1918: Global Health Crisis Hits Home

A sneeze at a military facility near Junction City, Kansas, turned into a cold that led to a fever that led to a death that led to a global pandemic.

The so-called “Spanish Flu”, which is said to have first struck World War I soldiers processing in and out of Camp Funston on the Fort Riley army reservation in March, reached almost every corner of the earth.

Including the growing city on the California-Mexico border.

San Diego and the surrounding communities didn’t feel the virus’ effect for months. Not until September, after school opened and football practice started.

Student Army Training Corps cadets took precautions at San Diego High.

Student Army Training Corps cadets took precautions at San Diego High.

Four months later, when the bug finally was arrested, the flu had hit with force: A reported 5,040 cases and 366 deaths locally, according to an article by Peter Rowe of The San Diego Union in 2009.

The number of documented illnesses represented about 7 per cent of the city’s approximately 75,000 citizens.  Taken today, 7 per cent would be almost 100,000 of San Diego’s 1.3 million inhabitants.

Probably 100 million persons around the world were incapacitated or died.  The death toll has been variously estimated at from 50 to 70 million, the latter figure at least 3 per cent of the earth’s 1.8 billion population.

SUMMER DILEMMA

School began on August 26 at San Diego High and new coach Clint Evans, fresh from Pomona High, was in a quandary.

Evans was unsure about which veteran players from the 1917 squad would be returning to school, as some had “left for the colors,” with others expected to follow.

The 1918 schedule had not been formulated.  No team manager had been hired, as Gustave Harding, appointed last year, had left for the military.

Evans planned to book one or two northern squads and fill the rest of the schedule with service teams, of which there were many in the area.

The coach hoped to start practice on Aug. 28, but there would be no practice until an arrangement was made with the Balboa Park board to use the City Stadium field.

Seventy-five candidates turned out for the first practice, held on the girls’ indoor baseball field.

UNCLE SAM CALLS

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2016 Week 12: Not All Happy With Playoff Picture

The sportswriters and broadcasters and CIF power ratings maven John LaBeta have spoken and there is some agreement.

Cathedral, Rancho Bernardo, and Helix, 1-2-3 in The San Diego Union final regular-season poll, are the top three seeds in the Open Division playoffs, which begin Nov. 18 with quarterfinals play.

But there were some surprises and shock waves in other divisions, with teams having higher  finishes and better won-loss records being left out (see 2016 scores in the Football drop down menu).

LaBeta is unique.

He is  one of the 27 persons on the panel that vote each week to determine the Union top 10 and he’s also the guy who  coordinates the power ratings, which eventually determine who gets into the playoffs, in which division, and with which seeding.

How does LaBeta’s vote in the Union‘s poll compare with the power ratings, which essentially are determined by Labeta’s informational input in a computer generated system that compares what teams do over a season against what their scheduled opponents do?

No answer there.  LaBeta wasn’t able to participate in the vote this week.

He was  busy aligning the 68 teams in the five postseason divisions plus the eight-man tournament and probably fielding questions (and complaints) about the power ratings.

Many in the media and some of the coaches did not understand why St. Augustine and Madison, powerful Western League clubs with 8-2 records, did not make the Open Division.

Maybe the Saints and Warhawks will be better served as Division I participants.

Rancho Bernardo was a twice-beaten and not particularly well-regarded team in 2015. The Broncos were slotted in Division I and won out, going 13-2, and claiming a state championship.

An overall winner will be named in a  final Union poll that will be conducted at the end of the season.  Cathedral remains No. 7 in Cal-Hi Sports‘ state top 25.  Helix moved from 16th to 14th and Rancho Bernardo is 25th.  Madison is on the bubble.

First-place votes in parenthesis.

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

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2016: Don Donnelly, Longtime Track Coach

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

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.

ANOTHER CHALLENGE

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.

BACKYARD BEEF

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, eastcountysports.com. Bodie DeSilva, sandiegopreps.com. Drew Smith, sdcoastalsports.com. Raymond Brown, sdfootball.net. Rick Smith, partletonsports.com. 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

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.

THIS WEEK  

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.

NEXT WEEK

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.

WOES CONTINUE

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.

CAL-HI STATIC

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, eastcountysports.com. Bodie DeSilva, sandiegopreps.com. Drew Smith, sdcoastalsports.com. Raymond Brown, sdfootball.net. Rick Smith, partletonsports.com. Steve Brand, San Diego Hall of Champions. Jerry Schniepp, John Labeta, CIF San Diego Section. John (Coach) Kentera, Prep Talent Evaluator.

QUICK KICKS

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

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

THE OPPOSITE 

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).

THE POLLS

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, eastcountysports.com. Bodie DeSilva, sandiegopreps.com. Drew Smith, sdcoastalsports.com. Raymond Brown, sdfootball.net. Rick Smith, partletonsports.com. 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

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.

1867-1915

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.

DOWN IN FRONT!

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2016: Pete Jernigan, Played Baseball, Coached Softball

Paul Douglas (Pete) Jernigan, one of the San Diego area’s most accomplished athletes and coaches, passed away recently at his home in Heresford, Arizona.

Jernigan, 75, played 10 seasons of professional baseball and later coached successful high school and Under 18 softball teams.

He was named “Mr. Youth Sports” by the El Cajon Parks and Recreation Department in 1984 for his contributions to girls’ athletics.

Jernigan’s teams at Santana and El Capitan posted a combined record of 118-41-4.  Santana won the San Diego Section championship in 1984 and El Capitan was runner-up in 1987.

Jernigan appeared as card number 253 in the 1963 Topps bubble gum set.

Jernigan appeared as card number 253 in the 1963 Topps bubble gum set.

Jernigan was a standout in football, wrestling, and baseball at Mount Miguel High, class of 1959.

After a season at San Diego Junior College, Jernigan signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1960, and was one of the Red prize minor league prospects.

Jernigan hit .342 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI in 62 games for Alpine in the Sophomore League in 1960.

His average was a combined .347 at Waterloo in the Midwest League and Johnstown in the Eastern League in 1961.

Jernigan played most of his career with Seattle and Phoenix in the AAA Pacific Coast League.

He hit .303 in 115 games with 10 home runs and 56 runs batted in for the Phoenix Giants in 1967 and retired after the 1969 season..

 

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

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.

DONS MOVE UP

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.

HOOVER BOTTOMING OUT

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, eastcountysports.com. Bodie DeSilva, sandiegopreps.com. Drew Smith, sdcoastalsports.com. Raymond Brown, sdfootball.net. Rick Smith, partletonsports.com. 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

 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.

SLOWLY, SURELY

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.

HIGH SCHOOL OR TOWN?

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.

97didobonsall10616PLAYER-COACHES

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.

NEW COACH, NEW VISION

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.

TOWN TEAMS, TOWN BUMS

“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.

PRINCIPALS TAKE STEP

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.

MORE GAMES, BUT…

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.

BUSY RIVALS

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.

SETH AND ESCONDIDO FACE RUSS

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.

NO MORE ‘TOWN’ OPPONENTS

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.

TWO-SPORT STANDOUT

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.

QUICK KICKS

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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