Fritz and the Big Boys : Anaheim Running Back Is Happy to Have Bulk on His Side in All-Star Football Game

Times Staff Writer

Mike Fritz of Anaheim High School looks at the linemen for the North team that will play in the 27th Orange County All-Star football game on July 11 in LeBard Stadium and smiles. .

He watches as El Modena’s 259-pound tackle, Don Gibson, or Valencia’s 235-pound guard, Joe Garten, practices at Pacifica High and imagines what it must be like to have blue-chip players blocking for him.

Last fall, Fritz was running back and cornerback for an Anaheim team that suited up only 23 players. Fritz’ blockers averaged 170 pounds. Often, running with the football was more of an adventure than a play. The lack of size on the line was one reason the Colonists struggled to a 3-7-1 record.

“It seemed like every time we played a good team, I would get a handoff and the defense would be right there,” he said. “I really felt sorry for our quarterback (Ernest Johnston). He got killed.


“I had a headache after the Valencia game. That was my last football game, and I was ready to go home and start training for track.”

At least Fritz thought it was his last football game.

North Coach Bill Craven of Pacifica was impressed with Fritz’s performance in the State track meet, where he finished seventh in the 400 meters. When El Dorado tight end Barry Curtis decided to go on vacation and skip the game, Craven selected Fritz to replace Curtis.

“We didn’t time the players, but I’m sure Mike is the fastest player on the team,” Craven said. “He will return kickoffs for us and play some defensive back.”


Fritz exceled as a defensive back for two seasons for the Colonists. He intercepted five passes as junior, including three in one game against Savanna. He had three more interceptions this season.

“I love playing defense,” Fritz said. “My junior year, I played with (all-county selection) Phil Garabedian in the secondary and no one would throw to his side of the field. Everything came my way, and I got five interceptions.

“This year, I hardly ever came off the field, and I think that hurt my defensive play. I intercepted a pass against Valencia in my own end zone, and I thought I was going to go all the way.

“I got to the 20-yard line and ran out of gas. Some guy tackled me at the 20. It would have been a 102-yard return, but I was dead tired, and somebody caught me from behind.”


Fritz didn’t lose many races during the track season. He finished second in the 400 meters and sixth in the 200 meters at the Southern Section’s 2-A division championship.

Fritz’s best time in the 400 meters was 48.2, but he said he ran a 47.5 leg on the Colonists’ 1600-meter relay team in the Orange League championships.

“That was the best race I’ve ever run,” he said. “I was the anchor, and we were down by 25 yards to Valencia. I ran as fast as I could to win that race.”

Fritz plans to compete for Rancho Santiago College’s track team next season. He said the all-star game will be his final football game.


“I just bought a new truck, so I have to work,” he said. “I wish I could play football, but I just don’t have the time. The great thing about track is that I can fit my workouts around my school and work schedule.”

Fritz’ summer schedule has been hectic. He begins work at an Anaheim machine shop at 5 a.m. and gets off at 3 p.m. so he can attend a two-hour football practice at 5. He will begin training for track following the football game.

“I’ll put my headphones on, go out and have some fun,” Fritz said. “I love to run long distances. I’m thinking about going out for cross-country at Rancho Santiago just to see what I could do.

“Most sprinters hate to run long distances, but I love it. Running seems to come naturally to me. I remember winning the 440-yard dash in the eighth grade at my junior high, and I never practiced that year.”


Regardless of how Fritz performs in the all-star game, he’s just happy to have the big guys on his side for a change.

“It’s really nice to be playing with guys like (Valencia’s) Ray Pallares, Joe Garten and Xavier Hicks instead of against them,” he said.