Jim McConnell says the 1992 Bishop Amat team is the Valley’s best ever; Alhambra, San Marino, Blair and Muir make the list, but where’s Hitchcock’s TC Rams?

There is no better way to get ready for Wednesday’s football preview and the start of the season than Jim McConnell’s take on the best football teams in San Gabriel Valley history. “The King” says the 1992 Bishop Amat team than went 15-0 is the best ever. Some have told me the 1969 Blair team with the “Blair Pair,” was the best ever. I think the best teams of this decade, bigger, stronger, faster, would stack up well against any of them.

WHAT THE ESGV IS SAYING

Incomplete said: Temple City was over rated. What was Temple City’s record against Bishop Amat, Meter Dei, Loyola, Notre Dame, Crespi and St. Paul during their great years? Just asking.

Ramrodder said: All of the above were truly great teams, but no mention of a Hitchcock coached Temple City CIF Championship team? FAIL.

COMING NEXT WEEK: McConnell will divide the 24 teams into playoff brackets and begin our mythical Valley playoffs in earnest with eight wild-card games.

JIM McCONNELL

The best high school football team in the history of the San Gabriel Valley?
Most would say the 1992 Bishop Amat squad. That year’s Lancers, under coach Mark Paredes, won all 15 games. They won the CIF-SS Division I title and a special state playoff game to boot. They are the only 15-0 team in CIF-SS history.
However, on further review …

Football is a team sport, but history teaches us sometimes one great player can lift his teammates to higher levels. History also gives ample evidence that anything can happen in one game.

So, following that wisdom, it would be hard to pick against, as an example, the 1942 Bonita team that starred Glenn Davis. That team went 11-0 and Davis did a little bit of everything. Interestingly, the Bearcats had three other players who played major college football, a quality coach in John Price and a long-standing tradition of winning football games.

Based on sheer numbers, you would have to favor the 1992 Amat team over the 1942 Bonita team in a mythical matchup. Still, as good as Amat was, it never faced the likes of Davis. And you can only play 11 men at a time.

All of this points out how difficult it is to single out one team above all others as the greatest ever.

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A conversation I had with St. Paul coach Marijon Ancich earlier this summer raised this point. Ancich said give him Jamie Quirk (a star on Swordsmen teams of the early 1970s) at quarterback and he would take his chances against any team, anywhere. The lesson being you can’t underestimate the importance of one great player on what otherwise might be a less than talent-laden team.

Ancich touts Quirk. Long-time Muir High coach Jim Brownfield would say the same thing about his teams that featured Ricky Ervins. Former West Covina High coach Mal Eaton would echo those thoughts about the teams he coached featuring Sandy Durko. And so it goes.

What does it all amount to?

Today’s players definitely are bigger than yesterday’s. They also are, as a group, faster and stronger in the upper body (this due to innovations in weight training). However, are they better-conditioned? Probably not. Are they as football savvy? Possibly not.

And there’s no way to measure competitiveness. With great players, it isn’t just that they hate to lose. Everybody hates to lose. Great players find a way to win.

For what it’s worth, if I were to create a mythical All-Valley playoff, here are the teams I would include, in chronological order:

1926 Covina (11-1), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Probably the best of coach Chief Newman’s three CIF championship teams of the 1920s, this one featured the multi-talented Gus Shaver.

1939 Alhambra (11-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Likely the best of a long string of outstanding Moors teams coached by George Hobbs, this squad featured a high-powered single-wing offense led by Johnny Petrovich.

1942 Bonita (11-0), CIF-SS Central Division champion. In addition to all-time great Davis, this Bearcats team also had Duane Whitehead, later a star at USC, and Glenn’s twin brother Ralph, who later played with his brother on the outstanding Army teams of the mid-1940s.

1951 Pomona (12-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Coached by Harold “Hoppy” Hopkins and led by Marty Keough, the greatest athlete in Pomona history.

1955 San Marino (13-0), CIF-SS Northern Division champion. Coached by Vic Schwenk, this was one of the legendary scoring machines in CIF history.

1964 Whittier (13-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Coached by Vic Lopez and featuring linebacker/guard George Buehler, the best of a long line of outstanding Whittier teams.

1965 West Covina (12-1), CIF-SS 3A Division champion. One of the valley’s best-ever defensive units, coached by Mal Eaton.

1966 El Rancho (13-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Ernie Johnson coached a series of strong El Rancho teams in the 1960s, but this one answered all challenges, including whipping favored Anaheim 35-14 in the CIF title game at the Coliseum.

1969 Blair (13-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Pete Yoder’s team featured the talents of running backs Kermit Johnson and James McAllister and also had one of the best defenses in CIF history.

1970 Bishop Amat (12-1), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. With Pat Haden throwin’ ‘em and J.K. McKay catchin’ ‘em, this was state-of-the-art football for its era. The team was coached by Gary Marinovich, although the rumor remains that USC’s John McKay devised the Lancers’ offensive schemes.

1971 Bishop Amat (12-0), CIF-Large Schools champion. So who was the better quarterback, Pat Haden or John Sciarra? This Sciarra-led Amat team beat all comers, something the Haden-led 1969 and 1970 Amat teams failed to do.

1972 St. Paul (13-0), CIF-SS Large Schools champion. Ancich’s best team, although there is plenty of competition. However, this one had the aforementioned Quirk at quarterback. While he went on to a successful pro baseball career, people often forget he had a full football ride to Notre Dame. The Irish instead had to “settle” for Joe Montana.

1982 Los Altos (14-0), CIF-SS Southern Division champion. DeWayne DeSpain coached numerous championship teams at Los Altos, but the choice here is the 1982 Conquerors, with Mike Smith at quarterback.

1984 Claremont (14-0), CIF-SS Eastern Conference champion. One of many outstanding teams coached by Bob Baiz. This one featured the talents of quarterback Dan McGwire and wide receiver Travis Watkins.

1984 Diamond Bar (14-0), CIF-SS Southeastern Conference champion. The best of coach Terry Roche’s teams, this group set a slew of scoring records en route to its unbeaten season.

1985 Charter Oak (13-0), CIF-SS Southeastern Conference champion. The first of what has become a dynasty at the Covina school, this one probably remains coach Lou Farrar’s best. One of the best-balanced teams in CIF history.

1986 Muir (14-0), CIF-SS Coastal Conference champion. It’s a close call as to which of Brownfield’s Muir teams was the best, but the opinion here is it was this 1986 contingent.

1991 Baldwin Park (12-2), CIF-SS Division IV champion. A long shot for sure, but it would be interesting to see how coach Tony Zane’s complex passing attack – ran to perfection by this team – would fare against the big boys. This squad also had an underrated defense, as evidenced by a 28-7 victory over Nogales in the CIF title game.

1992 Bishop Amat (15-0), CIF-SS Division I champion. Led by Rodney Sermons and Daylon McCutcheon, this Amat team wasn’t as spectacular as other Amat champions but was remarkably efficient, especially on defense.

1995 Diamond Bar (14-0), CIF-SS Division III champion. Another Roche-coached team, many felt this squad was even better than his more heralded 1984 group. It capped a perfect season by beating a potent Newbury Park team, 30-21, in the CIF title game.

1996 Wilson (14-0), CIF-SS Division VI champion. Easily the best team in school history, this squad coached by Tom Caines featured a near-unstoppable running game and a stifling defense. The Wildcats beat arch-rival Los Altos 34-13 in the title game. It doesn’t get any better than that.

2000 Los Altos (14-0), CIF-SS Division VII champion. An outstanding coach, Greg Gano, a balanced offense and a sensational defense – featuring a pass rush led by Shaun Cody – made this Conquerors squad a tough foe for anyone.

2000 South Hills (13-1), CIF-SS Division IX champion. Steve Bogan has coached a decade’s worth of championship teams at South Hills and has earned the reputation as one of the best game managers in the business. It would be interesting to see how this team fared in a title game against any of the above foes.

2002 La Habra (13-1), CIF-SS Division IX champion. Like Bogan at South Hills, La Habra’s Frank Mazzotta now has a decade’s worth of outstanding teams to his coaching credit. This Highlanders squad quite possibly was the best of the lot.

jim.mcconnell@sgvn.com
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306

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  • coach garnett

    The difference between the teams in the 80′s to today is that they play 3rd place teams in the playoffs. The teams in the 50-70′s only played against first place teams in the playoffs. nuff said.

  • john caballero

    per my last email I did some checking and in fact El Rancho was the #1 team in the nation in 66 according to the High School football database. The only other so cal teams on the list are Loyola, Mater Dei

    jc

  • Rob

    Although I don’t go back that far I have to go with that 1982 Los Altos team as the best I’ve seen.

  • ms

    Still have nightmares from that 1992 Amat team who beat my Cubs in the championship game 3-0 at Cerritos College. That was a war. Amat’s defense was nails. The only better defense I’ve seen was Long Beach Poly’s in 2000.

  • Anonymous

    1955 San Marino outscored their opponents 500-58. Not bad for a school in their first year of existence.

  • Stang Alum

    Didn’t Muir beat that 1992 Bishop Amat team on their field on that last second fleeflicker play?

  • Stang Alum

    Didn’t Muir beat that 1992 Bishop Amat team on their field on that last second fleeflicker play?

  • The Stang Fan

    Stang Alum,

    No, that Amat team went undefeated at 15-0 and won the only ever Reebok Bowl. You’re talking about the ’89-90 team that beat Amat. Great game!

    A few other Muir teams deserve recognition. The ’85-86 team that won a championship, the ’89-90 team that won a championship, and the ’92 team that lost in the Semi’s to eventual champ Esperanza. The ’97-98 team should have done A LOT more than they did. Ridiculous talent on ALL of those teams!

  • Moneytalks

    Stang,

    Yeah, muir 97 was sick. Anthony Kelly, Lashaun Ward, Sultan McCullough and others.

  • New York

    I remember Brownfield telling me, well after the fact, that he did not get himself a ring for the ’85 season because they were not undefeated. He, admittedly, knew what Muir had coming back for the ’86 season.

    Regarding no mention of TC: If they recognize the 2006 Wilson team, then not recognizing ANY TC team is disspointing.

  • New York

    Correction: the 1996 Wilson team.

  • Goldenarm

    the gap in McConnell’s story comes after 1972 powerhouse St Paul….
    73 was the year TC made history with most consec wins in Calif history
    TOTAL DOMINATION of the SGV!!

    I believe PHS took the Pac league in 72 and 73…and yes, El Rancho was bad-ass back then
    Servite had several players go on into the NFL in 73- their roster was loaded with massive bald Catholic dudes back then. Only game I was ever knocked unconscious

  • TCHS ’64

    “Incomplete” is incomplete…Temple City “overrated”…only in your mind! Ramrodder is so right! To compile such a list and NOT include one of Coach Hitchcock’s Teams makes “The List” a total and complete failure! And to say, compare poor, little, PUBLIC funded Temple City with the likes of Bishop Amat, Mater Dei, Crespi, etc. is a joke. They have almost unlimited funding from wealthy Alumni…they “recruit” players from all over, including, Samoa, to come and play football on scholarship. TCHS takes what it is given and has for 55 years. We are a small Community, a small District, a small High School…things have never changed. So to not include one of those “Miracle Years” of Coach Hitchcock’s is a HUGE omission. Let’s be honest…TCHS did what NONE of the “Big Schools”…especially the “wealthy ones”…have NEVER been able to do! Jealous? Just a little…YES! WE that went to TCHS…no matter when…have always known that we were special and that we did, could and always will be able to do so much with so little!

  • MUIR ALUM

    Muir beat Bishop Amat on a last second pass pitch in 1989. The play started from the 20 yardline with 7 seconds left.

  • MUIR ALUM

    Muir beat Bishop Amat on a last second pass pitch in 1989. The play started from the 20 yardline with 7 seconds left.

  • Sandy Durko

    You have listed that the 1965 West covina High School Spartans as being 12-1. That team went undefeated, 13-0, had 9 shut outs during that 13 game winning streak and won the 3-A Divison CIF Championship.

  • Sandy Durko (WCHS Alumnus)

    You have listed that the 1965 West Covina High School Spartans as being 12-1. That team went undefeated, 13-0, had 9 shut outs during that 13 game winning streak and won the 3-A Divison CIF Championship. Two of the four teams that scored on the Spartans that year did so against the Spartan’s second and third team defensive players. The only team to score more than 7 points against the Spartans was La Puente, which featured the greatest athelete ever to come out of the San Gabriel Valley, George Farmer. The final socore of that game was 22-18.

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  • st. paul alum

    Correction: The St. Paul 1972 QB: Pat Degnan. Degnan was a warrior; now coaching high school in the Palmdale area. Jamie Quirk graduated in May 1972. I think Quirk’s 1970 team was St. Paul’s best team ever, but it stumbled in the playoffs. Trivia: Haden and Amat’s only loss in 1970 was to St. Paul 34-13. Ranks among St. Paul’s greatest wins, and prompted a school holiday the following Monday! Great article for football fans.

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