McConnell: Moors football rich in tradition

This story comes from longtime staffer Jim McConnell, the man we call, “The King” around the office. He writes a weekly Then & Now column. McConnell, a journalist for over 30 years, began his career with the now-defunct Pomona Progress-Bulletin and currently works for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, which includes the Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News, and San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Along the way, McConnell has garnered numerous awards from The Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Society for American Baseball Research, and the Los Angeles Press Club. This week he writes Alhambra’s rich tradition in football. Enjoy.


When you talk about prep football dynasties, old or new, you have to include Alhambra High’s remarkable streak of sustained excellence.

From 1927 to 1947, under the guidance of George Hobbs, the Moors were a true CIF-Southern Section powerhouse. Alhambra had four undefeated seasons during that span and won CIF-SS Large Schools titles in 1928, 1939 and 1946. The list of Moor alums who went on to play major college football is indeed a long one.

Hobbs was named Alhambra football coach for the 1927 season. The school had fielded a football team since 1912 but had not experienced any real success until Hobbs arrived on campus.

Hobbs brought home a winner in his first season, with Alhambra compiling a 4-3-2 record in 1927 while competing in the rugged Coast League. The Coast League, featuring athletic powerhouses San Diego, Pasadena and Long Beach Poly, easily was the toughest prep football league in the state.

The 1927 season set the stage for a sensational 1928 campaign. The Moors posted a 9-0 record and outscored foes 292-77 with a high-powered offense featuring speedy backs Orv Mohler, Johnny Seixas and Haskell Wotkyns. All three went on to star for Howard Jones at USC.

The Moors won the CIF-SS title by beating Compton, 19-7, at the Coliseum.

The Moors’ quest for a repeat title was stymied by being a member of the Coast League at a time when only the league winner qualified for the CIF playoffs. Alhambra consistently posted winning records in the 1930s but it wasn’t until 1939 that the school once again hoisted a CIF football pennant.

That year, led by all-purpose halfback Johnny Petrovich, the Moors beat all comers. Petrovich, who scored 26 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,000 yards that year, sparked the Moors all season and earned CIF Player of the Year honors. Coach Hobbs’ team outscored foes 360-100 and took home the CIF-SS title with a 26-18 victory over Santa Barbara at the Coliseum.

Petrovich went on to play for Southwest Conference power Texas.

The 1939 season also proved to be Alhambra’s last in the Coast League. School officials had been trying for years to get out of the league, citing specifically the long trips to San Diego. Off the record, San Diego High’s high-octane baseball program, under Mike Morrow, had become a real sticking point among other Coast League schools, with accusations of ineligible players and illegal practices.

For 1940, Alhambra joined the Foothill League. It was a rocky ride at first. Hobbs’ team went 3-5 in 1940. However, by 1943 the Moors once again were big winners, going 6-0 that year in a season shortened due to World War II. Because of the war, school officials opted to not participate in the CIF playoffs, despite the fact the Moors clearly were one of the strongest teams in the Southland.

In 1945, Alhambra joined the Pacific League, another strong grouping that included Keppel, El Monte, Whittier, Long Beach Poly and Long Beach Wilson. The Moors were equal to the competition and won league. They advanced all the way to the CIF-SS Large Schools finale, where they lost 33-21 to a strong Santa Ana team.

In 1946, the Moors were not to be denied. They swept aside all competition, went 12-0 and outscored the opposition 343-64. The 1946 squad lacked a superstar the likes of Mohler or Petrovich, but had incredible depth and an outstanding crop of talented linemen. Of the 21 teams Hobbs coached at Alhambra, he regarded the 1946 team as his best.

That year the Moors edged a multi-talented Loyola team, 7-6, at the Coliseum to win their third CIF-SS crown. They earned the right to play Loyola by besting South Pasadena, 26-6, in the semifinals in a game played at the Rose Bowl.

From the 1946 Moors, Breck Stroschein, Don Cogswell and Jim Thomas went on to start at UCLA, John Conde became a three-year letterman at USC, Les Colliago starred at Loyola Marymount and John Math played at Cal. In addition, one of the student managers on the 1946 team was Tex Schramm, who later made quite a name for himself as personnel director for the Dallas Cowboys.

Hobbs’ 1947 team failed to repeat as CIF or Pacific League champ and posted a 6-3 record. It proved to be Hobbs’ final year at the school. He was offered the head coaching job at Chaffey Junior College in Ontario and accepted.

In his 21 years at Alhambra, Hobbs won exactly twice as many games – 122 – as he lost – 61. Some at the school complained he ran the program like a college coach, so his leaving town wasn’t universally mourned.

At Chaffey College, Hobbs continued his winning ways, including coaching Chaffey to a national junior college title in 1950.

At Alhambra, the Moors finally made it back to the CIF-SS Large Schools title game in 1955 but fell short in a battle with old rival San Diego, the Hilltoppers winning 26-14 in a game played – much to the annoyance of Moors fans – at San Diego State.

That 1955 team sent two more star players to Red Sanders’ UCLA program, in linemen Bill Leeka and Tony Longo. It also featured Duane Allen, who later played several seasons for the Los Angeles Rams.

After that, the opening of new schools gradually cut into Alhambra’s talent pool. Many of the better Alhambra athletes hailed from Temple City, and when Temple City High opened in the mid-1950s it had a serious impact on Moors athletics.
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