The hex seems to be firmly in place. The injury albatross fits like a necklace. Black birds are circling overhead and black cats are crossing at everyone's feet.
Maybe the bad luck would end if El Camino Real co-Coach Mike Maio went to church.
"I do," he said. "Every week."
Then perhaps the coaching staff needs to throw a few more bucks on the collection plate because the team's injuries at the skill positions over the past three seasons border on the unbelievable.
In Friday's opener against Chaminade, the Conquistadores lost two receivers to gut-wrenching leg injuries. Midway through the second quarter, senior Richard Gill was pulled over backward after catching a pass and suffered a broken right femur. Gill lay on the field for 22 minutes before paramedics arrived.
Later, highly regarded sophomore Lequon Stevenson, Gill's backup at receiver and cornerback, broke his right ankle after catching a pass.
Both players spent Friday at Humana Hospital--West Hills. Gill, who is expected to be released at the end of the week, suffered breaks in two places. Both players will miss the rest of the season, Maio said.
The way things have gone, this was just another day at the office. Last fall, tailback Chris Shinnick sustained a broken wrist in the third game and missed the rest of the season. In 1990, quarterback Evan Howland suffered a dislocated hip and missed several games.
"I don't know what it is," Maio said. "These aren't injuries that we could run conditioning drills to prevent. These are just freak things."
Losing Gill and Stevenson could hurt the Conquistadores in a big way. Maio said a review of game film of the 28-12 loss to Chaminade showed that three potential scoring passes were dropped by his receivers.
JEERS TO CHEERS
When North Hollywood scored a first-quarter touchdown against Narbonne in last week's opener senior quarterback Jimmie Crist feared it was only a dream.
After all, North Hollywood scored only one touchdown in Crist's junior year, and because of it, Crist and his teammates have been ridiculed by classmates week after week.
"The school really got down on us," Crist said.
But attitudes on the field and in the stands began to change as soon as North Hollywood crossed the goal line.
"It didn't seem real at first," Crist said of the Huskies' first score. "It was like this heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders."
Crist threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the Huskies' 20-6 win.
"Narbonne was like a confidence builder," Crist said. "But, we know the other teams will be much tougher."
Canyon's players went from pink-cheeked cherubs to stubble-bearded veterans in a matter of seconds Friday. Of course, surrendering 21 points to open a ballgame would age most folks at an accelerated pace.
Playing a nonleague opener against host San Clemente, the Cowboys trailed, 21-0, in the second quarter.
"We went from infancy to adolescence in about five minutes," said Canyon Coach Harry Welch, whose defensive unit included 10 first-time starters. "If you'd have seen us in the first quarter you wouldn't have thought we were a very good football team."
Ah, but in the second, third and fourth quarters. . . . Canyon came screaming back to score five unanswered touchdowns to win, 35-21.
Welch, in his 11th season, said Canyon had never before won a game after trailing by 21 points. And he didn't have to look it up, either.
"I've never been involved in a game where we were down 21-0 and won, much less being down 21 points, period," Welch said.
In an unusual case, two Cleveland linemen last week were granted an extra year of eligibility by the City Section.
Kirk Kessler (6-foot-1, 190) and Jachin Montgomery (6-3, 240) were each granted what amounts to a second senior year. Both have begun their fifth year of high school.
City Commissioner Hal Harkness called the pair's hardship appeal "unique." Both are enrolled in special-education classes and have experienced their share of academic and disciplinary problems, Cleveland Coach Everett Macy said.
Harkness said it was not determined that Kessler and Montgomery had learning disabilities until late in high school, which prompted the City to grant another year of eligibility. Neither has more than one season of football experience, said Macy, who also is Cleveland's dean of students.
Athletics appears to have helped both players. Macy said he had suspended Kessler from school but that Kessler's involvement with the team "has really helped turned him around."
"They were never placed in an environment where they could be successful," Harkness said. "These are legitimate hardship cases. . . . They deserved another shot."
Staff writers Steve Elling and Paige A. Leech contributed to this notebook.