A losing season worth forgetting, is etched in history, by a football teams one night.
| One Magical Night
High school football today is surely not the game it was back in the late sixties. Yet neither is the College or Pro game for that matter. But cultural sentiment of world events, unfortunantely, feels awfully similar. The old addage "times were simpler" applies I would imagine, as it does for every preceeding generation. Times were also simpler on the football fields in those days. This is not to imply that the game was any less intense, in many ways its intensity was greater. Of course todays size , speed, and talent lend itself far superior to the teams I played against in Orange Co. Calif. in 1968. And as anyone who has had to endear a losing season will tell you, its not much fun walking off that field week after week, as your opponents are celebrating victory. The great Paul Hornung, a quarterback in his college days at Notre Dame, is mostly remembered during his college days for winning the Heisman his senior year. Yet he experienced many more lows that year than he achieved highs as his team finished a dismal 2-7. However most people never recall his teams record for his senior, but have no problem acknowledging his Heisman award. For no matter how many times he walked off that field in defeat, once they gave him that trophy, no one could ever take it away.
The team I played on my senior year in 1968 had a similar experience, although it was nothing that garnered national attention, and we certainly were not in the class of a Notre Dame, or even most the high school teams we played that year. Yet, just like every other August football camp experiencing two a days, are aspirations were high,as we were the first four year graduating class at the districts newest school. Some might have said, in hind sight, that expectations were higher than they should have been, I for one rather enjoyed it.Preseason attention can be quite a motivator for the new kids on the block, and we seemed to be garnering more that year then in the three previous years combined.Well reality can be bitter at times, if not downright humiliating.The crimson and gold Eagles of Estancia High, with as much toughness and grit as any team we faced, and we faced some awful good ones, succumbed to a dissappointing season. Its a funny thing how teams are forever remembered by the record they post, and ours on the surface was not one that was viewed with much reverence. When you go 2 and 7 with a six game losing streak to end the season, well lets just say they weren't packing the stadium to see us on friday nights. We had an odd makeup for a team, that consisted of half seniors and half sophmores and only a few juniors. We played in the toughest 3A league in the county With powerhouses Loara, Magnolia, and Fountain Valley, and yet we were in every game. But none the less, it came down to 2 wins and seven losses, and no one was going to remember how tough you played. In fact most 2-7 teams would be driven out of town never to be heard from again. And yes the mighty Eagles fit that mold quite well, except for one magical night in October. On the first friday in October of 1968 the Eagles awaited the Mariners of Pacifica High for a home game at Davidson Field, located on the campus of Newport Harbor High School. As it was early in the season and we had a record of 1-1 there was a sizable crowd awaiting us as we entered the field. Well on this October night they were to be treated to the most awesome rushing attack in Orange County to that date. Our tailback, Dave Johnson, who ironically was one of the few juniors to make the team, ran for an astonishing 276 yards! To put this in perspective consider the year 1968. The passing game in prep circles was no where near what it is today. This meant that almost every teams rushing downs far exceeded their passing attempts. And what does that mean? Well that the clock was almost in constant motion. I still can't believe we had enough time in the game for Dave to gain that much yardage.But the truth is he did. Dave Johnson was a slasher with unbelievable speed. There would be no jukes from this tailback, his strengths were hitting the holes fast making a cut to an open area and then turning on the jets. And the jetys were at full power that night as he demolished the existing rushing record for Orange County.
Now I can't recall how many years the record stood but I would venture to guess about thirteen. And since the years after that season, Estancia High has had some very good football teams. One example is all those sophmores that we seniors played with in 68'. Two years later they became the first Eagle team to make theCIF playoffs and came within one point of playing in the LA Coliseum for the CIF 3A Southern section championship.In fact their only losses that year were to the two teams that did play for the championship. Moreover there many good teams that past through Estancia High since 1968, teams with talents and the records that far out shined ours.But you know its a funny thing about fate sometimes. With all the success that many of Estancias teams accomplished through the years winning championships and the likes.(and believe me I'd give anything to be in their shoes) None achieved the sustained plubicity over a longer period of time after their seasons were over than did that 2-7 team of 1968. Every year on the first weekend of October from 1969 to 1981 Either the Orange County Register or the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot or both ran articles of Dave Johnsons magical friday night. And though he did a tremendous job in achieving that record, knowing the type of player he was, he viewed it as a team effort, and stated so everytime he was interviewed.It is really ironic when you think of all the fine teams to come out of the school, in not only football in but other sports as well , that the shinning moment, the one that graced the papers for years was bestowed on a team of under achievers on a magical night in October 1968. Now I ask you,how many 2-7 teams can say that? How many 7-2 teams can say that?