THE YEAR IN REVIEW : 1985-86 : The Year’s Biggest Story Took Place in Court, Not on the Court, and That Was Not Good News; but High School Fans Still Had Plenty to Cheer About
Although the biggest story of the year in Orange County high school sports, the culmination of Ocean View High School’s drawn-out court proceeding, had no winners in the estimation of Southern Section Commissioner Ray Plutko, there were plenty of winners in the other top stories of the 1985-86 school year.
Mater Dei’s basketball team, an established winner, had its 59-game winning streak snapped by Crenshaw in the Southern California Region’s title game; Ray Pallares of Valencia High School became the most prolific runner in the state, finishing his career with a total of 5,398 yards rushing; the Santa Ana Unified School District had two winners in football; four widely respected winning coaches resigned; Long Beach Poly needed a dramatic, last-minute rally to tie Edison and win a share of the football title; the fourth time was the charm for the Brea-Olinda girls, who won their first 3-A Division basketball title; Servite was the eventual winner over St. Paul in a wildly exciting 35-33 contest that included 634 yards in passing offense, and Valencia’s Andy Ruscitto broke the Southern Section record for home runs in the final game of his prep career.
Here are the wrap-ups of the season’s top stories, in order.
Court Rules Against Ocean View Basketball 1. The fate of Ocean View High School’s basketball team, banned from the 1986 playoffs and placed on probation by the Southern Section’s Executive Committee, ultimately was decided by a judge.
The two-year ordeal of Seahawk Coach Jim Harris and his program came to a conclusion in Orange County Superior Court when Judge Harmon Scoville denied a petition to overturn sanctions imposed by the Executive Committee.
For the second straight year, Ocean View High School’s basketball program made the biggest headlines in the 1985-86 prep season.
Ocean View was thrust back into the headlines in August when it was announced that the Executive Committee had imposed additional sanctions on the Seahawks’ basketball program, including the exclusion of Ocean View from the 1985-86 playoffs.
The penalties came only five months after Ocean View Principal John Myers had announced that the school had forfeited 24 victories and its Sunset League title from the 1984-85 season. Myers based his action on a district investigation that found Harris had used “undue influence” to retain Lynwood transfers Ricky Butler and Desi Hazely at the Huntington Beach school.
Harris repeatedly claimed that he was denied due process and that he had signed an admission of guilt for using undue influence under duress. The eight-year coach appealed to the Southern Section in October and the the State CIF in November but, in both cases, he was denied.
Finally, Harris had his day in court. A petition, filed by Harris, the school’s basketball booster group and 12 members of the team, asked the court to reinstate an Ocean View team that was 20-4 and Sunset League champion.
On Feb. 13, Scoville’s ruling shot down every argument that Harris and his lawyers had raised in the case.
Later, Harris said he wasn’t surprised at the verdict.
“I’m not shocked or surprised,” he said. “I’ve become so unemotional for so long that I was prepared to hear that answer.”
Said Ray Plutko, Southern Section commissioner: “Anytime you take interscholastic athletics to the courtroom, there are no winners.”
Mater Dei’s 59-Game Winning Streak Ends 2. The Southern California Regional title game between Mater Dei and Crenshaw was billed as “the game of the century” by Monarch Coach Gary McKnight. In the end, the heralded matchup seemed to last a century.
It took nearly 2 1/2 hours, 53 personal fouls, four technical fouls and several procedural delays by the game officials before Crenshaw finally defeated Mater Dei, 59-57, in overtime in the Sports Arena.
The loss snapped Mater Dei’s 59-game winning streak over two seasons. Crenshaw advanced to win the State title. Mater Dei had to be content with the second-longest streak in Southern Section history, surpassed only by Compton’s 66-game winning streak in 1968-70.
But while the end of the streak was noteworthy, the game also will be remembered for some of its bizarre circumstances.
For instance, McKnight was informed at halftime that the ball used in the first half was actually a girls’ basketball--two ounces lighter and an inch smaller in circumference than a boys’ ball.
Both teams shot poorly with the small ball, but there were some spectacular dunks.
McKnight fared no better than his team. The fiery coach was at odds with referee Simon Peters throughout most of the first half and was ejected in the second half after receiving his third technical foul.
Little Fanfare, Lots of Records for Pallares 3. Fans threw confetti and released blue, yellow and white balloons in Bradford Stadium Oct. 17 to celebrate Valencia High running back Ray Pallares’ surpassing former Santa Ana Valley star Myron White as Orange County’s most prolific rusher.
Pallares went on to break the Southern Section and State marks and finished a brilliant, three-year career with 5,398 yards rushing.
On the night he broke White’s mark, referee Jim Patterson gave him the game ball, and in typical Pallares fashion, he hurled it to an assistant coach on the sideline and went back to the huddle.
Throughout his career, Pallares wanted as little fanfare as possible. He was never flashy, but conducted his business in a blue-collar manner. Durability was the name of his game. Pallares’ record-breaking run was a three-yard burst off tackle.
In the buildup for the record, Valencia boosters hawked “Run Baby Ray” buttons and T-shirts and hand towels with the inscription: “Orange County’s All-Time Rushing Leader: Pallares.”
When it was over, Pallares shunned the limelight, saying, “Inside, I’m kind of happy, but outside I can’t show it too much, because my (offensive) line is so responsible for it. Hopefully, in a couple of years, I’ll look back at it and be happier than I am now.”
Football Titles for Santa Ana, Saddleback 4. The Santa Ana Unified School District had two conference champions as Santa Ana High won the Southern Conference and Saddleback won the Central Conference. It was the first championship for Santa Ana since 1945 and the first title in school history for Saddleback.
Santa Ana’s season was a tale of improvement and the emergence of running back Robert E. Lee as a force in the playoffs. The Saints finished third in the Century League but upset two-time defending conference champion, El Modena, 14-13, in the semifinals to move into the title game.
Lee, a sophomore who missed the Saints’ first four games, saved his best game of the season for last. He gained 231 yards in 25 carries and had runs of 25, 32 and 43 yards in a 33-21 victory over Mission Viejo.
Defensive back Paul Hurley had a key interception in the game, his fifth in the playoffs and 12th for the season.
Saddleback’s Antwon Lark returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a touchdown with only 1:37 left to give the Roadrunners a 34-28 victory over La Quinta for the Central Conference title.
Saddleback trailed, 21-7, at halftime but tied the score in the fourth quarter. The Roadrunners completed the rally after Hector Santa Cruz tipped La Quinta punter Derek Debbs’ punt that Lark grabbed and returned for a score.
Esperanza Wins Baseball Title in Dodger Stadium 5. Shortstop Tom Redington’s two-run homer into the left-field pavilion in the first inning set the pace for Esperanza’s 9-3 victory over Fontana, earning the Aztecs the Southern Section’s 4-A division baseball title.
After Redington’s smash landed about 10 rows up from the 360-foot sign, the Aztecs continued to pound Fontana pitchers for 12 hits in the one-sided game. It was the Aztecs’ first baseball title.
Redington shared the heroics with leadoff batter Kevin Clancy. Clancy went 3 for 4 with three runs scored and four stolen bases. Later, Clancy admitted he had some extra batting practice before the big game.
“Me and Greg Moralez were at a batting cage until four in the morning last night,” Clancy said. “I won’t say the name of the place because we weren’t supposed to be there, but it paid off tonight.”
So did Esperanza’s victory. USA Today has picked the Aztecs as the No. 1 team in the nation in its final prep poll.
“It’s the culmination of a great year,” said Mike Curran, Esperanza coach. “We know it’s mythical, but boy, what a fantastic award for the kids, the community, the coaches and everyone involved.”
A Season Filled With Coaching Changes 6. Four of the county’s most respected football coaches--Bob Lester of El Modena, Bill Workman of Edison, Mike Giddings of Newport Harbor and Dave Thompson of Marina--resigned during the course of school year.
Together, they combined for 358 victories, six Southern Section titles and logged a combined total of 45 years in the county. Only Workman will remain in coaching.
Workman resigned at Edison in March to accept a similar position at Orange Coast College. He was 109-33-5 and won or shared three Southern Section titles in 12 seasons at Edison.
Lester closed a colorful 20-year career as El Modena’s only football coach, winning 157 games and experiencing only two losing seasons. He also won three Southern Section titles, but will be best remembered for losing two championship games in overtime.
About 800 former players and boosters honored Lester last month and presented him with a retirement check for $5,000.
Giddings, who runs a scouting service for nine professional football teams, resigned in December because of business commitments. He was a walk-on coach at Newport Harbor where was 34-12-3 in five seasons.
Giddings once was an assistant to John McKay at USC and also was head coach at the University of Utah. He was an assistant coach with Denver and San Francisco in the NFL and head coach of the Hawaii Hawaiians of the old World Football League.
In a bizarre scenario, Thompson submitted a letter of resignation to Marina High Principal Ira Toibin on May 2, retracted his resignation on May 15, and then resigned again on May 27 as the Vikings’ football coach.
Thompson cited disappointment over a lack of administrative support of the football program and the inability to maintain teaching positions for his assistant coaches. He apparently had resolved the problems with Toibin two weeks later, but then reversed his view again.
“I just couldn’t get motivated,” Thompson said. “My heart wasn’t in it.”
Edison, Long Beach Poly Tie for Football Title 7. Edison High’s defense dominated play with seven sacks and two interceptions, and the Chargers held a 14-0 lead with 4:37 left in Anaheim Stadium when the game took a dramatic turn.
Charger quarterback Mike Angelovic threw a pass directly into the hands of Poly defensive end Stacey Elliot at Angelovic’s 14-yard line that led to the Jackrabbits’ first touchdown.
The rally was completed when Edison failed to execute a first-down play on fourth-and-one at Poly’s 43-yard line, giving Jackrabbit quarterback Mike Herring just enough time to lead his team to another score.
With 1:51 remaining, Herring threw three consecutive passes to move his team to Edison’s 20-yard line. He then connected with Andre Hill on a 20-yard touchdown play with 59 seconds remaining.
Jerry Jaso and Thomas Whiting, Poly’s co-coaches, never hesitated on the conversion attempt, electing to go for the one-point kick. The successful PAT gave the co-coaches a co-championship.
Afterward, Edison wide receiver Rick Justice looked as if he were ready to cry as he walked off the field.
“We worked so hard and then come up with a tie,” Justice said. “It seemed like we dominated for three quarters and then let up. I felt like we should have won, and we didn’t.”
Neither did Southern Section officials, who rely heavily on football playoff gate receipts for revenue. The championship game drew a disappointing crowd of 9,131.
Brea-Olinda Girls Finally Win Title 8. For three straight years, Mark Trakh, Brea-Olinda’s girls’ basketball coach, had led teams to the Southern Section finals, and for three straight years, the Wildcats had lost. This time, they would not be denied.
Trakh devised a clever 1-3-1 zone defense that neutralized Foothill center Chris McFerson as the Wildcats gained a 54-50 victory for the 3-A division title. Brea had finally won the big one.
Trakh had said his team’s incentive all season had been to get back to the final game and beat Foothill. The Knights had embarrassed Brea, 63-34, only a year earlier with McFerson scoring 28 points.
“If Brea loses the game, they better keep all sharp objects away from him (Trakh),” someone said at courtside. Fortunately, the fourth time was a winner.
Servite Edges St. Paul in Game of the Year 9. Servite quarterback Tim Rosenkranz led a fourth-quarter rally in which the Friars scored three touchdowns in the final 3:44 to gain a wild 35-33 victory over St. Paul in front of 8,000 in Santa Ana Stadium.
Rosenkranz threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as Servite rallied for the improbable win. The game was acclaimed as “The Game of the Year” in the state by Cal-Hi Sports in its final football publication.
The winning touchdown came with only 33 seconds remaining as Rosenkranz lofted a long pass into St. Paul’s end zone that appeared to be well out of the reach of Friar wide receiver Jeff Fieldhouse.
Fieldhouse managed to elude two defenders to make a finger-tip catch for a 36-yard scoring play and a two-point margin of victory.
Rosenkranz and John Scott of St. Paul combined to pass for 634 yards and four touchdowns in an aerial show. Scott passed for 277 yards, and Rosenkranz broke Steve Beuerlein’s single-game school record of 345 passing with 357 yards.
A Record Finale for Ruscitto 10. Valencia’s Andy Ruscitto hit an inside curveball over the right-field fence in his final game as a prep player to break Jay Reid’s Southern Section career home run mark.
Ruscitto’s homer came in the third inning of the Tigers’ playoff game against Edgewood and gave him 22 homers during his three-year career. He had tied Reid at 21 with a homer in the Tigers’ final Orange League game against Anaheim.
The record-breaker, a 320-foot homer, was a chip shot compared to some of Ruscitto’s during his career. As a junior, he hit a homer against Anaheim that went over the flag pole in center field at Valencia and landed 475 feet away on Madison Avenue.
As a freshman, he hit a ball out of Western’s ballpark that sailed onto the Pioneer’s football field. He matched the blast with a homer at Edison’s junior varsity field that carried halfway to the varsity field. Both homers measured more than 500 feet according to Tiger coaches.