Mike Muhlethaler was only 8 when his father, Gordon, held a drug-store football to the ground and told him to run up and kick it.
Today, Mike, at 17 and one of Southern California’s premier high school players, can’t recall how many kicks in later father-and-son sessions it took him to get the ball up and sailing high.
“But that’s how I remember starting in football,” said the Crescenta Valley High School all-purpose player after being acclaimed Times back of the year for the Glendale area.
Honored with him Sunday before an Anaheim Hilton audience of 700 at the Times 28th annual High School Footbal Awards Brunch was lineman of the year Mauricio Pavon of Pater Noster High in Glassell Park.
Glendale-area coach of the year honors went to Armando Gonzalez and Robin Cardona, who masterminded Franklin High School of Highland Park to the Los Angeles City 3-A Division championship.
Rose Bowl-bound coach John Cooper of Arizona State, guest speaker, told the athletes to set their goals high and strive to be “the very best you can be--in the classroom as well as on the field while in school and athletics.”
Cooper presented golden-helmet plaques to 230 players selected to all-star teams in 10 Times circulation section areas in Southern California.
Silver trophies were awarded players and coaches of the year.
Accepting his award, Gonzalez said Franklin’s success “was based on a harmony among coaches and players to work together.”
Gonzalez and Cardona played football at Franklin before taking up coaching. Gonzalez was head coach and Cardona assistant coach when Franklin captured the city 2-A title in 1983. When Gonzalez returned at the start of this season after a two-year school leave, he and Cardona joined as co-head coaches.
“We had good athletes at key positions and a steady defense,” Cardona said, adding, “and also top assistant coaches (Fernando Trevino and Art Noriega).”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Muhlethaler “was a 60-minute player with skills to play almost every position without tiring,” according to his coach, Jim Beckenhauer.
This season, Muhlethaler played at safety, wide receiver, tight end, punter, kicker, punt returner and kickoff returner. In special situations during his three-year high school playing career, he also was called upon at times to play linebacker, tailback, slotback and even quarterback.
Muhlethaler, an A student considering football scholarship offers from USC, Stanford, Nebraska and others, credits John Nelson, Crescenta Valley conditioning coach, for keeping him physically strong.
“During the off season, for example, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he’d have us skipping rope and lifting four hours a day in the weight room,” Muhlethaler said. “On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, we’d be running up and down a steep 90-yard high slope in the Verdugo Mountains. By the time football season arrived, we were physically ready.”
Muhlethaler averaged 33.1 yards on 53 punts this season. His kickoffs reached the end zone. He took 4 of 15 pass receptions in for touchdowns. He intercepted five passes and blocked a field goal to save a defeat as a defensive back. An 87-yard punt return by him beat Burbank.
He totaled 12 field goals for his prep career, the longest traveling 48 yards.
Pavon led all receivers on more than 400 Southern Section high school teams for the regular season with 79 pass receptions.
Lack of size at 5 feet 8 did not prevent Pavon from making “unbelievable catches,” according to Dave Luckner, his coach at Pater Noster.
Pavon was 7 when he started football by playing catch with his brother, Jose.
“The catch I remember most was in my sophomore season,” Pavon said. “The guys had been saying I was too small to play receiver. This particular play two defenders were all over me. But I went for the ball, concentrating hard on it, and made the catch. After that, I got my confidence to play receiver.”
Pavon had high praise of Pater Noster quarterback Edgar Espinosa, who threw all those passes his way during the 1986 season.