At least 19 schools in the San Diego Section changed football coaches this season and probably that many reasons could be offered for this arguably massive turnover.
In no particular order, a few possible explanations::
— Pressure to win
— Long hours and low stipend pay
— Player eligibility
— Transfer headaches
— Meddling administrators
— Meddling parents
— Medical liability
There are other factors, not the least of which is the continued growth of soccer, which is contested at the same time on the school calendar and has grown in popularity while football has been battling an image problem.
Many parents think the game is too dangerous.
But 98 schools submitted schedules and practice got underway this week in anticipation of the first weekend of games Aug. 26-27.
My preseason Top 10, based on no knowledge, other than I’ve heard Cathedral “is loaded”, Helix is Helix (speed, depth), that Rancho Bernardo deserves cred after winning a state championship (III-A) in 2015, and so on.
Keep an eye also on Mater Dei, which won the state V-AA division last season, and returns C.J. Verdell, who scored 204 points and recently announced he’s going to join former Imperial great Royce Freeman at Oregon.
|1.||Cathedral||7-5||Modesto Central Catholic @Mission Viejo||16-0|
|2.||Helix||11-2||Concord Clayton Valley @Mission Viejo||13-2|
|3.||Rancho Bernardo||13-2||El Camino||7-6|
|4.||St. Augustine||10-3||@L.A. Loyola||9-3|
|5.||Mission Hills||11-1||Rancho Bernardo||13-2|
|6.||Madison||8-3||@Murrieta Vista Murrieta||12-2|
|8.||Mater Dei||14-1||@L.A. Hawkins||8-1-1|
|9.||Eastlake||5-6||Lake Forest El Toro||5-6|
|10.||La Costa Canyon||7-4||Whittier La Serna||11-3|
Of the 19 coaching switches, 3 resulted only in change of address. Jerry Ralph moved from Hoover to El Camino, Tim White from Julian to Borrego Springs, and Kyle Williams from Fallbrook to Westview.
|Borrego Springs||Tim White||Andy Macuga||4-5|
|Calexico||John Tyree||Sean Johnson||0-10|
|C.C. San Diego||Dr. David Riley||Gene Rheam||9-2|
|Eastlake||Dean Tropp||Lee Price||5-6|
|El Camino||Jerry Ralph||John Roberts||7-6|
|Escondido||Jud Bordman||Steve Bridges||1-10|
|Fallbrook||Bob Burt||Kyle Williams||7-5|
|Foothills Christian||Joe Mackey||Ron Lyyjoki||5-4|
|Francis Parker||Darius Pickett||D.J. Walcott||2-8|
|Helix||Robbie Owens||Troy Starr||11-2|
|Hilltop||Clay Westling||Cody Roelof||5-6|
|Hoover||Jimmy Morgans||Jerry Ralph||2-8|
|Julian||Scott Munson||Tim White||2-8|
|La Jolla||Matt Morrison||Jason Carter||3-8|
|Montgomery||Sanjevi Sabbiah||Ted Jarumayan||2-8|
|Rancho Buena Vista||Joe Meyer||Paul Gomes||1-9|
|Serra||Dru Smith||Sergio Diaz||1-9|
|Vista||Dave Bottom||Dan Williams||4-7|
|Westview||Kyle Williams||Mike Woodward||8-4|
San Diego High continued to transition to mediocrity from the championship squad of three seasons before and tiny Coronado mixed with the big boys.
Bryan (Pesky) Sprott and five members of the Hilltoppers’ nationally-acclaimed 1916 team now were leading the University of California’s powerful squad and coach Clarence (Nibs) Price was on the Bears’ football coaching staff.
San Diego High was on its third coach in three seasons. Price moved to Berkeley after the 1917 campaign and Clint Evans, who coached during the flu-interrupted 1918 season, had announced his retirement and relocated to Idaho.
Vladimir Victor Ligda embarked on what would be a one-season stint as the Hilltoppers’ coach.
Ligda was born in France of Russian descent, attended high school in Oakland, and had achieved some success in track and field at Cal.
Ligda was introduced in an expansive article in The San Diego Union, which noted that he was a 1904 Cal graduate and had run :51.0 to win the 440-yard race in the annual big meet against Stanford.
That Ligda was incorrectly identified as “Vernon” Ligda seemed to presage a problematic tenure.
ACROSS THE BAY
Competition and controversy were different words with different meanings, but they blurred in the far-flung Coast League, whose fratricidal members regularly accused their brethren of academic or residential mischief.
San Diego High was on the receiving end of a peculiar allegation that threatened to stop one of the best teams in school history.
Senior Captain Russ Saunders, the 5-foot, 9-inch, 190-pound blocking quarterback and linebacking defender, faced a charge of accepting money three years before in a boxing match that would have made Saunders a professional and ineligible for interscholastic sports.
If the curiously-timed indictment proved accurate, the Hilltoppers would be forced to forfeit nine victories and the opportunity to compete in the Southern California playoffs.
Saunders eventually was absolved of wrong doing, but not before a dizzying chain of events that took on the aura of an old-fashioned Saturday morning serial.
CIF CHASING RABBITS
The intramural dustup was typical of the Prohibition-era, anything-goes Roaring Twenties, a decade when the growing CIF and its commissioner, former Escondido coach Seth Van Patten, struggled to keep order.
The CIF’s rule on age limitation was only that you couldn’t play if you were 21 years old, but that meant that post-graduates and assorted roughnecks still populated the prep scene.
Coast League rivals didn’t trust each other.
Trouble began in the final regular-season game, when Bert Ritchey ran 60 yards for a touchdown that would propel the Hilltoppers to a 9-0 victory over the Santa Ana Saints in a battle of teams with 6-0 league records.
The victory, before a record City Stadium high school crowd of 15,000, clinched a second straight loop championship for coach John Perry’s squad.
With a long ride home Saturday night and all day Sunday to chew on the loss, officials from the Northern school prepared to make a call on Monday morning and notify Coast League president and CIF playoff coordinator Harry J. Moore that they were protesting.
IT WAS OUR FANS, SAY SAINTS
San Diego High represented one of the best football coaching jobs in the state, but was John Perry all in?
Perry ruminated that the 1925 season, which ended in a bitter, 13-6 loss to Covina in the CIF championship game, was too long and a reason his club had let down in the title game.
That apparently was why Perry’s started practice a week later this season and moved the start of practice from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Perry also had been delayed because he was attending a summer school football class in Los Angeles taught by USC coach Howard Jones.
Despite Perry’s seeming detachment, the Cavemen appeared ready to make another strong run. Superstar halfback Bert Ritchey was back for his third varsity season, joined by tackle Cy West, and several other holdovers from the 10-1 team of the year before.
Players were moving up from coach Gerald (Tex) Oliver’s B team, which defeated Huntington Park, 13-6, for the 1925 Southern California championship.
And there were incoming sophomores from Roosevelt and Memorial, teams which played for the championship of the city junior high league in ’25.
After a 27-0 victory in the opening game against the San Diego State Frosh, the Hilltoppers lost sight of the end zone. They scored three touchdowns and 29 points, total, in seven Coast League contests.
The Cavemen dropped back-to-back road games at Long Beach and Whittier but still finished with a 6-2 record.
Perry’s 52-14-5 achievement in seven seasons would not seem raise any doubt about his future as coach.
IS PERRY OUT?
But the afternoon San Diego Sun newspaper published a story Nov. 19, 1926, the day before the Hilltoppers’ last home game against South Pasadena, that declared Perry was out as coach:
“A complete rearrangement of the coaching staff at the San Diego high school has taken place, and will go into effect at once, it was made known today.
“John Perry, who heretofore coached varsity football, becomes supervisor of physical training and director of school athletics, but will have no coaching connections with the various teams.
“John Hobbs, assistant grid coach to Perry, and in direct charge of the second team, is now head coach of the Hilltop varsity football team.”
The timing of the no-attribution, no-byline article was curious, with two games remaining on the schedule. It looked as if Perry was being removed from his position and given a highfalutin title of reduced significance.
NOTHING TO IT?
John Perry was 29-10-2 with a winning percentage of .738 in four seasons as San Diego High coach.
But that wasn’t good enough for one sportswriter on San Diego’s largest daily newspaper.
A crushing midseason, 26-0 loss to Long Beach Poly was followed by a disinterested, 13-0 victory over Coast League doormat Whittier.
“The wreck of the Hesperus didn’t have a thing on the disaster of the Cavemen,” wrote Alan McGrew of the Poly game, taking a page from Greek mythology.
McGrew, no Damon Runyan, was The San Diego Union beat man covering the Cavemen and regularly found fault with Perry’s stewardship, very unusual for the era.
The young San Diego High graduate was especially peevish in his account of the Whittier contest:
“…the team had no fight and players seemed to take the ‘I don’t care attitude.’ Coach John Perry seemed to be as bad as any of the players.”
McGrew said the starting backfield “was like four moving dead men.”
“Coach John Perry should receive a good part of the responsibility for the poor showing,” McGrew continued. “Since the Long Beach game he has lacked enthusiasm just as much as many of the players.”
McGrew thought the Cavers should turn in their uniforms if “the high schoolers intend to finish the season in the same miserable manner they played yesterday.”
PHOENIX, BUT FIRST AN EASY ONE
Principal Glenn Perkins and Perry scheduled a postseason game for charity against the Phoenix Coyotes, billed as champions of Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas.
William Richardson, the California governor, was going to attend and a large crowd was expected, proceeds going to the football fund at the Hilltop and to buy 50 uniforms for members of the band.
There would be a three-week layoff between the Whittier and Phoenix tussles, so Perry called John Nichols, his former Coronado coaching colleague, and booked a home contest against Nichols’ Oxnard squad.
The Yellowjackets reportedly had posted a 7-0 record, but the competition was against teams from small, neighboring Ventura County farming communities.
A new school?
Grossmont High opened this year, located on what was known as the Riverview campus in Lakeside.
It would be two years before the school moved to the top of the Grossmont Summit in La Mesa, where it sits today overlooking the El Cajon Valley.
But was Grossmont really a new school in 1920?
On the school’s 90th anniversary in 2010, “The Fountain of Hope” was remembered in a campus publication:
“The class of 1916 donated a drinking fountain made of granite from a local quarry to the old El Cajon Valley Union High School and inscribed ‘Class of 1916’”.
The El Cajon Valley High we know today didn’t open until 1955, when it drew much of the student population from Grossmont, which originally had been home to students from as distant as Pine Valley, 25 miles away, and further east.
The early-century “El Cajon Valley High” is not even a footnote in local prep sports history, but a team with the designation “El Cajon” played games against San Diego High in 1902, 1904, and 1907.
According to Don King, San Diego High historian and author of Caver Conquest, the 1904 game was against the El Cajon Town team. An ensuing contest was noted as being against the community’s high school.
SWEETWATER ON SCHEDULE
Grossmont’s first graduating class numbered 37 students. There were 11 faculty members with an enrollment of about 150 in four grades. A total of 320 students were enrolled when the new campus opened in 1922.
Green and white was chosen as school colors, but they changed to blue and gold in 1927.
The athletic teams didn’t become known as the Foothllers until 1921, but Grossmont fielded a team this season, under coach J. Howard Becker, and didn’t score a point in four games against schools that became their County League rivals.
One of those opponents was Sweetwater, an emerging South County school Grossmont would play every season through 1960 except 1941 and ’52.
HILLTOPPERS SET RECORD
Football was constantly evolving.
Officiating did not seem to be keeping pace.
Sweetwater’s successful onside kick late in the game resulted in the winning touchdown and a tie for first place in the County League in a 20-14 battle with Coronado.
The losing team complained that the Red Devils did not have anyone behind the player who kicked the ball.
The Islanders claimed Sweetwater should have been penalized for being offside and forced to kick again.
The game referee who sided with Sweetwater was Lee Waymire.
The same Lee Waymire, who was Coronado’s coach in 1920 and, after a couple days, reversed his decision, declaring a 14-14 tie and leaving Coronado in first place in league standings.
The San Diego Union reported the following Friday:
“The play was a very peculiar one and Waymire, unquestionably one of the best officials in the section, after making his decision delved into the record (sic) book and consulted football officials, discovering that he was wrong.”
Call it delayed instant replay.
Coronado (4-1-1) won the league championship for the sixth year in a row, but loop bosses ordered the Islanders to play Grossmont (4-2) in a postseason winner-take-all.
The decision to play the game came after Grossmont upset the Islanders, 16-13, in the final round of play.
The game apparently was not played.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY?
John Perry, in his second year as coach at San Diego High, was thought to have a Southern California contending team and one worthy of the 1916 Southern California title team that was declared the national high school champion.
The Hilltoppers defeated Sweetwater, 40-0, in the season opener and then avenged a 1920 playoff loss with a 6-0 victory over Los Angeles Poly on a muddy layout in Balboa Stadium.
A 14-0 loss to powerful Santa Ana was not received well by representatives of the local media, which offered several opinions in stories that did not include bylines.
“Perry Plans Changes in Hilltop Eleven; Desires More Fight” was one headline in the Union following the loss.
“Coach John Perry of the locals plans a complete reorganization of the team,” wrote the author of a piece the following Tuesday morning. “He expects more fighting spirit. New tactics, fast training, and snappy playing will be the main points to be harped upon.”
“The feeling seems to be at the Hilltop that the team has the goods for a banner year and what is needed is the jazz, support, and coaching,” was the focal point of another story.
Perry was understandably upset at the criticism following a 48-0 rout of Orange:
“While the game appears a slaughter, San Diego should have compiled a higher result on their opponents, close observers of the game remark. It is also thought that some of the players are not attending to strict training regulations and stage spasms of over-confidence.”
Writers for the city’s three daily newspapers, Union, Evening Tribune, and Sun, sometimes were paid stringers who were students at the high school and who also wrote for the San Diego High Russ.
One of the writers was Allen McGrew, whose nettlesome presence would be felt by Perry when McGrew continued to correspond for the Union even after he graduated from the Hilltop.
OUT OF THE LOOP
Army-Navy couldn’t rely on a four-game County League schedule to complement a full slate of games.
As reported in The San Diego Union,”…through an error at the beginning of the County League the eleven was omitted.”
If that report is to be believed, the person who drew up the County League schedule “forgot” that the Cadets were part of the loop.
Coaches and school bosses at Grossmont, Escondido, and Sweetwater also must have whiffed.
Army-Navy played four games, two against teams from Los Angeles and two against San Diego Junior College.
CIF DROPS HAMMER
Rules of the Southern California governing body were proving onerous for Army-Navy, abiding by CIF statutes for the first time since the academy went into business in 1910.
Ineligibility would be problematical for the Cadets for years.
Four players were declared ineligible before a game at Hollywood because they had not attended the academy for 10 weeks before the close of school the previous June.
A total of 7 players had been forced to sit this season and Academy boss Capt. Thomas Davis threw in the towel, shutting the program after the 28-6 loss to the Hollywood Sheiks.
The players’ parents had not changed their residences to San Diego addresses when the school year began in September. The residential rule would be a benchmark with the CIF for generations.
Davis was upset because the rules made no distinction between boarding schools and day schools. Many of the Academy students come from other states and countries.
San Diego was forced to look for another opponent after Army-Navy bailed. The Cavemen scheduled a game against the Alumni (3-0 loss) and another against the USS Charleston (25-7 victory).
The contests were described as “midseason exhibitions” by one publication, but they were played under game rules with full officiating crews and scoring.
Don King’s “Caver Conquest” listed the Hilltoppers’ record at the end of the season as 7-2.
I counted the two midseason games as official, giving Perry’s team an 8-3 record. That reasoning is based on San Diego’s and other local squads’ often competing against alumni and military teams for years in recognized games.
HILLERS LOOK TOUGH, UNTIL
The Hilltoppers entered the playoffs as one of the favorites in the eight-team postseason.
A 70-0 victory over Montebello was followed with a 20-point fourth quarter in a 48-14 conquest of Los Angeles Manual Arts that forged a rematch with Santa Ana.
The game at 15,000-seat Bovard Field on the University of Southern California campus marked San Diego’s first appearance in the championship game since 1916.
The Hilltoppers took an early, 3-0 lead on Lawrence Hall’s 30-yard field goal before being crushed by the Saints, 34-3.
TOILERS GOT EXTRA YEAR
San Diego received a tremendous boost from the CIF when the rulings were handed down against Manual Arts.
Five Toilers players, including all-Southern California halfback and captain Bill Blewett, had played in the flu-shortened season of 1918. The Los Angeles City League gave those players another year of eligibility.
The ruling by the Los Angeles circuit did not pass the smell test with the CIF.
SIGNS OF TIME
Residents of La Jolla appealed to the city council to ask the railroad commission to investigate high telephone toll rates charged by the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company.
La Jollans objected to a 10-cent, long-distance toll for calls to San Diego. Charges escalated based on length of conversations.
National City and Chula Vista, which were paying 5 cents for similar service, also complained.
John Cantonagonla was cleared of malicious mischief by a local magistrate after Cantonagonla drained 75 gallons of wine onto a street in Little Italy.
The wine belonged to Serafino Romani, the defendant’s brother-in-law.
Justice L.D. Jennings ruled that, because wine is not legally rightful property (this was during prohibition), it is not legally subject to mischief.
It was said there was ongoing friction between the branches of the Romani and Cantonagonla families.
Walter Coleman, ticketed for driving his motorcycle 43 miles an hour on a city street, pleaded guilty, and served a 60-hour sentence as part of a police crackdown on speeding.
Scoring totals in the newspapers always were incomplete or nonexistent. Kenny Zweiner led San Diego with 51 points, followed by Coney Galindo, who missed the last 4 games with an ankle injury, with 40.
Hobbs Adams scored 35 points, Norton Langford and Justin (Pug) Bennett, 30 each, and Gordon Thompson, 22. Eight other Hilltoppers got on the scoreboard.
John Perry moved his team out of the City Stadium after the playoff win over Montebello and practiced several days over the next two weeks on the Coronado Polo Grounds…Perry decided the turf layout at the trans-bay facility would serve the Cavers well in playoff games at USC’s Bovard Field against Manual Arts and, if they advanced, against Santa Ana…”Machines” driven by students and other boosters motored through city streets advertising the Montebello game…Hilltoppers officials weren’t happy that the CIF charged 50-cent admission to the contest with the Oilers, double what San Diego principal Thomas Russell and the school executive council wanted…to boost the gate for a game with Santa Monica each student was given one ticket for personal use and one for sale to another person…the Alumni team that defeated San Diego was organized in two days and included a few members of the 1916 team…Perry, principal Russell, and several players went North to watch the Manual Arts-L.A. High game for the Los Angeles city title…the Hilltoppers put numbers on their jerseys for the games in Los Angeles…half of game proceeds for the championship went to disabled led war veterans…Red Cross women were selling tickets to the game on city streets…about 10,000 attended Santa Ana’s victory…San Diego halfback Hobbs Adams made the all-Southern California first team…tackles Larry Hall and guard Gordon Thompson were on the second team….
Jerry Ralph made history earlier this week when he was announced as the head football coach at El Camino High in Oceanside, becoming the first to lead five different San Diego Section programs.
Ralph has compiled a 123-76-2 (.614) record in 18 seasons, beginning in 1997 at Santana, followed by stints at St. Augustine, Del Norte, and Hoover.
Willie Matson (184-132-6, .581) also has had five head coaching assignments, but two were at the same school. Matson began at Mission Bay in 1984 and returned there in 2005.
Matson is still active, ranking 12th all-time in number of wins. Ralph is 30th.
Dave Gross (106-123-3, .464) also was a five-time head coach, including two tenures each at Imperial and El Cajon Valley.
Ralph had shared the lead with Monte Vista’s Ron Hamamoto, who also guided programs at University, Rancho Bernardo, and Lincoln. Hamamoto is eighth on the career list with 203 victories.
Gil Warren and Walter (Bud) Mayfield also had four head coaching tenures.
Warren began at Castle Park in 1967 and returned there in 1992 and also was at San Diego Southwest and Olympian.
Mayfield began at Coronado in 1979 and was reappointed there in 1989 and again in 1993. Sandwiched between his runs at Coronado was a year stay at University in 1981.
See list of Coaches with a minimum of 100 wins here.
Who saw the game and who didn’t commanded almost as much attention as Kearny’s semifinals playoff victory over Escondido.
President John F. Kennedy’s death and the resulting week’s postponement generated several more days of pregame coverage by area media outlets and contributed to a building buzz about the game.
And some unforeseen problems.
The estimated attendance of 17,000 was the largest for a high school game here since 20,000 saw the 1949 San Diego-Hoover contest.
The 20,000 figure could have been topped, but at least 2,000 persons didn’t get in and others turned away in frustration.
Only two Stadium gates were open and many fans couldn’t gain entry because sellers had run out of tickets, according to CIF commissioner Don Clarkson. A crowd of about 12,000 had been predicted.
Until 10 minutes before kickoff, uniformed guards kept the stadium’s upper deck closed, forcing fans to find end zone seats on the lower level, when excellent midfield seats were available up above.
A decision was made to open the upper deck and fans began streaming in.
No one thought to play the national anthem before the game. Someone realized the oversight in the first quarter. Play was stopped, the band played the anthem, and a color guard raised flags.
One competing school is designated the home team for the playoffs, said Clarkson, throwing Escondido under the bus and inferring the CIF had clean hands.
Escondido, 40 miles North, was an infrequent Stadium visitor. The question wasn’t asked, but in retrospect should all the blame for logistical errors at a major CIF event have been dumped on one of the schools?
I stepped onto the roof of the Balboa Stadium press box in the second quarter and could follow a line of waiting spectators in the alley between San Diego High and the stadium that stretched all the way to Russ Boulevard, a distance of about 200 yards.
KEARNY TO PLAY HOST
Things wouldn’t be the same for the championship, promised Gustav Lundmark, vice principal at Kearny.
“We’ll have all the gates open and plenty of tickets,” said Lundmark. “We’ll also get the gates open a half hour early, at six-thirty. This was a mess.”
Commissioner Clarkson also announced that tickets for Kearny-El Capitan would be sold at eight area business outlets.
The finals went off without a logistical hitch. Attendance was 13,520.
On Nov. 22, 1963, my address was an apartment at 2742 B Street in the Brooklyn-Golden Hill neighborhood. It was about 9:30 on a Friday morning. I had a free day until covering the Escondido-Kearny playoff that night in Balboa Stadium.
I don’t remember if I was watching television or listening to the radio, but within minutes there was a news bulletin: “Shots fired in Dallas.” Shortly later: “The President has been hit.”
Not knowing, but dreading the worst, I impulsively got into my car and raced to my parents’ house, all the while talking to myself, imploring, praying the President would be okay.
My parents lived a block from the 94 Freeway, near 47th Street and Federal Blvd. I arrived to the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
Friday night was prep night at the Evening Tribune, where we attached far greater importance to high school sports than our rival, The San Diego Union.
I covered the city’s Eastern and Western leagues. Colleague Harlon Bartlett chronicled the Metropolitan and Grossmont leagues. We split the small schools.
On a normal Friday evening we’d return to the office after a game and probably work until 2 a.m., writing stories, captioning photos for the weekly prep picture page, chasing down coaches for quotes or scoring information on missing line scores.
Not so on this surreal Friday. Football games everywhere had been postponed or canceled.
Everywhere except the National Football League, which decided to go ahead and play on Sunday. Commissioner Pete Rozelle later said it was the most regrettable decision he had made in his 29-year tenure.
CIF CALLS AUDIBLE
The San Diego Section also apparently was going to play, until Commissioner Don Clarkson announced that the CIF board of managers was suspending the playoffs for one week.
In announcing the postponement, Clarkson unwittingly revealed that the CIF first had decided to “cancel any rallies or dances before and after the games and still hold the contests.”
Often tone deaf, Clarkson and the CIF bosses had wisely reversed course.
Tribune writer and makeup editor Bob Ortman summoned Bartlett and I to the office and we set about trying to fill a section and two pages of prep news, with no games or stats to rely on.
It was a long night, scrambling for copy, trying to keep my mind on the task at hand, and with little zest for the job.
By Saturday morning we were in the middle of a period of funeral music on all radio stations mixed with television coverage of the events in Dallas and the final good-bye to JFK at Arlington National Cemetery.
THE GAMES RETURN
Gloom still was in the air, but normalcy had begun to return when the postseason began.
The four semifinalists in the AA playoffs were Kearny, Escondido, Hoover, and El Capitan.
Favored Hoover, which slammed Kearny, 25-0, in the opening game, was knocked out for the second year in a row in a mild, midweek upset, 27-12, before about 8,500 at Aztec Bowl by coach Art Preston’s tough and resourceful El Cap Vaqueros.
The tandem of Dave Duncan and Ray Homesley was too much for Hoover. Duncan rushed for 224 yards in 32 carries and scored three touchdowns. Homesley scored once and kicked three extra points.
“We made every stupid mistake in the book,” said Hoover coach Roy Engle. “Our ends must have dropped a hundred passes.”
Preston, who announced before the season that his club would be the worst in school history, declared, “I’m still shellshocked. We knew we could run on them but I didn’t figure it would go like this.”
The Vaqueros broke from a 7-6 lead at the half, scoring 20 points for a 27-6 lead. “In the third quarter, the kids on the right side of the line were flat knocking people down,” said Preston.
THE MAIN EVENT
The Escondido-Kearny matchup was the most anticipated since Escondido visited Balboa Stadium and defeated San Diego, 19-13, in 1960.
The 9-0 Escondido Cougars were the County’s top-ranked team and considered better than the 9-1 club of 1960. Kearny (8-1) had recovered from an opening-game defeat and shut out 6 of the next 8 opponents, allowing a total of 15 points.
Escondido quarterback Jerry Montiel sustained a groin injury in the second quarter that restricted his play as a defensive back and was a blow to the Cougars, but Montiel had the Escondido ahead, 7-0, late in the half and connected with Mickey Ensley on a 43-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter that tied the game at 14.
Larry Shepard, Kearny’s no-nonsense field leader, got the Komets on the scoreboard with a four-yard pass to spread end (wide receiver in modern nomenclature) Steve Reina with 12 seconds remaining in the half.
Shephard connected with Reina for two more touchdowns in a 20-point third quarter and directed a brusing running attack that took the steam out of the Cougars. Steve Jones, Jimmy Smith, and Charlie Buchanan, who rushed for a combined 274 yards, chewed up yardage, and ran down the game clock.
The Balboa Stadium attendance of 13,520 was less than expected after tickets were made available at several area outlets, but Kearny’s 20-6 win over El Capitan was no surprise.
“Give Shepard the credit,” said Komets coach Birt Slater. “He called every play out there.”
Shepard attempted only three passes. At one point, Kearny launched 29 consecutive running plays.
“As much as I love our offense taking credit for our success, I do believe our defense made us a championship team,” said Shepard, who singled out many of his teammates.
“Bill Carroll (end-defensive back), Jim Smith (running back-DB), and John Erquiaga (center-defensive lineman) played both ways,” said Shepard. “The rest of the defense was made up of Dennis Santiago, Robert Odom. Elton Pollock, Dan Fulkerson, Jeff Henderson, Tom Gadd, and Frank Oberreuter.”
Slater’s team, reminiscent of the San Diego High teams he helped coach in the 1950s, arguably was one of the best ever in the San Diego Section.
Students from the competing schools would be charged .50 admission for the championship game, but all others students would have pay $1.25, prompting a complaint by Birt Slater.
“It’s a game for the whole league, rather than for the two finalists,” asserted Slater, speaking for Kearny’s Western League partners and El Capitan’s Grossmont League associates.
Commissioner Clarkson agreed with Slater. “But I take my orders from the superintendent and that’s the rule as of now,” said the Don.
THEY WERE AZTECS
The portrait photos of the three men above were taken in 1950, when Art Preston, Birt Slkater, and Bob (Chick) Embrey were among six San Diego State players named to the all-California Collegiate Athletic Association first team.
The three also were on the 1951 team that posted a 9-0 record and defeated Hawaii, 34-13, in the 1952 Pineapple Bowl in Honolulu.
WESTGATE POOR VENUE
The San Diego Section was forced to form a partnership of pigskins and cowhide.
More venues for night football were needed, with only three lighted fields in the city, at Balboa Stadium, La Jolla, and Hoover.
New football varsities at Morse and Madison crowded the schedule.
To relieve some of the stress on the illuminated grids and forestall moving games to the afternoon, several city contests were scheduled at Westgate Park, erected in 1958 as the home of the baseball San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.
Westgate was arguably the most beautiful facility in all of minor league baseball. Repeat, “the most beautiful facility in all of minor league baseball.” Not the game that was being played in the fall.
I took some shots at Westgate as a football facility in one of my Tuesday With The Preps columns.
–There was no football scoreboard, so time was kept on the field.
–Teams could not use the baseball dressing rooms, which meant that halftime meetings were held in dank, dimly-lit tunnels underneath the stands.
–The dressing rooms were unavailable because the Chargers, who practiced at Westgate, occupied one and the Padres used the other for off-season storage.
–The third base line hadn’t been removed and often was mistaken for a sideline boundary.
–The football field was laid out from the leftfield corner to the rightfield corner and was a long distance from the fans.
On the day after the column appeared, I received a call from Eddie Leishman, the Padres’ general manager. Leishman was a prominent figure in the city and had expanded the organization’s community outreach.
“We know this isn’t a football stadium,” Leishman said. “The schools asked us. We didn’t ask them. I’m sorry for the shortcomings, but we’re not making money ($500 rent per game plus parking and concessions) on the deal as it is.”
The timing was interesting. No sooner had my call from Leishman ended that I received another from Don Clarkson.
“They aren’t making any money off us,” complained the CIF boss, sounding as if he and Leishman had rehearsed their lines.
“They got a lot maintenance down there,” Clarkson added, referring to the costs of opening and closing the ball yard. “They have a lot of people working for them at (our) games.”
Sight lines from the grandstand were okay and parking was ample at Westgate.
The overhead view was perfect if you exited the press box and took a potentially unsafe walk along the left field roof. Another lighted field would become available when Mesa College opened in 1964.
Westgate Park was phased out for football and the Mission Valley edifice was razed after the 1967 season.
The Padres played their final season in the PCL in 1968 at San Diego Stadium, which became home the next year for the Padres of the National League.
The annual City Schools carnival finally ran out of steam. The 24th and final event was held in 1962, four years after being moved to daylight hours.
Attendance was falling and school bosses didn’t want to deal with recurring rowdyism and violence.
Coaches were generally pleased. It meant that teams now had the option to schedule a ninth regular-season game.
The Grossmont League still played eight games plus the carnival, which drew 11,000 to Aztec Bowl. Most Metropolitan League teams already had a ninth-game option.
Hoover and Helix battled heat that set a San Diego record of 111 degrees on Thursday, Sept. 27, and on Friday reached 104 , the fifth highest reading since records began in 1874.
Temperature for the 8 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 28 was at least 100 degrees and the Cardinals and Highlanders responded with a memorable game before about 6,000 persons at Hoover.
The Cards won, 14-13, when Hoover drove 81 yards in the final 4 minutes to score the winning touchdown.
Sweetwater tried to beat the heat when it came out for pregame against visiting Crawford. The Red Devils wore only shorts, T-shirts, helmets, and cleats. Crawford still prevailed, 14-0, after the Red Devils donned the rest of their uniforms.
THEY SAID IT
“I don’t how good we’ll be, but that’s the worst we’ve been beaten here in five years. We’ll get a little better each week, I hope”—Kearny coach Birt Slater after a season-opening, 25-0 loss to Hoover.
“It looks like a long year and a good time to go hunting,”—El Capitan’s Art Preston, assessing Vaqueros’ season prospects.
“It should be as good a game as will be played in the County”–Escondido coach Chick Embrey before the Mar Vista game, which Escondido won, 43-21.
“This is El Foldo week for us. We do it every year against Helix. We’re olive masters”–Preston before Vaqueros lost their only regular-season game, 12-9 to Helix
“I couldn’t see in the first half and the staff took over. Maybe that’s all the better”—Grossmont coach Sam Muscolino, his glasses broken after an errant pass hit Muscolino in the face during pregame of a 13-3 win over La Jolla.
SIGNS OF THE TIME
Police were looking for vandals who scattered hundreds of inch-long roofer’s nails at Glasgow Drive, Armitage, and Aragon streets in Clairemont.
Two tires were punctured on the first police car that responded. A City street sweeper and neighbors swept the area clean.
‘HAWKS DECLARE BORDER WAR
Madison didn’t do a lot in its first season, with a 3-6 record, but coach George Hoagland’s Warhawks quickly established neighborhood ground rules.
Behind quarterback Al Fitzmorris, Madison defeated 1962 San Diego Section playoff runner-up Clairemont, 12-6, in the clubs’ first meeting in the season’s second week.
KINGDOM FOR A CASTLE
Castle Park, at a cost of $1.75 million on 47 acres, became the third public high school within the Chula Vista city limits.
Principal Ralph Skiles welcomed about 950 graduates of Chula Vista, Hilltop, and Southwest junior highs, plus transfers from Chula Vista and Hilltop highs.
Sweetwater was the first south of the San Diego City Limits, welcoming students in 1909 as National City High. Chula Vista followed in 1947, Mar Vista in 1950, and Hilltop in 1959.
Point Loma edged La Jolla, 2-0, in the fourth safety-only game ever played by County teams.
A bad snap from center that sailed out of the end zone gave the Pointers two points in the fourth quarter and they made them stand.
La Jolla’s Greg King attempted field goals from 54, 51, and 41 yards. The first two fell short by about five yards. The third attempt, with 21 seconds remaining in the game, was partially blocked.
“If that last one hadn’t been blocked it would have been good,” said Vikings coach Gene Edwards, employing curious logic.
Other 2-0 games (the 1926 contest went into overtime and San Diego was awarded two points for gaining the most yardage):
|1919||San Diego||32nd Infantry|
Coronado bid goodbye to the Avocado League and returned to the Metropolitan, of which it was a member from the Metro’s beginning in 1933 until 1954, when the Islanders became part of the new Avocado loop.
Fallbrook moved to the Avocado League from the Palomar and newcomer Orange Glen took Fallbrook’s place in the Palomar.
OCEANSIDE KING OF CLASS A
Jim Harrison, a 150-pound halfback, ran for 175 yards in 27 carries led a ground attack that gained 374 yards as Oceanside won the Class A title with a 32-13 victory over Poway.
KINGDOM FOR A HOUSE?
Jerry Van Ooyen, a linebacker at Indiana from 1949-51, was named head coach at Ramona. Van Ooyen had been a real estate salesman in the mountain community for five years.
U.S. Army Specialist 4 Doug Mayfield, who was graduated from Lincoln in 1961 and grew up in the Encanto community, was among the eight military personnel assigned as pallbearers for President Kennedy…the eight, from different branches of the military, escorted Kennedy’s body to his autopsy, to the church cathedral, Capitol Rotunda, White House, and Arlington National Cemetery… just so he wouldn’t be mistaken for a player as he stood behind the defensive line, Escondido coach Chick Embrey wore No. 369 on the jersey of his practice sweats…Hilltop dedicated a new lighted stadium seating about 4,000 in a 6-0 loss to Clairemont…light poles had not been erected, delaying Poway’s long awaited inaugural game under lights against Ramona in the season’s sixth week…after missing three point after attempts in a 25-0 win, Hoover coach Roy Engle turned to 275-pound Richard Gauthier, who was 2 for 2 including the game deciding conversion in the win over Helix…Kearny halfback Jimmy Smith became a No. 1 draft choice by the Washington Senators out of Oregon and won a landmark antitrust suit against the NFL after a career-ending injury…Kearny end Robert Odom played two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys out of Idaho State… lineman John Erquiaga was a standout at UCLA and Reina was a starting receiver at Oregon….linebacker Tom Gadd later became head coach at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania…Reina died at age 44 of leukemia, and Gadd was struck down by brain cancer at age 55 in 2003, after he had coached Bucknell to seven straight winning seasons that followed a period in which the program had one winning year in the previous 14….