7 victory over Lincoln (8-1).
David Abbott, a 6-foot, 245-pound lineman, blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt by Lincoln’s Noe Gonzalez with 5.2 seconds left.
Although Shannon Nowden owned a car, most of Mission Bay’s football players were products of optional school choices and were bused in.
Coach Dennis Pugh said that probably 75 per cent of his team came from areas outside the Bucs’ natural enrollment boundaries.
Nowden was from the Lincoln district. Others included JaJa Riley and Scott White (Morse), Marcus Smith and David Abbott (Hoover), and Jared Bray and Adam Riccardulli (Clairemont).
“When we start in the fall it’s like we have a bunch of kids moving in from out of state,” Pugh told Tom Shanahan of The San Diego Union. “These kids go through a lot to make it work. They spend more than two hours a day on the bus.”
Those transfers played a part in the biggest play of Mission Bay’s season. Trailing Lincoln, 13-7, Marcus Smith pick-pocketed Lincoln quarterback Jason Swanson and raced 96 yards for a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 27-13 win in the D-III final.
“First I went for the strip and then I went for the end zone,” said Smith, who heard “dangerous” footsteps chasing him. Then Smith took advantage of something not usually available in high school games, sccording to Steve Brand.
“I looked up at the Jumbotron (in Qualcomm Stadium) and when I saw Shannon (Nowden) take out two blockers I knew I had a touchdown,” said Smith.
North County big shot Rancho Buena Vista did not play a team from any of the Grossmont leagues until it tested the waters in 1998, when the Broncos dismissed Granite Hills, 20-0, and West Hills, 61-28.
Craig Bell’s No. 4-ranked Vistans ratcheted it up this season, visiting No. 6 Helix.
Sophomore Reggie Bush had 157 yards in 14 carries and ran 77 yards for a touchdown that gave Helix a 34-22 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Highlanders held on for a 34-29 victory, but their fifth straight victory without loss was just the beginning.
With Bush and junior quarterback Alex Smith setting the pace, Helix rolled to a 13-0 record and beat two more North County clubs in the playoffs, Oceanside, 28-10, in the semifinals and San Pasqual in the II championship, 24-14.
Bush rushed for 1,034 yards and scored 11 touchdowns and Smith passed for 1,592 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Bush’s emerging greatness was evident in another game when he ran 80 yards for the clinching touchdown with five minutes remaining in a 22-19 triumph over Monte Vista, which had taken a 16-0 halftime lead.
The pair of future No. 1 NFL choices made for an outstanding coaching bow for Gordon Wood, who inherited a full cupboard when Wood took over for the retiring Jim Arnaiz.
IGNORED IN PRESEASON
For awhile at least Helix was a secret, not even in preseason state Top 20. That was not the case with Fallbrook.
After first-year coach Randy Blankenship revived the Warriors with a 7-4-1 season in 1999, Fallbrook was ranked 11th and ready to make its first serious run since Tom Pack’s 1986 team was 11-2-1 and upset Vista, 28-14, in the AAA championship.
From 1987-98 the Warriors were 45-78-2, including an 11-49 drought since 1993.
Fallbrook overcame early defeats of 28-21 at Santa Ana Mater Dei and 42-23 at Anaheim Esperanza and then ran the table to an 11-2 record that included a 50-12 victory over Carlsbad for the D-I title.
Blankenship left after the season and was replaced by Dennis Houlihan.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Willie Buchanon was an all-pro cornerback with the Green Bay Packers and completed an outstanding, 11-season career with the San Diego Chargers, but Buchanon, in his prime, would have had trouble covering his 6-foot, 5-inch son.
William Buchanan caught 84 passes in 13 games, for a 19.3-yard average and 16 touchdowns for Oceanside this season and marked the third generation of Buchanons at the school.
Willie stood out in football and track in 1967-68 and William’s grandmother was the first Africa-American to graduate from the school in 1947.
The family lineage did not stop there. William’s grand-uncle, C.R. Roberts, was the legendary star halfback on the Pirates’ 1951-53 squads. Roberts scored 61 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
RANCH COACH CALLS IT A CAREER
Craig Bell, who posted a record of 106-62-1 at Rancho Buena Vista and won two section championships in 14 years, retired at the end of the season.
Bell, 57, began the RBV program when the school opened in 1987. He also was head coach at Burbank Burroughs and was 24-33-2 in six seasons at San Dieguito.
Bell told Mick McGrane of The San Diego Union that his decision was made during a summer vacation trip to Wyoming with his wife.
“I was able to relax, my blood pressure was down, my hair wasn’t falling out, and I was able to eat something other than burritos and French fries, which is about all you ever eat during football season,” said Bell.
Bell won titles in 1988 and 1989 in a sometimes contentious tenure that was marked by legal proceedings and a law suit against the Vista School Board.
Actually it was eight hours before kickoff when Horizon’s 11-game forfeiture mandated by San Diego Section commissioner Jan Jessop was overturned by an appeals committee.
Horizon responded by defeating The Bishop’s, 33-20, for the Division IV championship.
The Panthers were penalized for using an ineligible player. There also was a question of another player’s eligibility.
The committee consisted of John Collins, Poway district associate commissioner; Mark Oschner, Rancho Bernardo athletic director, and Kamran Azimzadeh, Lakeside district deputy superintendent.
“It was a good decision,” said Bob Ottilie, one of two lawyers working on Horizon’s behalf. “It was a good decision, a well-reasoned decision. These kids will not suffer because of the administration.”
The Horizon player was declared ineligible for violating the so-called “eight-semester rule.” Students enrolled in school for eight semesters must receive a waiver from the San Diego Section to be eligibile for sports in their fifth year.
Horizon did not seek a waiver, said Jessop.
EXPANSION BY MILES
Granite Hills in El Cajon was the easternmost school when the section began in 1960, as Mountain Empire in Campo remained in the Southern Section for a few years.
After the first immigration of Imperial Valley schools, the longest distances from San Diego were to Holtville (124 miles) and Imperial (133 miles).
Blythe Palo Verde, which had to make long trips in the Southern Section, was essentially in the same travel situation when it became a San Diego Section member this year.
The 104 miles from Imperial Valley League rival El Centro Central had not changed, but a Palo Verde game in San Diego would be 215 miles distant, at least three and a half hours.
El Camino’s 17th consecutive victory was fueled in part by a sign that greeted the Wildcats’ bus when it entered the Vista campus. The sign read, “The Streak Ends Here”.
“We saw that when we drove in,” said El Camino quarterback Demetrious Spates. “That gave us a tremendous amount of motivation. You may not like us, but don’t disrespect us.”
It was Vista that got the message.
El Camino rolled, 56-20, as Spates passed for two touchdowns to Antwaine Spann and rushed nine times for 168 yards and three scores.
A 42-25 win over Oceanside the next week was El Camino’s 18th in a row over two seasons and moved the Wildcats past Lincoln (1978-80) for the third longest winning streak in the County.
El Camino’s streak came to a quick and decisive end. Carlsbad’s Eddie Sullivan scored on a 99-yard pass play and 97-yard kickoff return, propelling the Lancers to a 35-17 victory and a pungent observation by Wildcats coach Herb Meyer.
“We didn’t practice well all week and I coached us right into the toilet,” Meyer told Tom Shanahan of the Union.
“We’re 0-1 in the Avocado League,” said Meyer. “That’s all that counts. The streak and all that other stuff are for sportswriters to write about.”
El Camino finished with a 10-3 record, nosed out by Fallbrook, 27-24, in the playoff semifinals.
ISLANDERS MAKE WAVES
The Islanders won their first seven in an 8-1 campaign in 1929 and won eight in a row in 1940, after opening the season with a 0-0 tie against an alumni squad.
Islanders coach Bud Mayfield also was part of the chorus complaining about playoff seedings.
Coronado’s reward was a seventh seed in D-III, which Mayfield described as “a kick in the teeth”.
After a bye, the Islanders were eliminated, 34-21, by Lincoln in the quarterfinals.
STRANGE TWIN BILL
It looked like a misprint: Desert Hot Springs versus Monarch High of Lewisville, Colorado…at El Camino?
The off-beat scheduling called for the two schools to be on the undercard of an opening week doubleheader featuring host El Camino and Whitehall, Pennsylvania.
Whitehall school board bosses moved in after the game was set and declared that the Zephyrs couldn’t play a game out of state for the second consecutive season.
El Camino reconnoitered and signed to play at Rancho Bernardo. The Palm Springs-area school and Monarch went through with their contest and played at El Camino.
AT LONG LAST
Ramona’s Jason Bash batted down a last-second pass in the end zone to preserve a 20-17 victory over Poway. Poway had been 11-0 against the Bulldogs from when it opened in 1961.
FOR WHOM BELL TOLLS
The bronze bell trophy was in the offing when San Diego Southwest had a first down on Mar Vista’s two-yard line with 50 seconds remaining. The Mariners stiffened and held on to win, 20-13, and reclaim the bell.
The bauble had sat on the desk of Southwest coach Joe Gonzales since the rivalry was suspended after a 32-6 Southwest win in 1993. Mar Vista moved to the Harbor League in 1994.
The teams had played for the bell since Southwest was introduced in 1976.
Crawford more or less ended a 14-game losing streak when it tied Kearny, 14-14, in a matchup of father (Kearny coach Skip Coons) versus son (Crawford coach Lou Coons).
We just ran out of time. Give us another minute and we win,” said Lou.
QUICK KICKS–West Hills quarterback Troy Burner was on fire, bettering the section record by completing 88.8 per cent of his passes (32 of 36) for 346 yards and five touchdowns, including the 35-34 winner with 23 seconds left against Granite Hills…Helix gained 578 yards and averaged 9.6 yards a play in a 57-18 win over West Hills…it was the Highlanders’ most points since a 57-7 win over Mount Miguel in 1993…the Helix record came in a 68-0 victory over Santana in 1966…Valhalla’s 24-14 victory over Granite Hills was the Norsemen’s first on opening night since 1990 and marked the first time since 1992 they had scored more than seven points in an opener…”Field Turf”, a modern, more convenient and safer version of the original Astroturf, was installed at La Jolla and Grossmont College…La Jolla was the first high school in Southern California south of Ventura to use the rubbery stuff…awful loss for San Pasqual: Rancho Buena Vista’s Justin Nelson sneaked 1 yard for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game, then scrambled two yards for a two-point conversion and 22-21 defeat for Eagles…Carlsbad coach Bob McAllister opted to play a rare day game at Hoover and told his squad that the sunshine contest would be a prelude to Saturday afternoon games when they would be in college…the Lancers won, 21-0…Sean Sovacool, Fallbrook’s standout linebacker, went on to become head coach at La Costa Canyon….
What a difference 50 years makes.
The population growth of San Diego’s North County coincided with the rise of the once small and remote Avocado League.
After years of ascendancy, a punctuation mark was added this season.
As Tom Shanahan of The San Diego Union pointed out:
–Five Avocado schools ranked in the top six of the County Top 10.
–Avocado champion El Camino won the section Division I title, defeating Carlsbad in an all-Avocado final.
–Oceanside won the D-II championship.
–Five of the league’s six schools were unbeaten against nonleague opponents and posted a 32-2 record against outsiders. (La Costa Canyon, 3-7 overall and 0-5 in the league, was beaten by two North County Palomar League teams).
—Cal-Hi Sports declared the Avocado League the most competitive in the state.
–El Camino was ranked third in the state behind Concord De La Salle and Newhall William S. Hart by Cal-Hi Sports. Oceanside was twelfth.
–Torrey Pines, with a 91-29-2 (.754) record, and El Camino, 92-36-1 (.717), had the best San Diego Section records for the decade of the 1990s.
“GOOD AS ANYWHERE”
“I came here from a strong league,” said Randy Blankenship, who coached state power Clovis West before moving to Fallbrook this year. “What made the Avocado different is we faced a college running back every week.”
”…In general North County football is as good as anywhere in the nation,” said Carlsbad coach Bob McAllister.
“I’m not saying we’d beat (Concord) De La Salle (winner of almost 100 games in a row), but…our top teams could play with anybody,” said El Camino’s Herb Meyer.
San Diego County was “free” of the giant Southern Section and on its own, thirty-one schools strong.
The formation of the local CIF section pleased administrators and assorted education honchos who now wielded the sharp end of the stick.
Coaches and the media were ambivalent, at best.
The great competition against Northern schools and the building excitement of playoffs at foreign sites against largely unknown opponents was gone, replaced by two divisions and two weeks of watered-down postseason play.
Champion of 31 schools was not like champion of more than 300.
3 STAY PUT
Three County affiliates did not join the new section. Mountain Empire and Rancho del Campo remained in the Southern Section and usually played more easily accessed Imperial Valley squads.
The Warriors had joined the DeAnza League in Riverside County in 1959 and stayed there through this football season. Their opponents were schools such as Hemet, Perris, San Jacinto, and Beaumont.
The alignment agreed with coach Al Waibel’s club, which was 3-1 in the league and 6-3 overall.
Fallbrook dropped a 32-0 decision to San Pedro Mary Star of the Sea in the first round of the Southern Section small schools playoffs.
Football at Julian still was seven years away, making 30 the actual count of football-playing schools in the San Diego Section.
San Diego fans were happy, as long as their teams were winning.
That meant that virtually every week was a celebration at Escondido High, where coach Bob (Chick) Embrey built a small school power into a major force in the new order.
The game of the year matched San Diego, at 6-2 the Eastern League champion and, by reputation, the favorite, against the 7-1-1 Cougars in the AA semifinal.
Escondido fired a shot across the Cavers’ bow before the kickoff.
The North County school’s pep band struck up “The March of the Olympians,” which was written for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, as the Cougars marched onto the field from the South end of Balboa Stadium, helmets tucked under their arms against their sides.
They could have been matadors entering the ring.
The novel approach clearly one-upped the Cavemen, who for years cowed visiting teams with their traditional entrance down the steps from the top of Balboa Stadium’s North end zone.
COUGARS IN CONTROL
Escondido’s 19-13 victory was not as close as the final score. The Cougars outgained San Diego, 293-246, and led, 19-7, in the third quarter.
“We could have scored more, don’t you think?” enthused the jubilant Embrey.
Embrey could not have been blamed for gloating, although that was not his intention. He was Escondido’s star player in 1944, when the Cavers beat the Cougars, 20-0, in a Southern Section playoff.
Quarterback Doug Bennett completed 6 of 9 passes for 161 yards against San Diego and, as further evidence of a changing of the guard, had the fastest man on the field.
Wingback Dave Blunt was on the receiving end of a 66-yard pass play which gave the Cougars a two- touchdown lead.
Blunt also became the first San Diego Section sprint champion the following spring, running :09.7 in the 100-yard dash and 21 seconds in the 220.
POINTERS WIN TIE
Point Loma tied Helix, 6-6, in the other semifinal and advanced because of their 13-8 advantage in first downs.
Mount Miguel, winner of five in a row since it had gone to a power ground game, in coach Harry Johnston’s words, defeated La Jolla, 7-6, and Vista beat University, 32-20, to reach the Class A, small-schools championship.
The championship games went to form.
Escondido defeated Point Loma, 20-13, before an estimated overflow crowd of 9,000 at the Cougars’ field.
Doug Bennett passed 42 yards to Dave Blunt and 4 yards to Pete Schouten and Blunt returned an intercepted pass 40 yards to give the Cougars three touchdowns and a 20-6 lead.
WHO’S A BULLY?
No one, but that was what several residents of Spring Valley thought I was calling Mount Miguel after the Matadors defeated Vista, 40-13, for the Class A title.
In my game story I made a comparison of the good big man always defeating the good little man. And I wrote, using a very trite and poor play on words, “Mount Miguel’s Matadors, a big, bullish Metropolitan League entry, overpowered Vista, a small tough Avocado Leaguer….”
I received telephone calls and letters from outraged Mount Miguel followers, saying I had called their team a bunch of bullies and most suggesting I should not show my face in Spring Valley, where the school was located.
Looking back, what was Mount Miguel doing in the small schools bracket?
With more than 2,500 students, Mount Miguel was the largest school in the County. Vista had an enrollment of about 950.
Mount Miguel and La Jolla were the two at-large teams invited to the small school playoffs after finishing second in their large school leagues and with the best second-place records.
“They were just too big and too strong,” said Vista coach Pat Mongoven. “Maybe they’ll do something next year about those pairings.”
MATADORS’ 1-2 PUNCH
“Torge and Freeman, then comes the screamin’!” That was how Tribune writer Roger Conlee described the Mount Miguel attack.
Russ Torge gained 146 yards in 11 carries and scored two touchdowns, including one from 71 yards.
Duane Freeman had 74 yards in 14 carries, scored once, and blocked a punt which Matador John Rea returned 19 yards for a touchdown.
DOUG VS. EZELL
Doug Bennett, who played behind Steve Thurlow at Escondido in 1959, completed 98 of 155 passing attempts for 1,577 yards and 17 touchdowns in 11 games.
San Diego’s Ezell Singleton had a sizeable advantage with 28 touchdown passes in 1958, but wasn’t that far ahead with 111 completions in 179 attempts for 1,711 yards.
Bennett averaged 10.2 yards per passing attempt and Singleton 9.6. Singleton averaged 15.4 yards per completion and Bennett 16.1.
Bennett made the all-Southern California first team. End Doug Agatep of Escondido and Helix lineman Dennis Michalenko were on the second team and Crawford running back Jim (Corky) McCorquodale was on the third team.
The alignment would be for only one season, but the 10-team Metropolitan League was halved into Northern and Southern Divisions, geography be damned.
Grossmont, El Cajon, El Capitan, Escondido, Granite Hills and Hilltop formed the Northern Division. A Southern Division embraced Helix, Grossmont, Chula Vista, Mount Miguel, and Sweetwater.
The distance between division rivals Escondido and Hilltop was 36 miles. The distance between Hilltop and city neighbor and non-division opponent Chula Vista was 3 miles.
The six schools in the Grossmont League would have their own circuit in 1961, plus the new Monte Vista High in Spring Valley.
St. Augustine’s defense braced and stopped Point Loma on the Saints’ 19, 22, 37, 24, and one-yard lines, but the Pointers finally put the 12-6 game away with a touchdown by Curtis Mosley that ended a five-play, 27-yard drive with 1:36 remaining.
It was St. Augustine’s first loss in 14 games.
ALL-STAR GAMES AND CARNIVALS
They were abundant and they were popular.
San Diego scored its first victory in five tries over the Los Angeles City aggregation in the 12th annual Breitbard College Prep All-Star game.
The 27-12 victory, fueled by the performance of Escondido’s Steve Thurlow and San Diego High’s Richard (Prime) McClendon, came before an Aztec Bowl record turnout of 13,700.
Thurlow passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. McClendon rushed for 151 yards and ran 66 yards for a score. The local squad trailed 12-0 at halftime but wore down the Los Angeles stars with a rushing attack that netted 333 yards.
The San Diego-L.A. format replaced the Southern California-L.A. game in 1956. The series started in 1949.
A crowd of 17,000 saw San Diego High score three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to top Kearny, 21-6, but the West defeated the East, 25-21, in the 22nd City Schools’ Carnival.
CAVERS TAKE TO AIR
Passes by the Cavers’ Lou White resulted in carnival scoring plays of 88 yards to Thomas Phillips, 22 yards to David (Dutch) Ortman, and 68 yards to Eddie Frost.
The Metropolitan League carnival featured only Grossmont District squads and drew a capacity crowd of 12,000 to Aztec Bowl.
Six teams played three, 20-minute quarters.
Mount Miguel beat El Cajon Valley, 19-0, in the second quarter after Granite Hills, teeing up for the first time, battled to a 6-6 standoff with El Capitan. Helix and Grossmont played to a scoreless deadlock in the final quarter.
Mount Miguel, Granite Hills, and Helix of the West won, 25-6.
Granite Hills opened its doors for the first time, minus some of the usual necessities.
The Eagles’ one “luxury” was cold showers, which preceded hot water but was an improvement over the initial conditions.
Coach Glenn Otterson’s team originally was forced to use hoses to wash off practice sweat and dirt. The players then had to take their uniforms home for a more complete cleaning and bring their own towels to school.
Lockers became available midway into the season. Until then, the Eagles’ used a “dressing room.” As Roger Conlee wrote in the Evening Tribune, the players piled their gear in a bare, four-walled enclosure that was locked during practice.
Four seconds remained at Mount Miguel, where Granite Hills and Sweetwater were completing a nonleague game which Sweetwater won, 20-6.
As Granite Hills quarterback Tom Roth was about the accept the snap from center, Roth and his teammates heard a hissing noise behind them.
Sprinklers went on all over the field. Scrambling officials were unable to find the automatic timing device which controlled the system, so the teams went ahead with the last play in a shower.
“Both benches emptied fast,” said Otterson. “They scattered like it was a fire drill.”
Coach Robert (Bull) Trometter’s University of San Diego High Dons dropped a 30-6 decision to Fallbrook.
Nothing out of the ordinary about that.
But the Dons had five touchdowns erased by penalties, including 4 in the game’s first six minutes.
Uni, playing a full varsity schedule for the first time, was eager to please Trometter, the highly successful former Marine Corps Recruit Depot mentor.
“I wouldn’t say it was the officials’ fault,” tactfully noted Trometter, a decorated, retired Marine Corps Lt. Colonel. The coach said his players essentially were “over-eager and inexperienced,” leading to a flood of off-sides, holding, and other violations.
The Dons dropped their first three games, won their final three and earned a first-round Class A playoff berth.
NIGHT AND DAY
Rowdism, which provoked the city football carnival to be moved from evening to afternoon in 1959, was a continuing problem.
Police Chief Elmer Jansen addressed several concerns for his department, including staffing and expense, and suggested switching games to daylight.
Very Rev. John Aherne, principal at St. Augustine, was spokesman for the pro-night-games group and said crowds would be down at day games and that there was no guarantee that rowdyism would not continue.
Night games continued in the city during the playoffs after much rhetoric.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
An Oceanside-Carlsbad school district trustee suggested that Oceanside and Carlsbad replay their 0-0 tie.
John Prenzel proposed an investigation to determine if such a game “would be in accord with California Interscholastic Federation rulings.”
Prenzel thought a rematch under auspices of the Oceanside Lions Club could be played on Thanksgiving Day, with proceeds going to the rival schools’ student body funds.
The game wouldn’t affect league standings, said Prenzel.
It was an idea whose time had not come. No action and no game took place.
Field goals were making a comeback, or rather they were being discovered.
After years in which no placements were made or attempted, at least four attempts were successful this year. Soccer-style kicking still was a few years away.
Coronado lost to Ls Jolla, 21-10, but the Islanders’ Bob West kicked a 21-yard field goal. San Dieguito’s Randy Simpson made a 34-yard placement in a 3-0 victory over El Centro Central.
Not to be outdone, Helix’ Bill Burnett was good from 25 yards in a 36-0 win over Grossmont and Fallbrook’s Jim Martin converted from 22 yards in a 24-14 win over Elsinore Military Academy.
City schools quarterly grades during the season meant academic casualties.
Clairemont, the consensus preseason favorite, would not win a league game and lost fullback Ron Power, one of the area’s better offensive players, to grade deficiencies.
Mission Bay was down to 24 players after first teamers Jeff Moran, Martin Brown, and Gene Scales were beaten by the books.
Lincoln lost halfback Vernus Ragsdale. San Diego halfback George Mahaffey and tackle Billy Tyus also received the academic rubber key.
In another, unexpected move, Robert Nelson, a promising halfback at Point Loma, suddenly transferred to Lincoln.
HELP FOR JEFF
A practice injury left Crawford’s Jeff Greenleaf paralyzed from the waist down. To help incur Greenleaf’s hospital bills donations were sought and the Colts met Sweetwater in a Thanksgiving Day, postseason contest at Hoover.
More than 6,000 persons were on hand as Crawford, giving an indication of what to expect in 1961, ran past the Red Devils, 33-9.
The Red Devils’ Ron Miller was held scoreless but still led the County with 13 touchdowns and 78 points. Sweetwater coach Tom Parker donated the game films to Greenleaf’s family.
IT’S SIMPLE, JUST WIN
Army-Navy coach John Maffucci described life at the Carlsbad military academy:
“We’re a boarding school and there is an advantage to having the players on campus most of the time. When we lose, they stay in; when we win, they can go out.”
SIGNS OF THE TIME
The frontage road serving hotels in Mission Valley was renamed Hotel Circle by the San Diego City Council.
Crawford coach Walt Harvey on running back Jim (Corky) McCorquodale: “He can run, pass, punt, play defense, and block”…Corky was among the County leaders in scoring with 55 points…“We played better in the carnival (21-6 loss in one quarter to San Diego) than we did tonight (7-0 victory over Crawford),” said Kearny coach Birt Slater….Mission Bay outrushed Pomona Catholic, 258-104, and lost, 27-7…obscure name of the year: Vista halfback Joe Picchiottino (pitch-ee-oh-teen-oh)…Point Loma’s Robert Nelson scored on a 48-yard run on his first attempt as a varsity player…Glenn Forsythe returned to Ramona as head coach after one year as a journalism professor at Reedley Junior College near Fresno…defenders of San Diego’s move away from the Southern Section reminded that the AAAAA finale between Compton Centennial and Santa Barbara drew only 8,619 persons to the Los Angeles Coliseum… …St. Augustine’s 14-6 victory over San Diego was the Saints’ first ever against the Cavemen…they were 0-8-1 against Cavers teams of different levels dating to 1926…the Saints’ Mickey Frank, 6-foot-3 and 292 pounds, was credited for an outstanding defensive performance…Helix’ defense called itself the “Untouchables”…so did San Diego’s offensive backfield…Vista coach Pat Mongoven had another job, president of the North County community’s American Little League….
The 12-0 season, Southern California championship, and declaration as national champions proved just the beginning for coach Clarence (Nibs) Price and many of the San Diego High Hilltoppers.
Price left the school after the 1917-18 school year and made his way back to Price’s alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, joining the staff of head coach Andy Smith in 1920.
Price was the Bears’ head coach following Smith’s death and guided the Bears to a 27-17-3 record from 1926-30, including the 1929 Rose Bowl, made famous by the wrong-way run of California’s Roy Riegels.
Price was head coach of the Bears’ basketball team from 1924-54. His teams won 453 games, seven conference championships, and went to the Final Four of the 1945 NCAA tournament.
Perhaps most significant, seven members of the 1916 Hilltoppers were recruited by Price and played on the 1920 California squad that was 9-0, outscored opponents, 510-14, and defeated Ohio State, 28-0, in the Rose Bowl.
The Bears were known as the “Wonder Team”. In 1953 the Helms Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles named the 1920 squad the greatest in collegiate history.
–Bryan (Pesky) Sprott was known more in college as Albert, his given name, and was the offensive catalyst for the Bears in the Rose Bowl, gaining 92 yards in 20 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
Karl Deeds, another former Hilltopper, raced 61 yards with an interception for the Bears’ final touchdown.
Sprott scored seven touchdowns against Stanford in 1918.
A star runner in high school, Sprott was fifth in the 800-meter run at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.
–Harold (Brick) Muller won the state high jump championship in 1918.
Muller won the state high jump and broad jump in 1919 after transferring to Oakland Technical and was a silver medalist at 6 feet, 2 ¾ inches, in the 1920 Olympics.
Muller threw a pass a reported 57 yards in the air for a touchdown in the 1921 Rose Bowl. It was said to be the longest pass in football history.
The future orthopedic surgeon was the first West Coast player to be a collegiate all-America and won several all-time all-America honors.
Having graduated from medical school, Muller signed with a professional team, the Los Angeles Buccaneers of the fledgling American Football League, then became the team’s head coach in 1926.
For many years Muller served as the team doctor for the Bears’ athletic teams.
Walter (Dutch) Eells, “Klean Kut” Karl Engebretsen, Karl Deeds, Stan Barnes, and Olin (Cort) Majors also played for the 1920 Bears.
Barnes became a federal judge and Majors was a special assistant to the University of California chancellor.
The esteem with which the 1920 teammates were held was such that Sprott’s death in 1951 resulted in giant headlines in Bay Area newspapers.
Sprott, who was hard of hearing, did not see an oncoming freight train. He dodged the train at the last moment but hit his head on the iron step of an stationary box car nearby.
Sprott was on his lunch break from work and enjoying a favorite hobby, counting and comparing numerals on passing trains.
WHAT IS “FOOTBALL”?
Nibs Price may have asked that question when he became coach at San Diego High in 1914.
The 5-foot, 6-inch Price had been a star high school footballer in Iowa but discovered that rugby was the prevailing sport when he enrolled at the University of California.
Price had to re-learn the difference between football and rugby. Rules of the gridiron game had changed dramatically.
Walt Harvey, whose firm and folksy touch resonated with generations of San Diego-area athletes and future coaches, passed away Feb. 7 at age 95.
A memorial will be held at noon Saturday, Feb. 22, at La Vida Real, where Harvey resided the last several years.
La Vida Real is located at 11588 Via Rancho San Diego, El Cajon Ca., 92019.
Samuel Walter Harvey was born in San Diego and attended John Adams elementary, Wilson Junior High, and graduated from Hoover in 1936.
“He never forgot a name, a face, or a particular play in a game,” said Tom Whelan, quarterback of Crawford’s 1961 championship team . “He was amazing. Even when he developed health issues we got to see him and it was a special time.”