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PREP WEDNESDAY : Edison’s Season to Savor : Chargers’ 1979 Team Ranks as Orange County’s Best : Top 10 Teams: The Best of 20 Years

Times Staff Writer

It was a dream team.

Running back Kerwin Bell was the dominant player in the Southern Section. Quarterback Frank Seurer threw 23 touchdown passes.

Tight end Mark Boyer caught 49 passes. Linebacker Bill Malavasi anchored a defense that allowed an average of 8.6 points per game.

Edison High School romped through the Big Five Conference playoffs, outscoring four opponents, 142-29. The finale was a 55-0 rout of Redlands in the title game, the most lopsided score in large-school championship game history.

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Edison was the class of Orange County high school football in 1979 and, for that matter, the class of county football over the past 20 years.

During that span, the Orange County edition of The Times has extensively covered high school football. For the sake of a good memory, The Times has picked its top 10 teams of the past 2 decades. Edison ’79 is No. 1. Here’s a look at the events that shaped some of those teams.

Bell rushed for 2,268 yards and 26 touchdowns after transferring from St. Francis in La Canada for his senior season. His speed and power supplied the electricity in the 1979 Edison offense.

“He was the most dominating player in the CIF that year,” said Coach Mike Milner of rival Fountain Valley. “Then, you combine him with Frank Seurer and nobody could touch them once they got to the playoffs.”

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Edison did lose to El Modena and Newport Harbor that season, but Coach Bill Workman, now at Orange Coast College, said the team began to peak as it entered the playoffs.

“At the beginning of the season, we had the star players, but they weren’t pulling on the end of the rope at the same time,” he said. “By the time the playoffs started, it was a team on a mission.”

Workman said the biggest obstacle his 1979 team faced en route to the championship was Fontana in the semifinals. Fontana had allowed only 20 points in 12 games and its defense was further fueled by comments made by then-Ram Coach Ray Malavasi in a local newspaper. Malavasi’s son, Bill, was a standout player for Edison.

“One of the reporters out there called Ray and asked him how he thought Edison would do against Fontana,” Workman said. “Ray told him, ‘They’ll beat Fontana, and Kerwin Bell will rush for 200 yards.’ ”

But Bell had injured his ribs, knee and elbow the previous week against Servite. He didn’t suit up that week for practice and couldn’t finish his warmup routine on game night.

Just before the opening kickoff, Bell told Workman, “I can’t return the kickoff, but I’ll be ready for the first series.”

Workman feared the worst. But on the first play from scrimmage, Bell broke for a 79-yard touchdown run. He retired midway through the third quarter with 217 yards in a 34-14 victory.

“To this day, I still don’t know how he played that night,” Workman said.

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A dynasty began at Edison in 1979 that may never be equaled in the county. The Chargers won 32 consecutive games during the reign. The Times ranked the 1980 team No. 4, the ’81 team No. 9.

Workman’s 1980 team won 14 consecutive games and another Big Five Conference title. Two memorable games against Fountain Valley in Anaheim Stadium drew a total of almost 50,000 fans.

Scott Strosnider, now Edison’s line coach, was a starting center on the 1979 and 1980 teams. He said an identity crisis was a prime motivator in 1980.

“We had players like Dino Bell and Troy Seurer who had played in the shadows of their older brothers, and they were determined to make a name for themselves,” he said. “The record shows that this was the only undefeated team in the school’s history.”

Edison’s closest call was a 15-14 victory over Fountain Valley in Sunset League play. The Chargers trailed, 14-0, going into the final quarter but rallied for 2 touchdowns and then scored on a 2-point conversion run by quarterback Ken Major to win the game.

“The team’s character showed in that game,” Workman said. “It was a game we probably shouldn’t have won. In the eyes of most, we lost that first game.

“When we played again for the championship, I thought we had something to prove because most thought we should have lost that first game.”

Edison won, 14-0.

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Edison entered the 1981 season ranked No. 1 in the nation by several publications. The Chargers’ winning streak grew to 32 when it entered the playoffs as the top-seeded team, having outscored its opponents, 357-98.

Edison drew a wild-card entry, Servite, in the first round and figured to win easily. A banner hanging from the stands in Orange Coast College’s LeBard Stadium read: “Edison lose? Let’s get serious.”

And Servite did. Brian Salerno returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Doug Butler threw a 60-yard touchdown pass, and Servite scored one of the biggest upsets in county history, 14-7.

The county’s longest winning streak was over.

“Man for man, they shouldn’t have beaten us, but I also knew our mental attitude going into the game,” Workman said. “We were way overconfident.”

Today, Workman rates his 1981 team as his best.

“There were 18 players on that team who got Division I scholarships,” he said. “It was my best defensive team and our second-most explosive offensive team. That team was absolutely loaded.”

Fountain Valley (No. 10) was a team that couldn’t lose in 1977, or so it seemed.

Running back Willie Gittens averaged 8.4 yards per carry and scored 25 touchdowns in 10 regular-season games.

Seeded No. 1 in the playoffs, Fountain Valley opened with a 37-0 victory over Fontana, setting up a second-round game against Loyola.

The teams played to a 14-14 tie, setting up an overtime period known as the California tiebreaker. Under the system, each team is awarded 4 plays in which to score from the opponents’ 10-yard line.

Neither team scored in the first series, sending the game into a second overtime.

Loyola scored on its third play and the conversion kick gave the Cubs a 21-14 lead. Fountain Valley followed by scoring on its first play and elected to go for a conversion kick.

Fountain Valley had two kickers--soccer-style Dave Larson and conventional-style Mike Hamil. They alternated on kicks. It was Larson’s turn, but Hamil, who hadn’t missed an extra-point attempt all season, persuaded the coaches he could make the kick.

Hamil missed. The ball hit the crossbar and bounced back. Fountain Valley lost, 21-20.

“Everyone was devasted,” Milner said. “But looking back, I think every coach should experience a game like that. A game like that tends to put things in perspective. After all, it was only a game.”

Fountain Valley produced great teams in 1976 and 1977, but an overachieving group in 1978 won the school’s only championship. Milner characterized the team, The Times’ No. 5 pick, as a group of “nice boys mixed with tough, abrasive characters” who somehow fit into the framework of a team.

“That team got a lot of good breaks,” he said. “We had teams that were better, but the ’78 team is the one that won the (Big Five Conference) championship. And let’s face it. People only remember the teams that win the titles.”

Servite and El Toro had championship seasons that began with out-of-state trips.

Servite traveled to Kings Island, Ohio, to play the nation’s top-ranked team, Cincinnati Moeller, in 1982. El Toro opened the 1986 season with a 9-day trip to the East Coast that included a game against Whitehall outside Allentown, Pa.

Servite, with most of the cast that engineered the 14-7 upset of Edison the previous season, took aim at Moeller with the nation’s longest regular-season win streak at 55 games.

Servite came up short, 29-15, but it was the only game Servite, The Times’ No. 2 team, lost that season. Quarterback Steve Beuerlein had a storybook season that led to a scholarship at Notre Dame. Today, he is the Raiders’ starting quarterback.

El Toro (No. 3) won 14 consecutive games and was named the state’s No. 1 team by Cal-Hi Sports of Sacramento in 1986. Among the Chargers’ victories was a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Whitehall.

“My first thought about that team was our trip to the East Coast,” El Toro Coach Bob Johnson said. “The trip pulled an already good team together.”

El Toro had 11 players who eventually earned Division I scholarships, including Johnson’s son at quarterback, Bret. El Toro repeated as Southern Conference champion in 1987.

It was a different era in 1971 when Mike Bodkin was a reserve running back at Western High.

The Angels were a struggling franchise and drawing fewer than a million fans a season, and the Rams played their games in the Coliseum. High school football was still the only reason for Friday nights.

Bodkin was a junior when quarterback Bobby Acosta led Western (The Times’ No. 8 team) to the Southern Section’s 4-A championship game against Bishop Amat. Today, Bodkin is an assistant under Jim Howell at Western, but he can recite the team’s scores as if the games were yesterday.

“Bobby Acosta made that team,” he said. “He always found a way to win. He had a way of making even the role players feel like they were the most important player on the team.”

Western won 30 games in 3 seasons with Acosta at quarterback, but Bodkin remembers a 19-14 victory over Anaheim vividly. It was Western’s first victory over Anaheim in 10 years.

“I’ll take this memory to my grave,” Bodkin said. “After the game, I remember the fans and parents running on the field and carrying off players on their shoulders. A guy picked me up, and I looked down and he was wearing a 1963 letterman’s jacket. I couldn’t believe it.”

The media have even done their share to inspire a team to a championship in the past 20 years. The most memorable motivation came in 1984 when El Modena (The Times No. 7 team) won the Southern Conference title.

Reporters picked high-scoring Esperanza as an overwhelming favorite to beat El Modena in the title game. One writer billed the game as “the haves versus the have-nots.” Another called Esperanza “the most talented team in Orange County history.”

“Nobody gave us a chance,” said former Coach Bob Lester. “It was wonderful. I didn’t have to say a thing to the players to prepare for the game.”

El Modena stunned Esperanza, 26-0, and Lester awarded game balls to two sportswriters and offered a suggestion of where to place them.

But then, what do sportswriters know, anyway?

THE TOP 10 1. Edison ’79

2. Servite ’82

3. El Toro ’86

4. Edison ’80

5. Fountain Valley ’78

6. Santa Ana Valley ’74

7. El Modena ’84

8. Western ’71

9. Edison ’81

10. Fountain Valley ’77

EDISON ’79

Record: 12-2.

Coach: Bill Workman.

Playoffs: Big Five Conference champion.

Key Players: Frank Seurer (quarterback), Kerwin Bell (running back), Mark Boyer (tight end), Bill Malavasi (linebacker).

Noteworthy: Edison defeated Redlands, 55-0, in championship game for the largest margin of victory in large-school division history.

Regular Season

35 Estancia 0

43 Canyon 14

27 El Modena 28

42 Pius X 7

14 Mater Dei 7

13 Newport Harbor 17

37 Huntington Beach 3

35 Fountain Valley 7

14 Westminster 9

34 Marina 0

Playoffs

36 Notre Dame 15

17 Servite 0

34 Fontana 14

55 Redlands 0

SERVITE ’82

Record: 11-1.

Coach: Ron Smeltzer.

Playoffs: Big Five Conference champion.

Key Players: Steve Beuerlein (quarterback), Brian Salerno (wide receiver), Chris Burget (defensive tackle), Ted Prukop (running back), Jeff Sherer (offensive tackle).

Noteworthy: Only loss was to nation’s top-ranked team, Cincinnati Moeller, in Kings Island, Ohio. Beuerlein was named the county’s back of the year.

Regular Season

15 Moeller (Ohio) 29

19 Fountain Valley 7

38 Garey 7

36 Bishop Amat 0

42 Pius X 0

50 Serra 6

23 St. Paul 20

42 Mater Dei 7

Playoffs

37 San Gorgonio 7

20 Loyola 7

19 Alemany 17

31 LB Poly 7

EL TORO ’86

Record: 14-0.

Coach: Bob Johnson.

Playoffs: Southern Conference champion.

Key Players: Bret Johnson (quarterback), Scott Ross (linebacker), Scott Spalding (tackle), Adam Brass (defensive back), Scott Miller (wide receiver).

Noteworthy: El Toro was named the state’s No. 1 team by Cal-Hi Sports of Sacramento. Johnson was named the county’s back of the year, and Ross was named the county’s lineman of the year.

Regular Season

20 Whitehall (Pa.) 19

31 Fountain Valley 12

21 Westminster 0

37 El Modena 14

32 Newport Harbor 0

49 San Clemente 27

17 Capistrano Valley 15

56 Irvine 15

36 Dana Hills 8

38 Mission Viejo 14

Playoffs

35 Canyon 0

28 Paramount 8

34 Mission Viejo 14

26 Santa Ana 10

EDISON ’80

Record: 14-0.

Coach: Bill Workman.

Playoffs: Big Five Conference champion.

Key Players: Ken Major (quarterback), Dino Bell (running back), Troy Seurer (linebacker), Duaine Jackson (defensive back).

Noteworthy: Edison defeated Fountain Valley twice in Anaheim Stadium before a total of nearly 50,000 fans; allowed an average of only 6 points per game.

Regular Season

21 Estancia 7

24 Santa Ana 3

13 El Modena 3

35 LB Millikan 14

35 Mater Dei 7

38 Newport Harbor 6

22 Westminster 3

28 Huntington Beach 0

15 Fountain Valley 14

21 Marina 7

Playoffs

35 Servite 0

37 Colton 14

39 St. Francis 6

14 Fountain Valley 0

FOUNTAIN VALLEY ’78

Record: 12-1.

Coach: Bruce Pickford.

Playoffs: Big Five Conference champion.

Key Players: Gil Compton (quarterback), Kevin Margerum (wide receiver), Sam Centofante (running back), Mike Freeman (defensive tackle).

Noteworthy: Freeman played in two consecutive Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos; running back Kevin Romine was a member of the Boston Red Sox team that won the AL East in 1988.

Regular Season

28 Redlands 14

16 LB Wilson 3

23 Servite 21

28 Lakewood 7

28 Huntington Beach 0

7 Edison 10

23 Marina 14

21 Westminster 0

31 Newport Harbor 13

Playoffs

28 Eisenhower 16

18 West Covina 0

14 Newport Harbor 9

34 Servite 14

SANTA ANA VALLEY ’74

Record: 11-1-2.

Coach: Dick Hill.

Playoffs: 3-A Division champion.

Key Players: Myron White (running back), Noble Franklin (defensive back), Wilbert Haslip (linebacker), Jim Tesimale (guard), Andrew Paige (quarterback).

Noteworthy: White gained 201 yards and scored 3 touchdowns in 13 carries in the title game against Colton. He finished his 3-year career with 4,168 yards rushing.

Regular Season

39 Los Amigos 7

7 Ganesha 7

35 Savanna 0

2 Sunny Hills 10

48 Buena Park 8

15 Troy 7

7 Fullerton 7

29 Lowell 9

47 La Habra 11

Playoffs

22 Claremont 6

35 Villa Park 6

22 Burroughs 14

18 Monorovia 7

47 Colton 14

EL MODENA ’84

Record: 13-1.

Coach: Bob Lester.

Playoffs: Southern Conference champion.

Key Players: Brett Johnson (quarterback), Sean Sawyer (running back), Don Gibson (tackle), Ross Bauer (running back), Allen Ennis (guard).

Noteworthy: El Modena shut out Esperanza, 26-0, to win its second consecutive Southern Conference title with Johnson at quarterback; Gibson and Ennis played on teams that won 35 games in 3 seasons.

Regular Season

21 Loara 7

30 Kennedy 0

21 Pacifica 14

42 Canyon 14

52 SA Valley 0

6 Foothill 21

22 Villa Park 7

28 Orange 7

34 Santa Ana 15

29 Tustin 7

Playoffs

38 Capistrano Valley 14

33 Los Altos 22

27 El Toro 3

26 Esperanza 0

WESTERN ’71

Record: 11-2.

Coach: Jim Everett.

Playoffs: 4-A Division runner-up to Bishop Amat.

Key Players: Bobby Acosta (quarterback), Paul Charlton (nose guard), Dana Nafziger (linebacker), Ralph Carlson (tackle), Bob Dapper (running back).

Noteworthy: Western had a 3-year record of 30-5 with Acosta at quarterback. Nafziger played 6 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Regular Season

38 Savanna 14

40 LB Millikan 6

16 Marina 7

28 Loara 3

13 Newport Harbor 0

14 Westminster 21

19 Anaheim 14

40 Huntington Beach 6

56 Santa Ana 28

Playoffs

20 North Torrance 7

26 Dominguez 10

21 El Rancho 17

21 Bishop Amat 37

EDISON ’81

Record: 10-1.

Coach: Bill Workman.

Playoffs: Upset by Servite in first round.

Key Players: Ken Major (quarterback), Dave Geroux (running back), Rick DiBernardo (linebacker), Matt Hombs (defensive back).

Noteworthy: Edison’s 32-game winning streak was snapped in a 14-7 loss to Servite in the opening round of the Big Five Conference playoffs.

Regular Season

22 El Dorado 0

45 Santa Ana 13

13 El Modena 7

43 LB Millikan 24

48 Mater Dei 24

28 Marina 24

43 Ocean View 0

35 Westminster 7

34 Huntington Beach 3

24 Fountain Valley 13

Playoffs

7 Servite 14

FOUNTAIN VALLEY ’77

Record: 10-1.

Coach: Bruce Pickford.

Playoffs: Lost to Loyola in second round of the Big Five Conference playoffs.

Key Players: Willie Gittens (running back), Doug Thompson (quarterback), Tim Holmes (wide receiver), Bryan Caldwell (defensive tackle).

Noteworthy: Only loss came in a double-overtime tiebreaker when Mike Hamil’s conversion kick hit the crossbar and bounced back. It was Hamil’s only miss of the season.

Regular Season

35 Redlands 6

35 LB Wilson 0

49 Katella 0

31 Kennedy 0

49 Huntington Beach 6

48 Marina 21

6 Edison 3

18 Newport Harbor 7

49 Westminster 13

Playoffs

37 Fontana 0

20 Loyola 21


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