Prep Coach Knows Triumph, Anticlimax and Finally Exhaustion

Diary Records Coach's Emotional Highs, Lows: Bill Seward recently completed his third season as head football coach at Playa del Rey's St. Bernard High School, where he won his first league title.

At the request of The Times, Seward tape recorded a diary of the past season. In this second of two parts, Seward talks about the emotional highs and lows in coaching a high school team to the conference quarterfinals.

Saturday, Oct. 20--I'm headed to get a film at school. Great way to spend a Saturday night. Played Cantwell last night, beat them 31-6. We didn't play very well in the first half, once again. The Disease of Playa del Rey.

But the great thing is we're healthy. Nobody injured at all during the contest. We are 3-1 in the league. Verbum Dei won. They're 4-0. We play St. Anthony's this week for homecoming. We never play very well on homecoming and I don't know why. We got beat by 20 or so points last year by Mary Star at our blessed homecoming, and we were 8-0 at the time. So homecomings are always kind of scary weeks.

I've been telling everybody that Reggie Arnold won't be back until the playoffs. That's if we ever make the playoffs. He'll be back, I think, this game. And our fullback, Louis Chude-Sokei, who mysteriously went down against St. Monica with supposed torn ligaments, might be making an appearance. So a couple little boosts for us.

We've gotta play a little excited.

Friday, Oct. 26--6:30 p.m. On my way to Sentinel Field to watch Beverly Hills play Inglewood. A possible Ocean League entry into the playoffs. It's . . . almost like nuclear armament stockpiling. You just go see people because there's the chance you might play them.

Really long practice. Reggie Arnold gets his cast off tomorrow morning, which is outstanding. Lou Chude-Sokei, our fullback, practiced during the week but he didn't get into any live drills so he probably won't play tomorrow. We'll probably try to give the old impression that Lou's gone for the year.

There's been a lot in the papers this last week over the big match-up between St. Anthony's 6-5, 320-pounder against our 6-5 or 6-6, 300-whatever pounder. Jon Harmon goes anywhere from 330 to 370 depending on who you talk to. I don't think that's gonna be a big match-up. Jon plays nose guard and their big kid plays defensive tackle so they might run into each other a little bit on special teams, and we'll see if Jon plays any O (offense) or not. But it's got some press and it's good for Jon.

Carries Image Well

Jon's a very mature individual when you consider he's 17 years old and he's of that size, (where) there's a tendency for people to be a little shy and a bit reticent about going out and meeting the public. He carries on the image of St. Bernard very well, and I think it's a credit to him and his family.

We have three games left. The way it stacks up, if we win three games we're the league champs. I'm real confident we can win tomorrow. I'm very confident we can win the next week against Verbum Dei and close out the season against Mary Star. It's just a question of if we can get going and play some good football. If we do, we're the Camino Real League champs. I don't know how far we could go in the playoffs. You never really know, that's icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.

I put in a lot of hours. All the coaches do. I don't know if you can ever be compensated for something like that, and I'm starting to look back and reflect. I think Friday night is going to be my last home game, unless we go wild in the playoffs. And I've really enjoyed my stay at St. Bernard, but enough is enough. I just can't put in the hours anymore. I think it's probably taken some years off my life.

Not Much Sleep

I was reading in the paper the other day about Ray Perkins--he was the selection to succeed Bear Bryant (at the University of Alabama)--and how Ray gets only four hours of sleep a night, and he doesn't expect to live past the age of 60. That puts it in perspective right away. I don't want to live that way and right now I am. I'm not getting a whole lot of sleep and I've just totally ruined my sleeping habits. So, in essence, for me to go four hours is better than to go six or seven. I really feel better at four. Even though in the long run I'm sure the hours accumulated start to wear on you.

Enough of my laments. A little violin please.

Monday, Oct. 29--Practice starts in about 15 minutes. Rounding up some film to watch. Film's kind of funny for football coaches. It's like heroin--once you start you've gotta have it. The film's been real weird in the league this year in that some people have videotape, some people have film. Some people want to exchange, some people don't. So it just sort of shoots down all the set standards the league had before. You're supposed to exchange two films, two recent games, and you're supposed to be fined if you don't exchange. So far for the season, this'll be the third can of film we'll exchange.

Worked out at 6:30 this morning. Coach (Betsy) Beattie took them through their aerobic paces and we watched a little film of the (Verbum Dei) Eagles. I'm just excited. Thursday night we get to play for the title. We still have to win a game after that but, hey, it's the title; I don't care what anybody tells you.

This might come back to haunt me, but I don't want to go to the playoffs as a third place team. I've been in that position a couple times. As a matter of fact, as long as I've been at St. Bernard we've always gone to the playoffs as a third place team. And I really don't want to do that. I want to be the champs. And I want to play at home. Greedy kind of guy, huh?

Wednesday, Oct. 31--It's Halloween, and if we practiced like we practiced the last two days I could probably coach forever. We did a tremendous job last night and today in our pregame-type practice. We play Verbum Dei tomorrow. We're as prepared as we possibly could be.

Good news on Kevin Bayonne. He went to the doctor today and we thought he was gonna be out at least a week or two and he won't be. The ligaments in the wrist are OK. He's got a pretty heavy bruise and we can pad that up, but there's no loss of dexterity in the wrist. So we're in good shape. That really lifted the coaching staff up. I'm gonna go home and get on my Batman suit and go out and trick-or-treat. Just kidding.

A couple things, defensively, we've changed. We've had some pretty good success against them during the week. We don't have any Keith Washington (Verbum Dei quarterback) to run against as an opposing quarterback, but they looked pretty good against the people we had out there as scout teams.

I've gone out and bought some half-shirts and they say "Camino Real League Champions." I think we're gonna bust 'em out tomorrow night and we'll see. They'll either wear 'em proud around town or else they'll be a cleaning rag. That's all predicated on tomorrow night's game. I know there's two games left, but you have to think in terms of tomorrow night. You have to. Hey, we weren't brought up, at least I wasn't, to think about being second-best. We're all competitive or we wouldn't be out here, so we're aiming for the title. I'm real anxious for it to happen. I wish we could play right now. I just hope we keep that intensity for the game tomorrow night, and I think we will. Like I said, this is a character group. And the character, I think, will rise tomorrow.

Football Movie

Like to go see a movie tonight. We almost tried to go see "The Bear," but it wasn't playing around here, a movie about Bear Bryant. I know, one-track minds. We're sick individuals. Is there more to life than football? Yes, but not right now. And don't ask me that question tomorrow at about 7:30.

I'm trying to get in at Channel 46, doing Loyola basketball games, play by play, make a little money, get a little exposure. The job with the Clippers, I guess, fell through, so I won't be there. Still got some other things on the back burner right now. The most important thing to me is the guys I've worked with, some I've worked with for the last three years. I'd really like them to get what's due. It's not a cure-all, but it sure would be a nice memory for everybody concerned to say they banded together and were league champs, especially after a rather slow start.

Friday, Nov. 2--We won last night, 9-0. That's great. Some bad news, maybe some really bad news; haven't even heard the whole story if it's factual. A bunch of football players from Mary Star were injured yesterday (in a traffic accident). I'm trying to find out something about that. We were all in the chapel last night after the game. We tried to break it to the kids. They were affected by it.

The game . . . 9-0. We didn't play great, but we played well enough to win. We've definitely played worse than that. We got the ball about a million times. They were fumbling and we were picking passes off; got two or three interceptions and about three or four fumble recoveries and played some real good defense. Offensively we drove the ball the first time, kicked a field goal, then that was it for a while. We got a couple touchdowns called back on things that were not very helpful to the play. They said a flanker moved. We ran a drive for about 60, 70 yards. Chude-Sokei is back! The kid went off-guard. I couldn't believe it. He was gone. They had a really fast guy and Louie's got the bum ankle and bum knee, he just outran him.

Out of the Blue

Then we had another one called back in the second half, about a 40-yard TD pass. We had a lineman downfield on the sweep action we ran. But other than that we got a pass interference against us in the end zone so it moved it back out to the 24 or 25. And all of a sudden, like the heavens opened up--I usually don't call the offense; Coach (Duke) Dulgarian is in charge of that--I said we ought to run sweep pass. So we ran sweep pass. Steve Brown took the pitch and found the third of his options, great catch by Lonnell Tyars in the end zone. That was our six. No flags.

The kids all wore the T-shirts, "Camino Real League Champ" T-shirts. As soon as the game was over I told them to make sure nobody sees these, we've still got to play next week. They just ripped out of their pads and were dancing in front of the crowd. So it was a good time. A very deserving moment for them. I'm not sure what's gonna happen this week, what Mary Star's gonna do. I just hope they're all OK.

(Editor's note--Eight Mary Star players were injured in a traffic accident. Two were hospitalized. None played the next night. Several played a week later against St. Bernard.)

Tuesday, Nov. 6--John McKay (of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) announced his resignation. Just said he was tired of it. Way to go, John. I always thought he was a great coach . . . because he always went for it. Seems like his team won, and they won the real tough ones, a real classy act. So I can say I retired with John McKay.

Didn't practice real well yesterday, weekend was so-so. I think it's gonna be tough to try get up for this one, and I would imagine Mary Star will be sky high.

Thursday, Nov. 8--At the end of practice I pulled together the five seniors that have been with me three years and just thanked them. Armando Rojas, Louis Calderon, Tony Nettles, Reggie Arnold, Neal Gervais were all guys I brought up as sophomores to the varsity. They've all started in one way or another the last three years and, believe me, I really enjoyed coaching them. And I let 'em know I'm outta here, won't be coaching anymore.

It would really be nice to be league champion, really be nice. I've coached on various teams for nine years, never been champ. Plus we get to put the little gold stamping on the pictures, "Camino Real League champions."

I feel sicker than a dog right now, draggin' myself home. I'm supposed to be the public address announcer for the volleyball team; they open the first round of the CIF playoffs tonight. I would do it; I feel kind of bad that I haven't done anything for them all year but I feel really bad (sick).

And I know I've gotta turn my grades in tomorrow. That's why I don't think I could coach too much longer. I'm just doing too many things. I don't know if the most successful businessman in the world could do it. But I can't.

I'm teaching. I'm coaching a football team. I'm working for cable companies as an announcer. And I'm also job hunting. I think any of those facets of my life could be pursued on a full-time basis and right now I have all four. I don't think it's doing me any good. So I'm gonna start canceling a couple of them. Sometimes you've gotta say bye-bye to the ones you really like. And I do like coaching. It's just, enough's enough.

Saturday, Nov. 10--We're the champions of the Camino Real League. 27-14 last night. Ugly football game, at least in our regards; didn't think it was played too cleanly and the officiating was--let's think of some words . . . terrible, horrendous, a joke. We had three or four major boo-boos by the Zebras in the first half and that kept the score close. Matter of fact we were behind at the half, 14-6.

We're healthy, we're the champs and we're gonna play at home in the first round. They were partying it up last night, throwing people in the showers and I had to make sure I hid up in the school building. I wouldn't mind going in except those showers in our locker rooms, they really need a good acid bath so I thought, for health reasons. . . . Just kidding. I don't know who we're gonna get. We've scouted anybody and everybody. I would imagine it's between Saugus and North Torrance.

Right now we are the champs. And that's all that matters. Steve Brown's just tearing the place up. I think he had about 10 carries for 150 yards, three touchdowns. The kid is go-o-od. We'll find out if he can stay good and we can stay good through the playoffs.

Sunday, Nov. 11--We got North Torrance in the first round. I'm on the way back with film and such and I'm real happy we got 'em. I think we can do a job coaching against them. I think our players will get a chance to get a little recognition in the South Bay. Heck, they've (North Torrance) only lost three games in two years and they were in the finals last year and it ought to be interesting. We're in good shape so it looks like a pretty good match-up. The coaches are excited. We've got to stop a pretty good passer, a couple of good athletes. I'm happy, what the heck.

Thursday, Nov. 15--I'm on my way to school, dead tired. All-league meeting last night at Verbum Dei. You always hear about these things. We won the league and at the league meeting I think we got the shorter end of the stick. We didn't get too many guys on. Steve Brown's the MVP, which is good. Louis Calderon, Jeff Holmes, Tony Nettles are first-teamers on defense. On offense, Bebe Quintana, and Neal Gervais is the kicking specialist.

We practiced pretty well, put together a real good scouting report. We've got a few tricks up our sleeves. We've been getting pretty good publicity for the game so the guys are kind of pumped up. We're in the upper bracket. We'll play the winner of the Canyon-St. Joseph game. Gotta win this one first; that's kind of important. It's weird coaching in a situation where if you lose, you're done. Makes you appreciate it.

Friday, Nov. 16--Game day. Lot of things in the papers yesterday. One great thing for our team as far as inspiration: There's a quote in there from North Torrance that we don't play with the intensity that the Ocean League plays with. Hoo hoo. Needless to say I reminded the team of that yesterday. I think our intentsity level's up a little bit, if it wasn't up already.

Football coaches aren't superstitious but . . . I just went down and had the same burrito I've had for the last six weeks. By the way, we've won the last five. It's real tough, being in school and trying to teach. I've got one thing on my mind, and that's tonight.

Saturday, Nov. 17--Well, guess who played well last night . . . the little Vikings, 24-8, and in my mind it's a shutout. We got a great game out of Neal Gervais. He threw for two touchdown passes of 40-something and 30 to Reggie Arnold and Tony Nettles, the defense played real, real well. Steve Brown had close to 100 yards, Lamar Young ran well, Lou Chude-Sokei ran well. We had a field day, folks. 24-8 and believe me, it wasn't that close. And we're in the quarterfinals. And we will play Canyon.

I'm out trying to get a film exchange with them right now. There has been a misunderstanding, and considering that I'm a communications major I believe I'm not responsible for this one. The coach at Canyon wanted to exchange film and I wasn't sure which ones I wanted. I said we'd get together Saturday some time in the Valley to do it. I got two messages on my machine last night claiming I breached some kind of verbal agreement with them. So we're exchanging now, it's about 7:45. I'm calling the CIF office. I'm going to tell them to call tails for St. Bernard if it comes to that (to determine playing site). "Tails, tails, never fails." We called tails about seven years ago when I was at Notre Dame (High) and that got us into the playoffs on the flip of a three-way tie.

Better and Better

I'm really proud of our play last night. We're getting better and better every week. I think there's also the remote thought in everybody's mind of, who knows, we could play for a little bit. Canyon's a very good football team. They have won 21 in a row. They beat St. Joe's last night 8-7, though in the rain. So we got our work cut out for us. It would be, in a lot of people's minds, a big upset. I also think it's a shock to a lot of people that we handled North Torrance the way that we did. Definitely not to our guys. We talked about it earlier in the week, that a win would not be an upset. And we were very confident in ourselves. We played to our potential.

Saturday, Nov. 17--When you're hot, you're really hot. Guess who won the flip? St. Bernard High School. Friday night at 7:30. The No. 1-ranked team in the Northwestern Conference and in the Top 10 in the L.A. Times poll--Canyon, at St. Bernard. Hee hee. When you're hot, you're hot. I'm very excited about it. The staff is at the USC-UCLA game, and I'm just trying to round up some film now. I don't know, we might be a team of destiny. I gave the kids the day off. I know, I'm getting too light on them.

Wednesday, Nov. 21--I've seen more tape and film of Canyon High School, I think, than they have. We've changed the defense. We've played a 52 (five-man) front ever since I've been here. We're gonna try to jump on 'em, run a 43 (four-man) this week and see what happens. And we've got a couple other little wrinkles for 'em. We're practicing real well. We're playing great football. We're in great shape. You always wonder if a team's going to believe in themselves, and I think we're starting to. A win here just might put us over the edge. The other thing that's come up is a title. In years gone by we've never had that, but Canyon's picked to win and you have to give the Vikes some consideration.

They sure are crying a lot about this. First they complained about the film. Then they complained that there are pieces cut out, which there aren't. Our photographers didn't do the best job this year and there are some plays missing, but it's not like I went in the film and did the editing job of the year. Then they complained that our field was unplayable or not in good condition and they wanted the game moved to Canyon. Which the CIF didn't go for. So we could have a battle Friday night. We are game for it. We're ready.

Saturday, Nov. 24--Well, the Vikings will not be CIF champs this year. We lost, 19-9, just came out and made a couple real big mistakes, which you don't do in championship games. I'm sure they had something to do with it. They ran a kick back to about midfield, then they threw a pass and our two DBs (defensive backs) ran into each other and he went the distance. They kicked off to us and we fumbled the ball at the 19. That's just murder. Our first offensive play we run a sweep and fumble. (Canyon scored twice). After that it was 9-6 Bernard's. But you don't get trophies for that.

They're a very good football team. They've won 22 in a row. You wish you had it back. They're supposed to be the best, and we played 'em even after the first four minutes. But that's why they're on top. They throw the punches early, they hit you. I'm kind of disappointed in that. I'm not disappointed in the team. Best team I've been associated with. Really enjoyed coaching this team.

Signs of Exhaustion

Almost went out with a bang here. After the game I was kind of tired, had a beer with the gang then came home. I put something on the stove, was watching a little TV about midnight or so. I fell asleep, woke up about 25 minutes later. The pilot light wasn't on, the gas had filled up the place. I'm sure it would've looked good in the paper the next day--"Major Depression." That would've been a tough one to explain and I wouldn't have been around to do too much explaining. But I got the doors open and crawled out of there and let the place air out.

This shows you how intelligent I am. A little later on I finally lit the pilot, put the item on the stove again and I fell asleep again for about an hour. When I got up the place was filled with smoke and there were flames coming out of the pot. The smoke was about three feet off the ground and up. I had to crawl into the kitchen and see these flames leaping skyward. It was like going to a luau or something.

I'm very satisfied with the season.

Signing off, Bill Seward, ex-coach.

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