Cold numbers such as 2,354, 46 and 3,197 marked the hottest achievements of high school football in 1986. But faces, not figures, offered the shades and hues that colored the season's highlights.
Crespi's championship season, for example, had the unmistakable brilliance of White--sophomore running back Russell White, who stepped into a varsity uniform and promptly stepped off 2,354 yards.
His favorite term is "chillin' " as in "I like to be chillin' in the end zone." And the end zone was his favorite place: White scored 31 touchdowns.
His laid-back attitude enabled him to take the success in stride. Said White: "If someone had told me that all this would be happening right now, I'd have said, 'Nah, you're joshin.' "
He made a mockery of the usual measuring stick of a running back, averaging 12.0 yards per carry. And playoff pressure didn't bother the 15-year-old. In the Southern Section Big Five Conference final, White rushed for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns in Crespi's 49-14 win over St. John Bosco.
Crespi had excellent talent at many positions, but when Coach Bill Redell needed a big play, White got the ball.
"There isn't a lot of coaching involved," Redell said of White. "He has great peripheral vision and he knows how to run. He reminds me of an O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett and Marcus Allen-type player."
Crespi also whitewashed the opposition at The Times awards brunch. White was named Valley Back of the Year, senior linebacker/tackle Sean Howard was named Lineman of the Year and Redell was named Coach of the Year.
Harry Welch had won the previous three Coach of the Year awards by leading Canyon to conference titles. And although this was the year all of Welch's streaks snapped, the most remarkable one didn't die easily. By the fourth week, Canyon's streak of 42 straight wins was the longest in the nation.
The streak grew to 46--equaling the Southern Section record--before Antelope Valley edged Canyon, 21-20, on a disdainfully cold November night in Lancaster. The Cowboys battled mightily, cutting a 21-0 fourth-quarter deficit to 21-20 by scoring three touchdowns in the last four minutes.
Welch called for an option play on a two-point conversion try with 16 seconds left, but quarterback Ken Sollom--who was the Coastal Conference Player of the Year--was tackled on the one-yard line. A 7-Eleven clerk in Canyon Country echoed the voices of many Canyon fans the next day as Welch came in for coffee.
"It was a great streak, a fabulous comeback and we love you, Harry," the clerk said. "But why did you run an option play on the two-point conversion?"
Canyon's streak of three straight conference titles also ended. Muir beat the Cowboys, 22-14, in the semifinal round of the playoffs.
Sollom, nevertheless, had an exceptional season, completing 61.6% of his passes for 2,884 yards and 29 touchdowns. But he wasn't the most effective quarterback in the Valley. That distinction went to Jim Bonds, who led Hart to the Northwestern Conference title by completing 62.4% of his passes for 3,197 yards and 39 touchdowns. The yardage is the second-highest total in Southern Section history.
Perhaps the finest game of the season, oddly, was played the first week when Canyon outscored Hart, 42-32, before a crowd of 8,000 at College of the Canyons, beating its Santa Clarita Valley rival for the fourth straight year. Sollom, who will attend Michigan, passed for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Bonds, who will attend UCLA, had 318 yards and four touchdowns.
Under Coach Rick Scott, Hart and its high-powered offense defeated Temple City, 40-27, for the title one day after Reseda and Coach Joel Schaeffer became the only City Section champion from the Valley by spanking University, 37-0, for the 2-A title.
Hart (13-1) outscored four playoff opponents, 151-46, and scored 504 points. Reseda's win in the final was its fifth by shutout, and the Regents (10-2) outscored their opponents, 272-80.
Although White's exploits overshadowed those of any other ballcarrier, several Valley backs had noteworthy performances. In two games in October, Harvard's Andy Bell had 266 yards and 232 yards. Cleveland's Albert Fann rushed for 243 yards against Chatsworth and Granada Hills' Khalid Ali had 217 yards against Westlake.
Exceptional passing, however, characterized the season perhaps more than any facet of the game. Other fine quarterbacks included Burroughs junior Jeff Barrett, Royal's Shaun Christensen, Newbury Park's Jayson Merrill, Alemany's Nick Napolitan, Poly's Joey Speakes, Granada Hills' Jeremy Leach and Saugus' Jared Snyder. In all, 22 Valley quarterbacks passed for more than 1,000 yards.
Those totals made the outstanding defensive statistics of Kennedy even more impressive. In nine regular-season games, the Cougars--led by defensive backs Dion Lambert and Stacy Ramsey and linemen Ron Simmons and Andre Murray--allowed only 296 yards rushing and 434 yards passing. The team's nickname was the Golden Cougars, but according to Coach Bob Francola the defense was a pack of junkyard dogs.
"There's a lot of barking going on in the huddle," Francola said.
Besides Crespi, Hart, Reseda and Canyon, Thousand Oaks, Burroughs and Harvard won at least 10 games. Harvard and Calabasas advanced to the Desert-Mountain Conference semifinals before losing.
Despite being drubbed by Carson in the first round of the City Section 4-A playoffs, Granada Hills (9-1-1) had a landmark season, becoming the first Highlander team to go undefeated during the regular season.
Still, the season's lingering memory is Russell White taking a handoff, bursting around end, deftly cutting back to avoid a defender and outrunning pursuers to the end zone.
Saugus won its second straight Southern Section 3-A title at Mt. San Antonio College behind the relentless running of Daren and Kirk Stonerock and the Simi Valley boys team won the 5-A championship for the second year in a row.
Newbury Park's Melissa Sutton was the top individual runner from the Valley. A junior, Sutton won her second consecutive 4-A title by running 17:32.
Thousand Oaks won the Southern Section 2-A championship behind the play of Julie Chellevold, Shireen Campbell and Jamie Heggen, who would later lead the Lancers to the Southern Section 4-A softball final.
Calabasas made it to the 3-A final before losing to Nordhoff, a team that later beat Thousand Oaks in the state playoffs.
Competing without No. 1 singles player Alisha Portnoy, who was competing in a national tournament, Granada Hills was beaten by Palisades, 6-1, for the City Section title.
Another sophomore, Abigail Villena of Chaminade, led her team to the Southern Section 2-A title over Indio. Thousand Oaks advanced to the 4-A final before losing to San Marino.