While Canyon got all the attention over the past couple of years with its long winning streak, tiny Faith Baptist went about the business of punishing its eight-man opponents in virtual anonymity.
Some teams were determined to knock off the Contenders. But they were just pretenders. Others just went at them expecting to lose and did. Some just refused to show for the game, figuring that a forfeit was better than serious injury to body and pride.
Faith Baptist carried a 23-game winning streak into the Southern Section Eight-Man Large Division championship game last December in Templeton. Number 24 was expected to cap the season. The Contenders had beaten Templeton, 52-0, a few weeks earlier.
Number 24 never came. On a cold, damp night in Templeton, the Eagles upset the defending conference champions, 26-7.
Gone were not only the streak and championship, but also most of the players who built a Delphic League dynasty.
After the season, five Faith Baptist players collected their All-Southern Section certificates along with their diplomas. Another player, running back Kevin Burton, who scored 28 touchdowns in seven games, was removed from the team for disciplinary reasons late in the season.
This season, Coach Harry Morgan is left with a young, inexperienced team and the task of starting over.
Only three seniors, running backs Randy Lutz and Todd Stadig and wide receiver Sean Ynez, will start for the Contenders.
Although his team will begin the season ranked No. 3 in the division, Morgan isn’t thinking about putting together a streak comparable to the one just ended.
“If we don’t lose three games this season, I’ll be very happy and surprised,” he said.
Other Delphic League coaches aren’t buying Morgan’s predictions.
“I’d call them the favorite to win the league again,” Buckley Coach Chris Schultz said. “Harry has done an outstanding job over there and built a hell of a program. It’s one that every other eight-man program is striving to have.”
Said Brentwood Coach Pat Brown: “They’re definitely still the favorite. One of our goals going into the season is to beat them. We’ve been talking about it for a while.”
A Delphic League team beating the Contenders this season is possible, but unlikely. Faith Baptist has won three straight and four of the last five league championships.
While its dominance over the division has taken a detour, Faith Baptist should still continue to roll through league play. Morgan will not admit that in so many words, but he isn’t exactly planning an early winter vacation, either.
“We are not a great team by any means,” he said. “We could get to the finals, but I think the semifinals would be a little more realistic.”
While Faith Baptist is looking toward the playoffs, Schultz is only looking to rebuild a Buckley program he inherited last season, which included two seniors and no junior varsity program.
He added a junior varsity team last year and has had to adapt his coaching philosophy to the eight-man game. Prior to coming to Buckley, he was an assistant coach at St. Genevieve.
Only one player on the 14-man roster, senior Jack Eskanazi, has more than one season’s experience in organized football and Schultz will start six sophomores.
Masada, a Lawndale reform school of 102 boys, defeated Buckley last season for its only victory.