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From Start, Berg Gets His Just Desserts

Success in coaching can be measured in various ways. Some point to a coach’s record, others note the amount of championship hardware in the trophy case.

Of course, there are more subtle signs of success, one of which was staring Coach George Berg in the face Friday morning when he walked into the Fountain Valley High football office. It was a cheesecake. Not your average New York variety, but a super-deluxe, double-decker, mondo-calorie concoction drenched in chocolate and covered with pralines and nuts. A sugary message--"Blue Pride!!!"--was the icing on the cake.

Certainly, this was no humble pie. It was simply a token of appreciation from a mother of one of the Baron players.

Some football coaches command respect. Berg inspires baked goods.

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Doesn’t matter that his career record at Fountain Valley is 0-0-1 (the Barons tied Dana Hills, 6-6, in Berg’s head coaching debut Thursday).

Doesn’t matter that Thursday’s game looked, at times, more like a three-ring circus than a football game.

Doesn’t matter that after winning only one game last year, Fountain Valley is expected to finish somewhere in the realm of 20,000 (Sunset) Leagues Under the Sea.

The fact is, Berg’s a warm-hearted, pat-'em-on-the-back kind of guy who flings warm fuzzies as if they were Frisbees.

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“He’s so good for the boys,” said a woman working the sideline chains Thursday. “He’s so concerned for them.”

Berg, a Fountain Valley assistant coach for 18 years, took over this year when Mike Milner left for El Toro after 12 years. Milner, who coached the Barons to a Division I title in 1988, was looking for a change, and goin’ South was his intended direction.

While Milner is an often-intense, super-organized perfectionist, Berg tells his players the most important reason to play high school football is to have fun, fun, fun. In fact, he listed that all-important three-letter word atop his team goals sheet when the season started.

Enthusiasm, Berg says, is Fountain Valley’s new No. 1.

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That was apparent Thursday night. Just before the opening kickoff, the players ran across the field screaming, howling and growling like hyped-out high school players will do, smashing into each other and butting heads like a gang of mountain goats on No Doz.

Then the game started and confusion set in:

Three timeouts during one possession . . . can’t find the kicking tee . . . where’s the holder? . . . who’s supposed to be in? . . . who’s supposed to be out? . . . do you hear me? I said you . . . !

At times, even the Baron mascot looked bewildered.

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This isn’t to say those temporarily Bad News Barons didn’t have their moments. A beautiful 50-yard pass play from Ryan Bertoni to B.J. Crabtree tied the score, 6-6.

At the half, the Baron locker room was abuzz with excitement. Players split into groups and discussed strategies with coaches. Every 30 seconds or so, coaches changed groups as if it were a game of musical chairs.

“I believe in cross-coaching,” Berg says.

Of course, he also believes in enthusiasm , which is why, just before they rushed out on the field for the second half, he gathered his players and yelled: “This is the new Fountain Valley football team!”

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Team: “ Yeaaaaaa!

Berg: “There is nothing out there but fun. . .”

Team: “ Yeaaaaaa!

Berg: ". . . and reaching way deep down inside for that extra effort!”

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Team: “ Yeaaaaaa!

It was yea all the way for the rest of the night. Didn’t matter that Fountain Valley failed to capitalize on drives, didn’t matter that a couple of its kicks didn’t defy gravity.

Didn’t even matter that a confused player rushed onto the field to hold the football for a field goal, not realizing he was wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet.

Didn’t matter, Berg said, because the Barons were enthused and stayed that way for four quarters. He was proud. His players were proud. Even the fans in the stands seemed proud.

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And at Fountain Valley, that is the feeling that takes the cake.


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