St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey recently finished its football season with an 8-3-1 record, winning the Camino Real League title and advancing to the Northwestern Conference quarterfinals.
It was 26-year-old Bill Seward's third year as head coach and he decided during the season that this would be his last year coaching. Seward had a three-year record of 23-11-2 and took the Vikings to CIF semifinals in his first season despite being the youngest head coach in the CIF.
Though their first game this year was after Labor Day, Seward explains that the season began in January, when players (and coaches) lifted weights at 6:15 a.m., and continued through spring drills and summer passing leagues.
A former star lineman at Notre Dame High in Encino, Seward says his weight increased from 185 pounds to nearly 220 during the season and he often functioned on four hours' sleep.
Seward, who was a communications major at Loyola Marymount University, teaches communications at St. Bernard and is also a professional sports broadcaster. At The Times' request, he agreed to keep a diary of the past season.
This is Seward's story, as well as a game-by-game account of the Vikings' season. Seward likens it to a book by former pro football player Dave Meggysey , "Out of My League." Seward suggests it be called "Out of My Mind."
September, 1984--About to start the football season. . . .
To be honest I don't know what kind of team we're going to be. We've tried to make ourselves a passing offense. We did a lot of blitzing last year, and we ran the ball a lot. This year I think we're gonna steady ourselves defensively, if we can. I think our weak points . . . our offensive line isn't very experienced. Defensively we don't have any linebackers right now with any experience. There are four people trying for the job, the inside backers at least, and none of them have played there before. And none of them are real big.
I don't know how much runnin' and shootin' we're gonna do because it's predicated on what our offensive line does. Offensively that's the most important part, that offensive line. The offensive line coach is Ray Gonzales, and he's been working with them since February or March. I think our strength levels are pretty good. We don't have any real monsters, no 400-pound bench pressers, but a lot of guys in the 300-pound area.
Duke Dulgarian is the offensive coordinator, has been for a couple years. We're gonna put the ball up, we hope.
Defensively we've got Brian Buckley, who I went to high school with and he's gonna coach the linebackers. Through the practices so far it's a tremendous boost to our coaching staff. He's the only guy on the staff that has played some college ball, and I think he has a real understanding of what is going on. And most importantly he's a good guy, in the sense he respects the kids, and that's important. There's a lot of guys who know football but aren't sure what they're doing when it comes to coaching and that's a big part of it, the way you relate to the individuals you have.
Defensively we should be pretty good up front. We've got a couple returning tackles, Eric Marrero and Louis Calderon.
We don't have a lot of depth. If we have one thing, it's character. I think this is a real good group. Hard working, not a lot of problems. I think we've weeded out the individuals who really didn't want to play football for us. Believe me, it's a lot of work . . . it's a pretty intense program, I guess. We try not to look at it that way. We don't do a whole lot in the afternoon. We shied away from a heavy spring practice schedule. Do things in the morning, I think that gives 'em a sense of when the bell rings after school they're done. They can go home, go to the doctor, the dentist, wherever it is they have to go and I think it alleviates a lot of the problems a coach has to go through because they are 15, 16, 17 years old and they do have a lot of things to do. A lot of them like to work so we give them a chance to do that by working out in the morning.
Our first opponent, Culver City . . . I think it'll answer a lot of questions for us. We beat them last year in the last couple seconds on a Neal Gervais field goal, 16-14. The year before that we beat them in the (CIF) quarterfinals, 23-6. That was my first year as a head coach. In fact the first game of the season we played them, and they beat us 12-7. So all the games we've played with the exception of that quarterfinal have been close games. They've all been real hard fought.
The first game is important in that it establishes something for you. If (you don't win) then you have to look to the week after. I don't think anybody likes that. Be nice to get on a roll. We won our first eight games last year then we dropped our last three.
We've worked pretty hard. It's been a good summer. Been a real good summer for me. Worked a couple football camps. I got a chance to work for ESPN (a cable sports network) covering the Olympics. That's what I'd like to do, I'd like to be a sportscaster. Football coaching's fun, but it's not very profitable and it's not very stable either. I know sportscasting isn't either, but I'd like to give it a shot.
Saturday, Sept. 8--The Vikings are 0-1. We lost to Culver City last night at home. Real close game. The score was 21-10. But it was a lot closer than that. Carnell Lake of Culver City had over 200 yards rushing the ball. We tackled like we'd never, ever done it before. We're going to do a lot of work on that.
We played OK, but we didn't play well enough to win. We had a touchdown called back, which hurt us a lot. We kicked a field goal and passed to (Tony) Nettles for about a 57-yarder. They scored on big runs by Lake. The officialing was horrendous. Not very happy.
Thursday, Sept. 13--We play Montclair this week. The Mounties of Van Nuys. I know the coach, John Hazelton, a good guy. They beat Beaumont. They're very good. They've got a lot of talent. Reggie Smith, the baseball player--his son's on the team. They're pretty good and they're definitely not the cakewalk we thought they would be two years ago when we signed the contract.
We've practiced fairly well. Mark Osborne's knee is not real hot and Reggie Arnold's thumb was broken against Culver City on the first play. Now the question is: Is it time for surgery or are we just gonna wrap it up . . . . The orthopedics feel Reggie can go without surgery right now. He means a lot to the defense.
We could use a win. When you practice this long and wait this long and the season is finally here and you don't win your first game, it seems like a long time.
Sunday, Sept. 16--The Vikings are 1-1. We defeated Montclair last night, 14-0. We scored early on and that was about it. We scored 14 points in the first quarter. We didn't play very well. We played well enough, I guess, defensively. We looked a little confused in coverages but . . . you come out and score 14 points right away and then you're disappointed the rest of the way. So we need to put out a little more.
The coaches went out and saw Westchester Friday, they scrimmaged, and they were pretty impressed, I could tell. The coaches' eyes were wide open when they came back, so they've got some athletes. They're supposed to win the city championship on the 2-A level--they've been dropped down from the 3-A level--so they've got some folks. And this has been a game that people around here have wanted for a while. I'll be glad when it's over, get this one done.
There's been little things going on on the RTD bus, between various members of our school and theirs, maybe I'm looking at it from one side, but they seem to be picking on people, numbers against solos. It would be nice to exact a little satisfaction in the game.
Monday, Sept. 17--We lost Reggie Arnold, probably for the season. His thumb's broken in a couple places. You ask a million doctors, you get a million different answers. But they're gonna do surgery on him this week. That's real disappointing. He's a senior. He led the CIF in interceptions last year. Now he's gone. Steve Brown will play strong safety and Marv Smith will be free safety, which I'm not real happy about on either side, not that they aren't good athletes but Marv and Steve are both playing offense too.
Big game, means a lot. We very easily could get shot out of the water (against Westchester). We're not at full strength. We're hurting. They've got a lot of folks, a lot of speed. They're kind of anxious to play, I'm sure.
Saturday, Sept. 22--Unhappy this morning to say the least. We tied last night against Westchester, 20-20 . . . . We beat 'em up and down the field. They had more yards offensively but physically we put it to 'em and they weren't very disciplined and that showed through. You've gotta give 'em credit. They've got tremendous athletes. All kinds of sprinters. We didn't play too bad. At one point we led 17-6. It was a great game.
After that Neal (Gervais) hit a field goal--the kid is a great kicker, he really should play college ball. Last year he hit about a 48-yarder. He's got about 15 field goals in his career here. He's really got a good foot. If he had the time to develop, it he'd be even better. He's also a catcher on the baseball team--and he's our quarterback.
Westchester went on a big ol' long run, that made the score 17-6. Then we come out to start the second half and we fumble the ball and some guy for them picks it up and goes about 30 yards for the touchdown. Now all of a sudden it's 17-12 instead of 17-6 and that's seconds into the second half.
I can't believe--it's our fault because we select the refs--the refs did a terrible job. I know, "He's cryin.' " Westchester scored with about two minutes to go and went for two and we stopped 'em and the referees called defensive holding, somewhere. I don't know where, maybe up in the stands.
Short of Goal
So they got another shot at it. They rolled right and we just drilled 'em, Nettles came up and hammered 'em and (Jeff) Holmes came up and hit and we took 'em out of bounds short of the goal line. And the play's over for two seconds, maybe, and some guy (referee) comes from the back of the end zone and throws a flag and says face-masking. The referees were gonna have a tie no matter what happened. They were definitely playing for the tie and that's too bad.
It's encouraging in that I think we played with some good athletes, even though I don't think they're a very well coached team. I don't know what that's saying because they tied us but they weren't too well coached.
We lost our center last night, Mark Osborne. Mark just can't go on it (knee). He's probably gonna have it operated on. He's a great kid, really hard working. He's out there all summer running. He's 6-2 or 6-3, about 235 and . . . I don't know what to tell him. He's worked really hard for this, the kind of kid who gets excited. And he can't play anymore. His place was taken by Chris Olson, a junior, who's about 5-8, 160. Chris did a great job. He was blocking a guy about 250 or 260 and did a great job, really got after him.
Monday, Sept. 24--Looking at Serra. The Cavaliers are coached by Dale Washburn. I keep reminding him every time I see him . . . when I was probably 15 or 16 years old in high school, the first game I ever did (broadcast) was the coaches of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and the priests against the CIF football coaches at Pius X High School. I think I made 50 bucks on it which at the time was amazing. And Dale Washburn was the big star for the CIF coaches. So we go back a little bit.
We play Friday night at St. Bernard. I told the team that it's a big game, it's a championship game in that we've seen (Serra) play and they are go-o-o-d. If they're not the favorites to win the league then they're right there along with Verbum Dei and, hopefully, if we can win Friday night, we'll prove ourselves as a viable choice for league champs.
Saturday, Sept. 29--The Vikings are atop the Camino Real, 1-0. We defeated Serra last night, 24-6. We played better than I thought we would play. We almost played as well as I think we can play. We had things go our way. Steve Brown, Lamar Young, Lou Chude-Sokei just ran all over the guys. We had to. Neal Gervais hasn't been well all week. He's really been sore from the punishment that was dished to him the first three games. He didn't get touched last night except on kicking extra points and field goals. He had a field goal last night and a touchdown. Lou Chude-Sokei had a touchdown.
Lamar Young and Chude-Sokei were just maniacs cut loose with the ball. Along with Steve Brown, when you consider those three guys didn't carry ball more than a handful of times if at all last year. And Lamar Young or Chude-Sokei could easily be--if they were somewhere that needed a running back real bad--1,000-yard rushers. Steve Brown gets the nod because I think he's faster, I think he's got a little better qualities as a running back right now.
Lamar Young is a great blocker. He's got more moves than any of the other guys and he's bigger. He's probably about 6-1, about 185 pounds. Lou Chude-Sokei is 5-10, 5-11, maybe 205, bench presses the world. Got pretty good hands. He's our Larry Csonka. Lamar Young's our Jim Kiick and Steve Brown's our Mercury Morris. So am I Don Shula? . . . No.
Would I like Don Shula's money? Yes.
We just played a great game. And I'm real happy. The killer was we held 'em in check for the whole game. Early part of the fourth quarter they run a trap, we miss the tackle and the guy goes 60, 70 yards and that's their big offensive output for the night. On the ensuing kickoff Steve Brown goes 99.9 yards. Downtown Brown. The referee came over to me afterwards. He held his thumb and index finger about an inch apart and said (Brown) was that close to touching the goal line. In high school ball if you step on the goal line it's a touchback. It's funny how your life hinges on the exploits of an 18-year-old running back kicking for you. Way to go Steve.
Wednesday, Oct. 3--It's Mariner Week here. We play St. Monica, which won its first game over Cantwell, 25-14. They hit pretty well. St. Monica is a team I've never particularly cared for, mainly for the coaches they've had there. Some of these guys, I don't know, they're always yelling and screaming and doing all kinds of wild stuff. Just amazing sometimes. If you aren't into it for the kids and for the fun of it, then something's wrong. Because if you're into it for the money you ought to be committed.
They've got a new coach this year, Dan Escalera. He's from Loyola. I hope he can get things turned around. I hope he doesn't turn 'em around on us.
We are a little sluggish this week, living off our Serra game. Neal's still hobbling around, but not nearly as much as before. We're gonna try to throw the ball.
Saturday, Oct. 6--Guess who choked. . . . We lost to the Mariners (13-12). I can't believe it. They didn't beat us, we lost. We played terrible. We fumbled the ball on the three or four. It really comes down to coaching. We didn't coach very well. We certainly didn't game-coach very well.
It's poor coaching, also, that we just couldn't get the kids up for the game, for the opponent. It damages a lot of the work that was done in the Serra victory. I really thought we had a good chance at being the league champs and just winning them all. I certainly thought that it wouldn't be easy, but it's something that could be accomplished and it won't be now. We're gonna have to rely on other people to lose and for us to win the rest of our games, which is no sure thing. We really played flat.
It happens every time. We're getting downfield and most of the plays are called from upstairs, from Duke (Dulgarian), the offensive coordinator, and we're driving, a real critical time late in the game and the phones go out. There's a big communication problem there. I ended up calling another play, probably a play that shouldn't have been there; I really wasn't into the flow of calling plays at the time. I mainly stay with the defense. I'll call something if I think something's there or I want to see something, but mostly the offense is geared from upstairs . . . and the phones go out.
They really did it to us. Their fans were a lot better than our fans. Their band played a lot better than our band. And worst thing of all, we got a lot of kids banged up. I don't think anybody's seriously hurt. Lou Chude-Sokei's knee is questionable, we don't know what's wrong with it. Louis Calderon went down, Gervais is still limping around. We're getting to be a collection of nuts and bolts.
So we're 1-1 in the Camino Real and we play in one of my favorite places (heh heh), Roosevelt High School, next week. We play Salesian. Two years ago we went there, my first year of being a head coach, and I lost my mind over there. I just went berserk. Really bad officiating, just bad all the way around. They almost came back and beat us, 20-18. (Coaches) Sid Stark and Tony deTomas over there, good guys, they'd love nothing more than to beat us. They're in good shape. They demolished Mary Star a couple weeks ago. We need a great week of practicing and we need to get healthy real soon.
Sunday, Oct. 14--The gutty little Vikings defeated the Mustangs of Salesian last night, 22-15. I think we might have turned the corner there. We're now 2-1 in league and 3-2-1 overall. Believe me, it wasn't easy.
We came out and we're behind 7-0 at half time. We rented this tower and I'm up in the tower. Another great night of officiating . . . another nightmare out in East Los Angeles. I can't believe 'em. We throw for a touchdown early in the second half and they call it back because of roughing the passer. He said he blew the whistle, so they call the play back. It's amazing. He said he was sorry later on but that doesn't do us a whole lot of good. It's seven points.
I was up in the tower at the start of the game and I just had to get out of there. No. 1, I thought we were gonna fall. And No. 2, I just started screaming at the official. It's a lot worse when you're up in the tower. It's a King Kong remake when you start barking at somebody like that, so I came down to ground level and fired off a few from there.
I haven't yelled at 'em (team) the whole year and I yelled at 'em at half time. I used a lot of not-so-flowery language. One day I'll live to regret it. One thing, though, everything I said I meant. I think our season was at the crossroads. If we lost that game we're 1-2 in league and that's just good night on any thought of winning a league title, and a very distinct possibility of not making the playoffs. You can keep putting things off week after week but you've gotta do 'em once in a while, you've gotta come through and last night we did.
'The Big Run'
The second half, like I said, we got the ball and scored and they called it back. Later Steve Brown scored a touchdown on a sweep, about five yards or so and that made it seven-all. Then we made the big run when we needed one, Brown goes 89 yards and scores. Later on we connect, Neal Gervais--he had a good night, about 8 of 14, 140 or 150 yards--Neal audibilizes down by the goal line and throws a touchdown to Nettles, about 20 yards. He is so smart, Gervais. Put a little more confidence in himself and he'd be a great quarterback. He's got a good arm, he moves well, he's not the fastest guy in the world but he moves well and he's thinking all the time.
It (victory) helps a lot. I think we're on our way. In my mind we've gotten by the real difficult part of the schedule until the final two games. Now we did this last year, where we won our first eight games and lost the last two. So I think it's important to work on a couple things, mend some injuries we have. We can't take anybody for granted, especially after last week. I'm real happy. We're--with the exception of our little slip up last week--where we want to be.
Next week: Playoffs and a career decision.