Football Blog

2016: Don Donnelly, Longtime Track Coach

Rick : November 1, 2016 11:24 am : Football

A celebration of Don Donnelly’s life will be held at the La Mesa Community Center on Nov. 14 from 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Donnelly, 87, passed recently after a lifetime of athletics and coaching, principally track and field and cross country.

A 1947 graduate of Hoover High, where he played football and competed in track, Donnelly got into coaching after service during the Korean war and graduation from San Diego State.

His first appointment was in 1956 at Hart High in Newhall, where Donnelly helped mentor Bob Avant, a future state champion in the high jump and who later was principal at Valhalla High.

Donnelly returned to San Diego the following year and was involved in cross country and track at Mission Bay, where he was an assistant to Chuck Coover and coached Jim Cerveny, the 1957 state champion in the 880-yard run and future world-class 800-meter competitor.

When the new Crawford High opened in 1957, Donnelly coached cross country and was assistat track coach to Walt Harvey, succeeding Harvey in 1963.

Donnelly opened the new Morse High in the fall of 1963 and coached track and cross country and guided future Olympic long jumper Arnie Robinson, among others.

Donnelly eventually moved to Santana, coached boys’ and girls’ track and cross country, and stayed active in retirement, competing in senior track events and as a member of various local sports organizations.

“He lived every moment right up to his final day, upbeat and positive all the way,” said the coach’s widow, Mary Donnelly.

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2016 Week 11: Cardinals Find the End Zone

Rick : October 31, 2016 4:31 pm : Football

Hoover did it.

The Cardinals scored, not once but twice, in a 49-14 loss to Patrick Henry.

Hoover had not even registered a blip in its first eight games and was closing in on a record set in 1976 by San Diego Southwest.

The Southwest Raiders were blanked on the field in a 0-9 season in 1976 but scored one point legislatively after Chula Vista forfeited a 76-0 victory.

Many Hoover players come from around the globe and never were introduced to American football until they arrived at the vintage East San Diego campus at El Cajon Boulevard and 44th Street.

Hats off to coach Jimmy Morgans and his team.

The Cardinals trailed 42-7 at halftime and, with help of a running clock, played the Patriots even in the second half.

Patrick Henry clinched a tie for the City League title and, with a win over Serra this week, would finish the regular season with a 6-4 record, its best since 2012.


Cathedral burst for 21 points in the first quarter, shut out St. Augustine, 35-0, before more than 8,000 persons at Mesa College, and can clinch its first undefeated regular season since the Tyler Gaffney-led Dons were 10-0 en route to 14-0 and a state Division III championship in 2008.

Standing in the way of coach Sean Doyle’s Dons are the fast, efficient Madison Warhawks, 8-1, with only a 20-9 loss to Vista Murrieta in the season opener.

Cathedral is home to Madison, with the Western League championship and probable top seed in the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs to the winner.

The Dons remained No. 1 in the Union-Tribune poll this week and Madison stayed at 2.


No. 3 Rancho Bernardo visits neighboring Poway, No. 6, in a battle of 9-0 teams with the Palomar League championship on the line.

Mater Dei (8-1) can clinch the Metropolitan Conference Mesa League championship with a win over visiting Olympian (6-3).

Helix (Grossmont Hills), San Ysidro (Metropolitan Pacific), and Granite Hills (Grossmont Valley) gained ties for first and will go for outright league titles against Valhalla, El Cajon Valley, and San Diego Southwest, respectively.

Cathedral remained seventh in Cal-Hi Sports’ state rankings, with Helix moving up from 18th to 16th and Rancho Bernardo crashing the top 25 for the first time.

Madison is on the bubble and St. Augustine’s bubble burst.

Union-Tribune poll:

First-place votes in parenthesis.

Points on 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. Cathedral (23) 9-0 266 1
2. Madison (2) 8-1 240 2
3. Rancho Bernardo (2) 8-1 232 3
4. Helix 7-2 175 5
5. Mater Dei 8-1 167 4
6. Poway 9-0 134 7
7. St. Augustine 7-2 71 6
8. Torrey Pines 7-2 62 NR
9. The Bishop’s 9-0 52 9
10 Grossmont 8-1 38 8

Others receiving votes:  Oceanside (7-2, 25 points), Christian (9-0, 20), Valhalla (8-1), Valley Center (8-1), 2 each; Olympian (6-3), Mission Hills (6-3), 1 each.

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

John Maffei, Union-Tribune. Terry Monahan, Don Norcross, Tom Saxe, Rick Hoff, Jim Lindgren,  Union-Tribune contributors. Paul Rudi, Brandon Stone, Rick Willis (KUSI Chl. 51). Michael Bower, Pomerado News. Lisa Lane, Fox 5 News. Montell Allen, MBA Sports-SDFNL Magazine. Brandon Stone, Rick Willis, KUSI, Channel 51. Adam Clark, Ted Mendenhall, Taylor Quellman, The Mighty 1090. Steve (Biff) Dolan, Mountain Radio 107.9 FM. Bob Petinak, 1360 Radio. Bill Dickens, Adam Paul, Chris Davis, Bodie DeSilva, Drew Smith, Raymond Brown, Rick Smith, Steve Brand, San Diego Hall of Champions. Jerry Schniepp, John Labeta, CIF San Diego Section. John (Coach) Kentera, Prep Talent Evaluator.

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2016 Week 10: Rivals Face Moments of Truth

Rick : October 25, 2016 7:47 am : Football

Take a good look at this week’s Union-Tribune Top 10 poll.  It won’t be the same next Tuesday and likely will change even more after the last of several blockbuster matchups take place 10 days from now on the final Friday of the regular season.


No. 1 Cathedral (8-0) meets Western League rival No. 6 St. Augustine (7-1) at Mesa College and No. 8 Grossmont (8-0) visits Grossmont Hills nemesis No. 5 Helix (6-2) this Friday.

League championships and bragging rights are in the mix for the winners in these old and intense rivalries.

Helix, originally the little brother to Grossmont when it opened on the Foothillers’ campus as the schools split sessions in 1951,  holds a 40-18-2 lead in the series.

Grossmont was a competitive, 12-10 leader from 1951-72, when Jim Arnaiz became coach at Helix.

After losing his first four games against Grossmont, Arnaiz guided the Highlanders on a path  of 19 victories, two defeats, and two ties until he retired in 1999.

Arnaiz and four successors are a combined 19-0 against Grossmont since 1992, the victories by an average score of 41-12, including 68-16 in 2015.

Grossmont’s last victory, 28-14 in  1991, was quarterbacked by Tom Karlo, who has compiled a 39-16 record since becoming the Foothillers’ head coach in 2011.

Cathedral is 30-23  against St. Augustine since 1966. Dons coach Sean Doyle, a graduate of the school when it was known as University of San Diego High, is 11-12 against the Saints, including a forfeit loss in 2012.

Richard Sanchez, a 35-21 winner last year, is 4-3 versus Cathedral from the time of his appointment as the Saints’ coach in 2009.


If all goes well this week, neighborhood don’t invitems Poway and Rancho Bernardo will take undefeated records into a Palomar League championship tussle and Olympian will meet Mater Dei for the Metropolitan Mesa loop title.


Hoover still is looking for its first point, crushed by a cumulative total of 405-0 in  a record-tying eight games.

If the Cardinals are shut out by Patrick Henry this week (the Patriots have won 3 in a row for the first time since 2012) they will be alone at the bottom with nine consecutive zeroes since the start of the season, although an asterisk may be appropriate.

Southwest was blanked in all nine games in 1976, but was credited with a 1-0 “win” after Chula Vista forfeited a 76-0 victory.  The Raiders officially were outscored, 335-1, that season.


There were no changes as Cathedral remained seventh and Helix 18th in the weekly Cal-Hi Sports ratings.  Rancho Bernardo, St. Augustine, and Madison were joined on the bubble by Grossmont.

Union-Tribune poll:

First-place votes in parenthesis.

Points on basis of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. Cathedral (21) 7-0 261 1
2. Madison (3) 7-1 228 3
3. Rancho Bernardo (3) 7-1 226 2
4. Mater Dei 7-1 164 4
5. Helix 6-2 163 5
6. St. Augustine 7-1 156 6
7. Poway 8-0 105 7
8. Grossmont 8-0 83 8
9. Mission Hills 6-2 58 9
10 The Bishop’s 8-0 24 10

Others receiving votes:  Christian (8-0, 5 points),  Oceanside (6-2), San Marcos (5-2), 4 each.   Torrey Pines (6-2)  Valhalla (7-1), Valley Center (7-1), Olympian (6-3), La Costa Canyon (5-3), 1 each.

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

John Maffei, Union-Tribune. Terry Monahan, Don Norcross, Tom Saxe, Rick Hoff, Jim Lindgren,  Union-Tribune contributors. Michael Bower, Pomerado News. Lisa Lane, Fox 5 News. Montell Allen, MBA Sports-SDFNL Magazine. Brandon Stone, Rick Willis, KUSI, Channel 51. Adam Clark, Ted Mendenhall, Taylor Quellman, The Mighty 1090. Steve (Biff) Dolan, Mountain Radio 107.9 FM. Bob Petinak, 1360 Radio. Bill Dickens, Adam Paul, Chris Davis, Bodie DeSilva, Drew Smith, Raymond Brown, Rick Smith, Steve Brand, San Diego Hall of Champions. Jerry Schniepp, John Labeta, CIF San Diego Section. John (Coach) Kentera, Prep Talent Evaluator.


Patrick Henry is positioned to win the City League championship, which would be the Patriots’ first since 1997, when the Jerry Varner-coached squad raced to a 6-0 record in the Eastern League…Chula Vista’s 40-29 victory over Sweetwater meant that the two South Bay rivals had played 70 consecutive seasons, beginning in 1947…Sweetwater leads the all-time measuring stick, 38-29-3 and Red Devils running back Marty Sesma turned in one of the more impressive performances in the series…Sesma carried the ball 37 times for 197 yards and one touchdown…




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2016 Week 9: Season of Undefeateds and Winless

Rick : October 17, 2016 4:56 pm : Football

Six teams are  7-0 (Calvin Christian is 6-0)  and the trend figures to continue as San Diego Section clubs head into the stretch run of the regular season.

The Bishop’s (7-0) visits La Jolla Country Day (6-1) in the feature game involving one of of the unbeatens.

The Knights, who have bigger things in mind, can salt away away their second  Coastal League championship in the last three seasons.

Win and the Bish would seemingly be home free as only Orange Glen and Francis Parker, both struggling, remain on its schedule.

The undefeated and their Week 9 opponents:

Team Record Opponent Record
Calvin Christian 6-0 The Rock 5-1
Cathedral 7-0 @Point Loma 4-3
Christian 7-0 Scripps Ranch 3-4
Grossmont 7-0 @Steele Canyon 3-4
Poway 7-0 @Vista 3-4
Rancho Bernardo 7-0 @Westview 1-6
The Bishop’s 7-0 @La Jolla Country Day 6-1


Seven teams are at the other end of the spectrum, all winless, with Hoover bearing down on an all-time record for a scoring drought comparable to California’s water shortage.

The Cardinals do not have a point this season.

Hoover  tied its 1974 team for ineptitude in a 44-0 loss to University City that was their seventh consecutive loss without scoring.

Forty-two years ago Hoover got on the board in its eighth game, a season-ending, 41-7 loss to St. Augustine.

Hoover actually was not the San Diego Section’s most unsuccessful team that season.

The 1974 Ramona Bulldogs set the standing record of eight straight shutouts from the beginning of the season.

The Bulldogs “rallied” in their season-ending ninth game, a 63-7 loss to San Dieguito.

Borrego Springs also has a piece of the shutout record.  The Rams were scoreless in 1978, although their 0-7-1 record included an 0-0 tie in the season opener.

After this article was published, Jess Kearney of The San Diego Union-Tribune correctly pointed out that Southwest did not score in nine games in 1976.  But a 76-0 loss to Chula Vista later turned into a 1-0, forfeit victory for the Raiders when 9-0 Chula Vista became 5-4 and out of the playoffs after  forfeiting four victories because of an ineligible player.

Legislation aside, Southwest competitively has our vote as having the all-time poorest record for one season.  Hoover hopes to keep that way.

Other winless clubs in 2016 are Castle Park (0-7), San Diego (0-7), Warner Springs Warner (0-6), Ocean View Christian (0-4), Christian Life (0-3), and Salton City West Shores (0-1).


Cathedral is seventh in Cal-Hi Sports’ top 25, followed by Helix at 18th.  Rancho Bernardo, Madison, and St. Augustine are on the bubble.  R.B. moved ahead of Madison into second in the Union-Tribune rankings.

First-place votes in parenthesis.

Points on basis of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. Cathedral (21) 7-0 262 1
2. Rancho Bernardo (3) 7-0 230 3
3. Madison (3) 6-1 224 2
4. Mater Dei 6-1 163 4
5. Helix 5-2 160 5
6. St. Augustine 6-1 159 6
7. Poway 7-0 109 7
8. Grossmont 7-0 83 9
9. Mission Hills 5-2 53 10
10 The Bishop’s 7-0 15 NR

Others receiving votes:  Christian (7-0, 8 points), Torrey Pines (5-2, 6), Oceanside (5-2, 5), San Marcos (5-2, 4), Valhalla (6-1, 2), La Jolla Country Day (6-1), Valhalla (6-1), 1 point each.

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

John Maffei, Union-Tribune. Terry Monahan, Don Norcross, Tom Saxe, Rick Hoff, Jim Lindgren,  Union-Tribune contributors. Michael Bower, Pomerado News. Lisa Lane, Fox 5 News. Montell Allen, MBA Sports-SDFNL Magazine. Brandon Stone, Rick Willis, KUSI, Channel 51. Adam Clark, Ted Mendenhall, Taylor Quellman, The Mighty 1090. Steve (Biff) Dolan, Mountain Radio 107.9 FM. Bob Petinak, 1360 Radio. Bill Dickens, Adam Paul, Chris Davis, Bodie DeSilva, Drew Smith, Raymond Brown, Rick Smith, Steve Brand, San Diego Hall of Champions. Jerry Schniepp, John Labeta, CIF San Diego Section. John (Coach) Kentera, Prep Talent Evaluator.

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1914:  On The World Stage

Rick : October 15, 2016 2:31 pm : Football

It’s not a stretch to declare that this was the year San Diego, the growing city at the geographical bottom of California, stepped into the modern age.

The vision and determination of San Diego’s civic leaders launched the successful Panama-California Exposition on Jan. 1, 1915,  even though in competition with the larger, federally-funded expo in San Francisco.

Looking east from the California Tower at buildings of Panama-California Exposition. Mount San Miguel looms in distance.

Looking east from the California Tower at buildings of the Panama-California Exposition. Mount San Miguel looms in distance.

That San Francisco’s population of 400,000 was about 10 times that of San Diego’s made the event here, honoring construction of the Panama Canal, a lasting accomplishment.

The California Tower, Cabrillo Bridge, Organ Pavilion, and other landmarks built for the exposition stamped Balboa Park as a cultural center, with many of the original buildings still in service more than 100 years later.

And down at the Southern edge of the park, in a canyon steps from the San Diego High campus rose a 23,212-seat, concrete, horseshoe that served the community for more than 60 years.


First named City Stadium and renamed Balboa Stadium in 1939, the building was the site of concerts, presidential visits, graduations, baseball games, auto racing, track meets, and other sports events, but football was king.

It had been 48 years since Rutgers and Princeton played the first recognized game of football and the game slowly moved west.

There were five football-playing schools in San Diego County:  San Diego, Coronado, Escondido, National City, which became Sweetwater in 1921, and Army and Navy Academy, located in Pacific Beach.

The remote communities of Ramona, Fallbrook, and Julian had high schools but no teams.

San Diego High, in an alliance known as the Southern California Interscholastic League with Ontario Chaffey, Pasadena, Long Beach Poly, Santa Ana, and Whittier, shared home fields at the Coronado Polo Grounds with Coronado High this season.

The field, on the future site of the Coronado golf course, would be a far cry from the coming stadium that was opened near the end of the school year on May 31, 1915.


more »

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2016 Week 8: The ‘Hills is Alive With Sound of Undefeated Squads

Rick : October 10, 2016 12:58 pm : Football

Theirs is not as old a rivalry or as traditional as Grossmont-Helix, but Grossmont-Valhalla will come close this week when the  undefeated East County powers roll in the dirt in a Grossmont Hills League game.

The winner probably will determine who challenges Helix for the championship.

Valhalla’s 6-0 record represents its best start since racing to 7-0 in 2005.  Grossmont, also 6-0, won its first six in 2015 but flattened out to 7-4.

The 2005 Valhalla Norsemen got to 9-0-2 before losing, 49-48, to St. Augustine in the San Diego Section Division III finals.

The Norsemen are 6-3 against Grossmont since 2007, although the Foothillers lead the all-time series, 22-18-1.  Valhalla won, 32-21, in 2015 but Grossmont is 4-2 since the teams were reunited in the ‘Hills  in 2010. They’ve played every year except 2005 and ’06 from Valhalla’s opening in 1975.


With St. Augustine knocked out by Madison, 56-42, Cathedral, 6-0 and a 55-6 winner over Scripps Ranch, finally took over as the No. 1 team in the Union-Tribune poll.

The Dons figure to have things their way at least until the final two weeks of the season when they meet St. Augustine and Madison.

Cathedral moved up to No. 8 in  the Cal-Hi Sports rankings as St. Augustine exited from No. 10, out of the Top 25, and to “On the Bubble” status.

Helix improved to 17th from 18th and  St. Augustine joined Rancho Bernardo and Madison as bubble teams.


Since Jerry Ralph  got out of Dodge, the floor has collapsed  at Hoover.

Ralph, whose team was 25-11 from 2012-14, left after the 2-8 campaign in 2015 to take a post at El Camino.

Hoover is 0-6 this year and hasn’t scored a point.

Repeat, Hoover is 0-6 this year and hasn’t scored a point.

The Cardinals are making history in reverse.

Hoover could tie an unwanted school record this week.  The Cardinals still were  on the schneid after seven games in 1974. Winterhaven San Pasqual Valley also didn’t score, finishing with a 0-6-1 record in 1983.

The all-time record of eight consecutive scoreless games at the start of the season was set by Ramona in 1974 and tied by Borrego Springs in 1978.

First-place votes in parenthesis.

Points awarded on basis of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. Cathedral (21) 6-0 262 2
2. Madison (3) 5-1 219 6
3. Rancho Bernardo (3) 6-0 218 3
4. Mater Dei 5-1 166 4
5. Helix 4-2 158 5
6. St. Augustine 5-1 154 1
7. Poway 6-0 92 9
8. Oceanside 5-1 81 8
9. Grossmont 6-0 52 10
10 Mission Hills 4-2 41 7

Others receiving votes:  Valhalla (6-0, 28 points), The Bishop’s (6-0, 3), Christian (6-0, 1).

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

John Maffei, Union-Tribune. Terry Monahan, Don Norcross, Tom Saxe, Rick Hoff, Jim Lindgren,  Union-Tribune contributors. Michael Bower, Pomerado News. Lisa Lane, Fox 5 News. Montell Allen, MBA Sports-SDFNL Magazine. Brandon Stone, Rick Willis, KUSI, Channel 51. Adam Clark, Ted Mendenhall, Taylor Quellman, The Mighty 1090. Steve (Biff) Dolan, Mountain Radio 107.9 FM. Bob Petinak, 1360 Radio. Bill Dickens, Adam Paul, Chris Davis, Bodie DeSilva, Drew Smith, Raymond Brown, Rick Smith, Steve Brand, San Diego Hall of Champions. Jerry Schniepp, John Labeta, CIF San Diego Section. John (Coach) Kentera, Prep Talent Evaluator.

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1891-1913: Football Finds the Pacific Coast

Rick : October 5, 2016 11:57 am : Football

 It had been almost 25 years since Rutgers University and Princeton played in the first American football game in 1867.

A generation later the gridiron sport, more like Australia’s rugby, had made its way West.

To an expanse near the San Diego Bay.

Students from the Russ High School met adults from the “San Diego Football Club” on Christmas Day, 1891, at Recreation Park, where Chicano Park and  the on-ramp to the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge are located today.

The moment was marked by an 11 a.m. start on the early winter morning, but who won and the final score apparently never was recorded, wrote San Diego High historian Don King in Caver Conquest.

It wasn’t that the game was unexpected.  There was an article touting the contest at the top of a page in The San Diego Union on Christmas Day.

The published information (below) was so casual and incidental as to encourage the thought that games had actually been played before.

The first game, as seen in advance by The San Diego Union.

The first game, as seen in advance by The San Diego Union.

From such humble beginnings….

More than a century later, ninety high schools in the San Diego Section of the California Interscholastic Federation play more than 1,000 games every season, from September to December.


Football had tweaked local interest but took awhile to catch on after that first foray in 1891.

Russ athletes gradually began engaging local military, YMCA, or “town” elevens. Games were scheduled informally, i.e.: “Hey, you guys want to play?”

Other opponents came along later.

Russ played the University of Southern California and lost, 12-4, in 1896 and defeated Escondido, 6-0, in 1898.

There is some question about when two local high schools met for the first time.

Don King wrote that Russ’ 1898 victory was not against Escondido High, but against the Escondido Town team.  That would have meant the first meeting between two high schools was later in the season, when Los Angeles High defeated Russ, 11-0.


But John Dahlem, historian for the CIF Southern Section, provided possibly contradictory information from the Los Angeles Times, dated April 7, 1897.

(Football season apparently could be a year-long exercise, not limited to three or four months in the fall).

Escondido High defeated a team from the community of Bonsal (sic), 40-0, on April 3, 1897, according to Times “Special Correspondence” from Escondido.

The article (below) gives notion to the thought that Escondido fielded a squad representing the high school at least a year before the so-called town team’s joust with Russ.


The Escondido coach was one Earl Turner.  As  with early Russ coaches, Turner represented the school but probably wasn’t enrolled (he is listed in later accounts as a player).

“Town” players, unflatteringly known as “bums”, posed as students and often played and coached those early teams.

According to Don King, a gentleman named Roy Lampson played for Russ in the seasons 1896-1899.

King noted that Lampson also lined up for Fallbrook in 1896, the YMCA in 1897 and, on New Year’s Day, 1898, for the USC Trojans.

Lampson, visiting, working, or residing in Tijuana in 1899, was invited to be Russ’ volunteer coach, but when the Hilltop school began playing that season Lampson was back on the field as a player-coach.

The last paragraph in the Escondido-Bonsall account reported that “No injurious results (to crops) are reported in the Escondido Valley from the late frosts.”

The Times had posted a correspondent dedicated to all news from the valley community.


Seth Van Patten, who was born in Illinois in 1873, and came West to teach at Harvard Military Academy in Hollywood in 1900, was hired as a teacher at Escondido High in 1903.

Van Patten’s impact on athletics was apparent at Escondido, where he became the school’s coach, and it was Van Patten who would take a strong lead as Southern California schools strived to organize.

Van Patten was manager of the Southern California championship track and field meet for 39 consecutive years.  After  retiring from coaching at several Southland schools, Van Patten  became Secretary of the CIF Southern Section in 1928, Commissioner in 1930 and retired in 1949.

Van Patten (right) and Earnest Oliver of Los Angeles High, with perpetual trophy, were pivotal figures in formation of CIF kin 1913.

Van Patten (right) and Earnest Oliver of L.A. High were pivotal in 1913 formation of Southern Section, which preceded state CIF by one year.

During his tenure Van Patten took pencil to paper and put down some of his recollections, provided by John Dahlem:

“I was not hired to coach the athletic teams (at Escondido)…I let it be known that I would help the football team if no outsiders were allowed to play in the games.  My offer was accepted.  That was the first year Escondido High School ever played a full team of school boys.”

Van Patten coached two victories over Russ and then turned his attention to baseball.

“…we were unable to get the other schools in the County to play only high school boys on the school team.  I gave way to the boys’ insistence and pitched for the Escondido team.”

The young “Professor”, as teachers were addressed at Escondido, had taken note of the interscholastic athletics picture.

Four leagues “ formed for the purpose of promoting…games in football and baseball”existed in 1900:

–Citrus Belt League, including Ontario Chaffey, Redlands, Riverside Poly, and San Bernardino;

–Channel League, including Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Ventura;

–Los Angeles County League, including L.A. High, L.A. Poly, Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Whittier;

–Orange County League, including Anaheim, Fullerton, and Santa Ana.

“These leagues were more or less informal organizations.  They had no constitution or bylaws, and eligibility rules had not been heard of. Not infrequently boys and young men not in attendance at the high school played in the contests.


“The school administrators took no part in the management of the game.  If the school was so fortunate as to have a man on the faculty who knew something about athletics the boys got some help. 

“Some schools got help from young men of the town.  Sometimes the town bums took part in the management.

“The lack of organization and administration under the loose setup led to many disputes.  We can readily understand why the average high school principal of the year 1900 gave little encouragement to interscholastic athletics.”

Math teachers and English instructors had little interest or knowledge and had not gone to college to become football players or coaches.

The new Grey Castle, which opened with the 1907 school year and replaced original, 1882 building.

The new Grey Castle at San Diego High opened with the 1907 school year and replaced original, 1882 building.

Track and field, a Van Patten favorite, was taking hold. Meets were under the aegis of the “High School Athletic Association of Southern California”.

Van Patten wrote that June, 4, 1904, was the date of the first organized high school track and field meet ever held in San Diego County.

Scored 5 points for first, 3 for second, and 1 for third. Fallbrook had 30 ½ points, San Diego 30, and Escondido, coached by Van Patten, 29 ½.


The CIF Southern Section had been informally created as the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Council by high school principals on May 29, 1913.

The school bosses acted during the break between the morning trials and afternoon finals of the all-Southern California track meet in East Los Angeles at the  Boyle Heights YMCA, following years of complaints about track-and-field administration by the YMCA and local colleges.

David Elliott, in suit and tie, coached Russ team to 3-2 record in 1904.

David Elliott, in suit and tie, coached Russ team to 3-2 record in 1904.

Van Patten had led the drive to take control of the all-Southern California event and had issued a put-up-or-shut-up challenge to the high school community:

“…if they don’t have the guts to run the meet properly, they do not deserve a championship meet,” Van Patten said of his coaching colleagues.

There were about 30 high schools in 5 leagues in the greater Los Angeles area in 1913.  The football playing entries in  San Diego County, including San Diego, Escondido, Coronado, National City, and Army-Navy,  also joined the new federation.

The state CIF was founded almost one year later,  March 28, 1914, with four separate sections:  North Coast, Northern, Central, and Southern.


Russ picked up a few out-of-area opponents as the ‘nineties drew to a close but travel was difficult, restricted, and time-consuming.

The ’98 trip to Escondido and others at the turn of the century was by tally-ho stagecoach, took more than 4 hours, and often necessitated an overnight stay.

“The counties to the north were further along in their organization of high school athletics than was San Diego County.”

The railroad and the automobile eventually made travel easier, but many hours on the road were necessary throughout San Diego County teams’ long affiliation with the CIF Southern Section.

Santa Ana High, founded in 1889, was Russ’ first Orange County opponent in 1905 and won a pair of games, one here and one in the North.

Sweetwater was known as National City High School when it opened in 1907.

Sweetwater was known as National City High School when it opened in 1907.


From 1898 through 1912, Escondido played infrequently, according to published reports, and only against Russ, which became San Diego High in 1907.

Theirs was a spirited rivalry.  Russ-San Diego led the series with 8 wins against 6 losses and two ties.

Other than a 1919 contest, San Diego and Escondido did not meet again as rival varsities until 1944 and then not again until the 1960 San Diego Section playoffs.


Van Patten coached all sports at Escondido in the 1903-04 school year but was involved in competition with the Russ High only in football and track and field.

In what a headline in The San Diego Union described as “One of the Prettiest Games of Football Ever Seen on  Local Field,”  Escondido scored a 6-5 victory at Russ’ home field, Bay View Park, located next to Beardsley Street in the 1800 block of Logan Avenue.

Van Patten was game referee  and San Diego coach David Elliott served as umpire. There also were two linesmen  and two timers.

“It was a good game from start of finish, free of rough language and rough play, except the natural roughness of the football game,” wrote a Union reporter, who also mentioned that “after the game the visitors enjoyed life in the city and will start today (Sunday) by tally-ho for home.”

The team that would answer to Cougars in future years won a rematch with Russ, 5-0, on the northern school’s grounds.  Russ evened its record at 2-2 with victories over San Diego Normal, the future San Diego State.

Possibly winded by the long hours and double duty as teacher and athletics coach, Van Patten left Escondido after helping coordinate the first track meet in June and took a non-coaching position at Ventura High.


More schools were showing up on the San Diego High schedule, which featured all high schools for the first time in 1911.

San Diego was only 0-6 in home-and-home games against strong Northern opponents Santa Ana, Long Beach Poly, and Pasadena.  Its lone victory in the 1-6 campaign was over Escondido.

Coach Ralph Nobel, who was killed in action in Europe a few years later, guided the Hilltoppers to a 3-2-1 record in 1913, their best since 1905.

One of those victories was 100-0 over Venice The season ended with a 29-0 victory over Army-Navy.

The next year would be marked by the start of World War I and a vast, new landscape in San Diego.

Early athletic star was 1913 football captain and track standout Leslie Dana.

Early athletic star was 1913 football captain and track standout Leslie Dana.


Leslie Dana set the school record of :10.1 in the 100-yard dash and his :51.6 in the 440-yard run was the fastest in Southern California in 1913.

The speedy Dana also was a football standout from 1912-14 when  not slowed by injuries.


Russ-San Diego had four home football fields before Balboa Stadium:  Recreation Park, 1891-96;  Bay View Park, 1897-1903; Russ Oval, 1904-13 , and Coronado Country Club Polo grounds, 1914…Russ Oval, known as the “Rockpile”, was located North of the future Balboa Stadium, in what  became the stadium’s parking lot…touchdowns became worth 5 points in 1898 and valued at  6 points in 1912…there were no specific time limits to games…15-minute quarters were the norm into the 1920s…time was not a factor in the early going…a game against Escondido in 1902 included a 25-minute half followed by a 30-minute half…Frank (Pug) Mallette scored 28 points and drop kicked  10 points after touchdown in the 100-0 victory over Venice…the Hillers scored 15 touchdowns in the game and had quarterly point totals of 33,  7, 20. and 40….

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2016:  A.J. Sisk, 82, Coached in Metropolitan League

Rick : October 4, 2016 10:13 am : Football

One week before the 1969 football season A.J. (Art) Sisk resigned as coach at Hilltop High to pursue a career in publishing for the McGraw-Hill Company.

Sisk began selling textbooks to schools in the San Diego area, launching a publishing career that led to real estate on both coasts, and other ventures.

The graduate of Redlands High and Redlands University was  82 when he died recently at his home in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs.

Friends and family celebrated Sisk’s life with a memorial that was held at Nunu’s Bar and Grill in Hillcrest.

Sisk owned the popular “dive bar” that was known as Cosimo’s when it opened at 5th Avenue and Ivy Place in 1961 and was owned by former San Diego High and USC standout Cosimo Cutri.

Sisk was 29-24 from 1963-68 as Hilltop’s head coach in the Metropolitan League.  The Lancers were 6-3 in each of the ’64 and ’67 seasons.


2016 Week 7: Western Rivals Open League Play

Rick : October 3, 2016 12:13 pm : Football

The Western League  race begins  this week with the season’s premier matchup to date:  No. 1 St. Augustine (5-0) plays host to No. 6 Madison (4-1) at Mesa College on Friday.

Two of the San Diego Section’s most successful coaches will be on opposite sidelines. Madison’s Rick Jackson has a 112-35-1 record in 13 seasons at the east Clairemont school. Richard Sanchez  is 71-21 at St. Augustine since 2009.

St. Augustine is ninth in the state as rated by Cal-Hi Sports.  Madison is “On the bubble”, not in the top 25.  Cathedral, No. 2 in the Union-Tribune poll, is eighth in Cal-Hi rankings, while Helix is 18th and Rancho Bernardo is on the bubble.


They’re not in the San Diego Top 10 and have received no votes, but Monte Vista’s 4-1 start is the Monarchs’ best since the 2004 team was 11-1 under Ed Carberry.

The Monarchs are coached by Ron Hamamoto, who had strong programs at University, Rancho Bernardo, and Lincoln, and whose 207 vicories in 31-plus seasons ranks eighth all-time in San Diego County.


Mater Dei was the state Division IV champion in 2015 but I pretty much dismissed their chances against North County power Mission Hills last week.  Oops.  The Crusaders ran the Grizzlies off the field, 41-14.

Because of the state’s computer-generated “power ratings”, Mater Dei will not be able to flex its muscle in the  San Diego Section Open Division playoffs, which will be open only to teams that are in Division I.   Coach Jon Joyner’s team is in D-II and can go no higher after jumping two divisions.

The power ratings determine division playoff alignments and take several factors  into consideration , including strength of schedules, previous records, etc.  Enrollment is not a factor.

The San Diego Section’s Division I power ratings (next paragraph) are much different than the  Union-Tribune poll (below):

1, Cathedral. 2, Rancho Bernardo. 3, Mission Hills, 4, Oceanside.  5, Grossmont.  6, Helix.  7, Mt. Carmel. 8, St. Augustine.  9, El Camino. 10, Madison.

Go figure.

But the season is essentially only about half over. The computer will even things out, right?

Mater Dei and Poway are 1-2 in D-II.


Winterhaven San Pasqual Valley played a rare game against a California school and dropped a 30-6 decision to Calipatria last week.

Rare?  Winterhaven is in California.

The Warriors were members of the San Diego Section from 1980-84 and posted a 5-33-2 record.  They became affiliated with the Arizona Interscholastic Association and now play mostly small Western Arizona schools.

Seems to make sense.  Winterhaven is only 3.8 miles west of Yuma and the Arizona border.  The closest California school to Winterhaven is  47 miles away in Holtville.

San Diego voting:

First-place votes in parenthesis.
Points awarded on basis of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. St. Augustine (17) 5-0 260 1
2. Cathedral (7) 5-0 246 2
3. Rancho Bernardo (1) 5-0 194 4
4. Mater Dei 4-1 172 9
5. Helix 3-2 146 5
6. Madison 4-1 142 6
7. Mission Hills (2) 4-1 102 4
8. Oceanside 4-1 89 7
9. Poway 5-0 72 8
10T Grossmont 5-0 43 10T

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

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2016 Week 6: Many Teams Await League Openers

Rick : September 26, 2016 7:09 pm : Football

Mission Hills is at Mater Dei in this week’s top game as many clubs are idle, prepping for the beginning of league races next week.

Cathedral, 49-7 winner over a Bakersfield Liberty team that won the Central Section Division I title a year ago, is eighth in the latest Cal-Hi Sports rankings.

St. Augustine, which meets the Dons at Mesa College Oct. 28 in the  game of the regular season, jumped from 13th to ninth after a workmanlike, 26-14 victory over Eastlake.

I am one of the seven voters who have tabbed Cathedral No. 1 in the San Diego Union-Tribune poll for the last few weeks, although St. Augustine still gets most of the first place votes and the No. 1 ranking.

Mission Hills jumped from seventh to fourth after a 42-25 victory over Oceanside.  I haven’t been impressed with Oceanside since coach John Carroll’s last game, a stunning, 68-7 loss to Folsom in the 2014 state D-1 game.

Mission Hills has taken control of the rivalry with its North County neighbor but still is somewhat of an unknown quantity this season.

Mater Dei definitely has Grizzlies coach Chris Hauser’s attention, but the Crusaders probably do not have  the muscle to beat this big program.

Helix is the third San Diego Section squad to earn Cal-Hi Sports favor, moving from 21st to 17th this week.   Mission Hills, Mater Dei, and Rancho Bernardo are teams “on the bubble”.

The San Diego voting:

First-place votes in parenthesis.
Points awarded on basis of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Rank Team W-L Points Last Week
1. St. Augustine (17) 5-0 256 1
2. Cathedral (7) 5-0 245 2
3. Rancho Bernardo (1) 5-0 207 4
4. Mission Hills (2) 4-0 184 7
5. Helix 2-2 144 5
6. Madison 3-1 140 6
7. Oceanside 4-1 128 3
8. Poway 5-0 89 8
9. Mater Dei 3-1 57 9
10T Grossmont, Valhalla 4-0 22 NR

NR–Not ranked.                                                                                                                         Others receiving votes: The Bishop’s (4-0), La Costa Canyon (3-2), San Marcos (2-1), 1 point each).

Twenty-seven sportswriters, sportscasters, and other representatives comprise the voting panel:

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36 Responses to Football Blog

  1. John Carter says:

    I just read about this website from this morning’s paper in Nick’s column, what a great find! I played on Kearny’s 1973 undefeated CIF Champioship team, and our 1973-74 basketball team was undefeated and CIF champions as well. I’ve always wondered if there has ever been a year where both football and basketball teams were undefeated and champions in San Diego County history? Thank you for all your work with high school sports history over the years!

    • Rick says:

      I thanked Nick. And I thank you. I don’t think there have been undefeated football and basketball teams at the same school.
      It’s just too tough a double. Undefeated football teams are more common. I’ll do some research.

  2. Buzz Ponce says:

    Interesting overview on St. Augustine for this upcoming season. Frank Buncom IV, however, is a cornerback, not a linebacker. His grandfather, as I know you are aware, was the original number 55 for the San Diego Chargers and is in the team’s Hall of Fame. Very interestingly, the other iconic number 55 for the Chargers — Junior Seau — has a nephew on St. Augustine’s team that also plays linebacker. Quinn Seau and Buncom IV have roots that parallel the greats in Chargers history. You can read a chapter on Buncom IV and Quinn Seau’s similarities in my book, “Finding Frank: Full Circle in a Life Cut Short.”

    • Rick says:

      I missed on Buncom IV’s position, but I don’t think he’s a cornerback. He’s more of a “monster” in that he’s all over the field, almost a strong safety. I’ve heard of your book. I also interviewed Frank Buncom, Jr., after Chargers games when I was a sports writer at the Evening Tribune. Nice man. Tragic ending.

  3. holly bryant says:

    1978 — Dan Henson was the coach at Christian
    2007 — Grossmont was 2-1 for 2nd place (West Hills was 3-0)

    • Rick says:

      Thank you for the info on Christian’s coach in 1978.. I could not find coaching listings for some schools in late seventies, as the CIF San Diego office does not have directories for those years. I also corrected the Grossmont-West Hills standings. For some reason the 5 teams in the Grossmont North played only three league games instead of four, so there’s no round-robin format.

  4. Absolutely awesome site. I just discovered it by accident right now. Love it. I am 2nd generation born, raised, played and coached in the South Bay of San Diego. I have always loved the CIF-SDS history. I’ll be spending a lot of time (I already have spent a lot) surfing this site.
    Thank you,

    Justin J. Schaeffer
    Resource Teacher
    Head Football Coach
    Murrieta Mesa High School
    (951) 677-0568 ext. 6421

    GO RAMS!!!!!
    Character, integrity and hard work breed opportunity.
    see us at

    • Rick says:

      Thanks for the very kind words, coach, and for subscribing. We have an article going today on three San Diego Section championship games yesterday.

  5. Bob Dexter says:

    I thought it might have been a misprint. Thanks, Rick for checking -still an impressive offensive show by La Jolla.

    • Rick says:

      Impressive indeed, Bob. The 63 points is a La Jolla record for one game, surpassing a romp in which it whacked Kearny, 61-20, in 2002. Last week’s win also ties a 57-0 rout of Coronado in 1990 for largest point differential. Adding to that, back in the heyday of Dan Berry and Butch Taylor the Vikings beat San Dieguito, 57-7 in 1961,. Those are the three highest scores in school history. La Jolla has been punishing U. City for years, including 56-7 in 2012.

  6. Bob Dexter says:

    I saw a score from last Friday. There were no details just the line score. At the end of 3 quarters La Jolla and University City were tied 0-0. The final was La Jolla 63, University City 6. High school quarters I believe are 12 minutes. How did La Jolla score 9 touchdowns in 12 minutes? (9 one play drives?) Does anyone have details on this game?

    • Rick says:

      I wondered about that, too, but a check with Jesse Kearney at UT-San Diego revealed that the actual score by quarters was La Jolla, 19-20-10-14–63 and U. City, 6-0-0-0–6. Sixty-three points in one quarter? That’s 9 touchdowns and 9 PAT attempts and 3 PAT in 12 minutes I suppose anything’s possible. Perhaps it’s happened in 8-man or 6-man. Thanks for writing, Bob.

  7. Jasen Boyens says:

    Orange Glen has gone the way of Sweetwater, Morse, Lincoln; victims of changing demographics over time. For OG it all started to fall apart when Valley Center HS opened, and the Patriots lost all those corn-fed farm boys! So many good players came out of VC, as evidenced by Rob Gilster’s sustained success with the Jaguars. Orange Glen was also victimized by the Escondido School District, whose board members were largely Escondido HS alums – implementation of a free-for-all transfer policy within the district, intended to bolster the Cougars’ fortunes. Despite the courageous Early family’s laudable decision to keep Andy and Austin home at OG, in hopes of bolstering Patriot fortunes, the football program remains decrepit. Dick Disney was a great man whose impact on many lives, including my own, continues through the decades.

    • Rick says:

      Jasen, very interesting comments. You could add several other city schools to that mix. Orange Glen did have it going. I think there have been 3 or 4 NFL players, Salisbury, Lenny McGill, I think, and maybe a couple others.

  8. BoyensJC says:


    Thought you might find this photo [ed: of the OG QB club] interesting;

    We had some pretty good quarterbacks come through Orange Glen for a spell there in the late 70’s through the early 1990’s. Lead by Salisbury, of course, but Doug Disney (and his older brother, Rick), Jon Mitchell, and Cree Morris were all San Diego CIF.

    • Rick says:

      What’s happened with Orange Glen football? Patriots had it going back then. I remember Dick Dinesy as an all-star at Point Loma, then later as an assistant for Chick Embrey at Escondido before he opened O.G. Last I heard Sean Salkisbury was in radio in Chicago. Thanks for writing.

      • Buzz Ponce says:

        Dick Disney also was the first varsity football coach at San Marcos High School when it opened in 1961, following his stint at Escondido HS with Chick Embrey. He was at San Marcos (which was then in the Escondido Union HS District) until Orange Glen launched in 1962-63. He was an incredible coach, and an incredible person. After his retirement at OG, he was elected to the Escondido Union HS District Board of Trustees where he served until his death in 1997.
        RIP, Coach Disney.

      • Rick says:

        I met Disney when he assisted Chick with the 1960 team that won the first San Diego section championship. I always wondered how he got to Escondido, considering he was a big name in high school in the city at Point Loma. thanks for writing, Buzz.

  9. Bob Dexter says:

    Rick, Thank you for the kind comments. Coach Leslie was definitely the right man to get our program going. That 1971 season was a lot of fun!

  10. Bob Dexter says:


    Regarding your article on the best defenses in history, the 1971 Patrick Henry Patriots went 11-1 outscoring the opposition 267-53 an average of 4.4 points. We had 5 shutouts and never allowed more than 8 points in any one game. We lost to Grossmont 8-7 in the championship game but it was a great season.

    I became aware of your great website from Henrik.

    • Rick says:

      Bob: The writer posed a question involving only “championship” teams. I researched from that angle but should have taken it further and included all teams. A one-point loss to Grossmont doesn’t dim the luster of that 1971 Patrick Henry club. Coach Russ Leslie got the new school up and running very quickly. The Patriots reached the San Diego Section finals in their third varsity season and were in the finals three times from 1971-74.

  11. malcolm pusey says:

    Great info. But I would like read tidbits for every season. How about a list of the greatest players (by position), teams and coaches of all time?
    I am just trying to help.

    • Rick says:

      Malcolm, great idea. I have been thinking somewhat along those lines. I guess I would start with Charlie Powell at one of the ends although he played fullback one year at San Diego High. Jack Mashin and Duane Maley would be near the top of my coaches’ list, but I’m first concentrating on the yearly reviews and the yearly scoring leaders. Are you related to Duane Pusey, 13-foot pole vaulter at Grossmont in 1949?

  12. Rick says:

    Mark: I’m not familiar with Jimmy Anderson. Ernie Zampese’s son, Ken, is on the Bengals staff and graduated from University High. I think Dante Scarnecchia played at Cal Western, later USIU.
    I see Lenny arevalo at breakfast every Thursday, so tell me his story and I’ll surprise him. Were you with Shacklett and Mendoza at Morse?

    • Mark Monroe says:

      Len’s story is set in 1973 the first year Jimmy Anderson was hired to teach at Morse and coach the defensive line for Shack. While the two of them were out for a jog around the neighborhood Jim asked Len “where do you see yourself in 10 years” Len replied “here @ Morse, I like what I am doing, why where are you gonna be?” Jim says ” I am going to be coaching in the NFL” and he still is as one of the longest tenured assistant coaches in the NFL. Coach Anderson is the innovative mind behind the warm up Morse would do before and after games known as “Tiger Jays” A tradition that has lasted from 1974 to 2011. Len can tell you the story about Dante. Bob, Len and I recently had lunch with Coach Anderson and Len told that story. Yes I had the pleasure of working with Coach Shack, Mendoza and Arevalo at Morse for 24 years. It was kind of weird working there since I graduated in 1971 and knew them as my idols. Thanks for the reply, Coach Monroe.

  13. Mark Monroe says:

    Wow great job! I worked at Morse for 24 years and have a story Len Arevalo likes to tell about Cincinnati running back coach Jimmy Anderson and New England line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Interested?

  14. Todd Tobias says:

    Great stuff, Rick! I will be reading daily. I bet I’ll find some good crossover stuff for potential AFL stories!

  15. John Walker says:

    Will you be adding a section for All-CIF and All-League players. The reason I’m asking is because I was a 2nd team All Eastern League linebacker for Patrick Henry in 1984 and I lost the newspaper clipping.

    • Rick says:

      John: I’m trying to get these narratives written for each year, plus finding scoring leaders for every year. In time I hope to get to the “all” teams. Thanks for writing.

  16. Albert Oliver says:

    Hi Rick. I played in the 1961 Lincoln/ Saints game losing 13 to 6 to Lincoln.
    Your parents Doug & Jane knew mine Al & Virginia Oliver ( Both Dads in the fishing industry).
    Just wanted to say hi.
    Still live in San Diego..( El Cajon).
    Al Oliver…12/07/2012

    • Rick says:

      Al: Good to hear from you. I see Ron Cota and John Nettles often. I think that was the game in which John made a one-handed catch. Willie Shaw and Vernus Ragsdale combined for about 225 yards rushing in that game.

  17. Richard Houk says:

    Just discovered your wonderful site (thanks to Don Norcross). It is wonderful to see a comprehensive listing of San Diego County’s proud history. I was a part of the 1965 San Dieguito Mustangs and noticed that you may have the wrong score entered for the San Dieguito/Poway game. I believe San Dieguito won, 19-14. It is entered correctly on San Dieguito’s record but not Poway’s. Thank you for putting all of this together!

    • Rick says:

      Richard: The score has been corrected. Game played Sept. 24, 1965. I’ll come up with the scoring summary and send. Thanks for commenting.

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