Having been to Hawaii in 1981 and experienced the problems associated with taking a football team there, Dave Thompson, Marina High School coach, figures this year’s trip to Oahu to play St. Louis High next Friday night will go a lot smoother.
Unlike Thompson’s first venture, he has a comprehensive itinerary this time with social activities planned for every evening. He made the mistake of giving his players a little too much free time during the 1981 trip.
“You don’t dare turn your kids loose at night,” Thompson said. “Don’t give them an opportunity to screw up and they won’t. No one was grossly out of line the last time, but it was enough to scare you.”
This year’s Viking contingent--58 players, 12 coaches, 25 pep-squad members and stat girls and about 40 parents--will have plenty to do after it departs for Hawaii Sunday. The week is loaded with activities, such as a luau, a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, a concert, a moon-light cruise and a snorkeling session at Hunauma Bay.
But, at least for the Marina players and coaches, their vacation will end with Friday night’s date with the St. Louis High football team.
The Crusaders are the defending state champions of Hawaii and have won the past two Private School League titles. The eight-team league, comprised of teams from Oahu, is considered the state’s best. St. Louis has 10 returning starters from last year’s 9-3 team and is ranked No. 1 in the state’s preseason polls.
That doesn’t faze Thompson, though.
“We come back and play (Orange County powers) Esperanza, Servite and Foothill, so what’s the difference,” he said. “At least we get to do this in Hawaii.”
Marina is one of two county high school teams that will be starting its season a week early. Tustin will host Kapaa High of Kauai next Saturday night on Northrup Field.
The game is the first of a home-and-home series.
Tustin’s task appears a little more manageable than Marina’s. Kapaa is a small team, loaded with underclassmen, and has been picked to finish third in its three-team league.
The Tillers, quite inexperienced themselves with just six returning starters, will be gracious hosts the week prior to the game.
Tustin Coach Marijon Ancich has helped coordinate a host of activities for his visitors, including tours of Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and the San Diego Zoo. There will be a barbecue one day and a dance after the game.
Ancich also thought he’d try to impress his guests with one of those old-fashioned, Southern California-style luaus, but that idea was scratched this week in favor of a pizza party, scheduled for Wednesday night.
“Their kids want to have a pizza feast because a luau is like a hamburger and steak to us,” Ancich said.
Next year, Ancich will have to put up with the headaches that Thompson has suffered through this summer, most notably, raising the funds required for a trip to Hawaii.
The Vikings had team fund-raisers, such as lift-a-thons, candy sales and raffles, while some players held garage sales and did yardwork to raise the $700 each player needed to make the journey.
“It’s a hassle, but it’s worth it because it’s a lot of fun,” Thompson said. “The best part about it is that we practice together three hours a day, but we live together for 24. It has a very unifying effect on a team.”
After Marina defeated Hawaii’s Castle High School, 28-0, in 1981, the Vikings went on to an 11-2 season and advanced to the Southern Section Big Five Conference semifinals. Marina (8-5 last year) has reached the semifinals in three of the past four seasons.
Thompson has helped raise the Vikings to a level of prominence among Orange County programs in the past four years, while Ancich brought the Tillers up to a level of respectability last year, his first as Tustin’s coach.
Tustin, which hasn’t won a league championship in 30 years and was 1-9 the year before Ancich got there, won its first four games and finished with a 6-4 record. The Tillers appear to be making further advances, as both the sophomore and freshmen teams had 8-2 records in 1984.
“The thing we’ve really beaten down is the losing image,” Ancich said. “That has been our goal, to get some support and backing and to get everyone involved in the program. We have about 30 more guys out for the varsity team, and the freshmen and sophomore teams have increased in numbers.
“We definitely have some consistency throughout the entire program. We just have to carry it on to the varsity level. There is potential here, I just don’t know when it will all come about.”