TWENTY-FOUR YEARS ON THE PREP BEAT : The Teams: Edison '79, Mater Dei '84-85, Servite '78 Were the Best

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the sake of a good argument, the county's best football team was Edison's 1979 club, which finished 12-2 and won the Southern Section large-school championship with a 55-0 victory over Redlands.

The best of Mater Dei's great basketball teams over the last 11 years under Coach Gary McKnight was the 1984-85 team that never had the opportunity to play in the State championship after Southern Section principals voted not to participate that year.

The best baseball team was Servite's 1978 championship squad that featured Yankee pitcher Mike Witt and Cub third baseman Steve Buechele.

Here's some of the dream teams:

BASKETBALL

El Dorado, 1975: Take your pick. El Dorado won the Southern Section Division 2-A title in 1974 with an 80-76 overtime victory over Agoura and repeated in 1975 with a 67-55 victory over Culver City.

The Golden Hawks were 47-13 in the two seasons under Nash Rivera and featured guard Kevin Heenan and center Tyrone Branyan.

Corona del Mar, 1977: First-year Coach Jack Errion inherited a team that had finished 25-1 the previous season. Among the returning starters were center Alex Black, forward Jack Tuz and point guard Paul Akin.

Later, Errion called Tuz "the most physically talented player I ever coached." The Sea Kings swept through four playoff opponents by an average of 15.2 points per game before defeating Riverside Ramona, 56-50, in overtime for the Division 3-A championship.

Katella, 1978: Through the years, one of the most talked-about games in county history was Katella's quarterfinal playoff game against Crescenta Valley in the Anaheim Convention Center.

Katella's full-court press and fast-breaking offense led to an average of 82 points per game in an era before the three-point shot. Crescenta Valley's Greg Goorjian averaged 43.4 points and led his team to a 90-72 victory with 47 points.

Mater Dei, 1985: The Monarchs (29-0) swept four playoff opponents by an average of 25 points and toyed with a very good Ocean View team in the championship game. Unfortunately, the Monarchs never had the opportunity to play in the regionals or State championship. Earlier in the year, section principals voted not to participate in the State championship.

Center Tom Lewis, who continued at USC and Pepperdine and is now a Monarch assistant, averaged 32 points that season.

Capistrano Valley, 1986: It's difficult determining Coach Mark Thornton's best team because he has had so many. Capistrano Valley lost only two league games with Burt Call in the lineup from 1981-84. The Cougars reached the playoff semifinals four times in five seasons from 1982-86.

But Thornton's best team featured his younger brother, Nathan, and forwards Shawn Reed and Jason Trask. Capistrano Valley won three playoff games by an average of 27 points but lost to Simi Valley in the semifinals, 97-69.

Mater Dei, 1987: Four overachievers and a superstar led Mater Dei to its first State championship. Center LeRon Ellis, a first-round draft choice by the Clippers, averaged 23.2 points and 12 rebounds. He was named the state's player of the year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Point guard Chris Patton committed only 52 turnovers in 32 games, a stat that Coach Gary McKnight still terms "incredible." Said McKnight, "It was the tightest group I've ever coached."

Kennedy, 1988: A three-overtime victory over Rolling Hills in the semifinals ranks as the county's best game over the last 24 years. The game went from embarrassing to bewildering, as Kennedy overcame a 23-point halftime deficit.

The luck of the Irish continued in the sectional final, where it defeated Tustin in overtime to become the only school in the Anaheim Union High School District to win a basketball title. It was fitting that the school won under Coach John Mayberry, one of the original faculty members hired when the school opened in 1964.

Mater Dei, 1990: The Monarchs won the State Division I title, and one play will always be remembered that season. Jason Quinn's shot was more of an afterthought. The ultimate fluke.

Quinn's desperation 20-footer with 1.8 seconds remaining wiped out Long Beach Poly's two-point lead and gave Mater Dei a 46-45 victory in the regional finals. Mater Dei went on to beat Ygnacio Valley in the State final.

Tustin, 1991: The State Division II boys champion reached a pinnacle of intensity in the title game by erasing a nine-point halftime deficit en route to a 66-54 victory over Danville San Ramon Valley in the title game.

FOOTBALL

Santa Ana Valley, 1974: Myron (Whizzer) White had a brilliant, three-year career in which he rushed for 4,168 yards. He gained 201 yards and scored three touchdowns in a title game against Colton.

The team featured a menacing linebacker named Wilbert Haslip, defensive back Noble Franklin and quarterback Andrew Paige.

Edison, 1979: The finest football team in county history. Running back Kerwin Bell was the dominant player in the Southern Section. Quarterback Frank Seurer threw 23 touchdown passes. Tight end Mark Boyer has enjoyed a fine career with the New York Jets. Linebacker Bill Malavasi anchored a defense that allowed only 8.6 points per game.

The Southern Section title game displayed the Chargers' true superiority. Edison romped past Redlands, 55-0, in the most lopsided score in large-school championship history.

Western, 1971: Quarterback Bobby Acosta ranks among the best quarterbacks in county history. The Pioneers were 30-5 in three years with Acosta in the lineup and lost in the large-school championship to a Bishop Amat team that featured Pat Haden and J.K. McKay.

Among the top players were nose guard Paul Charlton, tackle Ralph Carlson, running back Bobby Dapper and linebacker Dana Nafziger. Nafziger played five seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Edison, 1980: Some will argue that Bill Workman's team this season, and not his 1979 club, was the county's best ever. Edison defeated Fountain Valley twice in Anaheim Stadium before 50,000 fans.

Quarterback Ken Major, wide receiver Duaine Jackson and and running back Dino Bell were the offensive stars, and linebacker Troy Seurer led a defense that allowed an average of only six points per game.

Servite, 1982: The Friars' only loss came to Cincinnati Moeller in Kings Island, Ohio. Quarterback Steve Beuerlein led Servite to an 11-1 record and a 31-7 victory over Long Beach Poly in the Big Five Conference championship.

A year later, Beuerlein was the starting quarterback at Notre Dame as a freshman and has played for the Raiders and this year's Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys.

El Modena, 1984: The media did its share to inspire this team in the championship game against Esperanza. Reporters picked high-scoring Esperanza as a big favorite to win the title. One writer billed the game as "the haves versus the have-nots."

Another called Esperanza "the most talented team in Orange county history." Afterward, veteran Coach Bob Lester of El Modena said, "Nobody gave us a chance. It was wonderful. I didn't have to say a thing to the players to prepare for the game."

El Toro, 1986: The Chargers began the season with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Whitehall, Pa., that bonded a very talented group of players.

Quarterback Bret Johnson, linebacker Scott Ross and lineman Scott Spalding were the best players at their positions in Southern California. Wide receiver Scott Miller plays for the Miami Dolphins. No wonder Cal-Hi Sports named the team No. 1 in the state.

Fountain Valley, 1988: A runaway nearly turned into a game that got away, but Fountain Valley held on for a 31-24 victory over La Puente Bishop Amat in the Division I championship at Anaheim Stadium.

Baron quarterback David Henigan passed for two touchdowns and ran for another and was later named the player of the year in the county. Footnote: A Times photo of Coach Mike Milner celebrating at the final gun that appeared in the next day is a classic.

BASEBALL

Servite, 1978: New York Yankees' Mike Witt was the ace of the pitching staff. Chicago Cub third baseman Steve Buechele was the leader on the field. Some insist this is the best team in county history. Seven players earned Division I scholarships, and Witt signed with the Angels.

Witt didn't lose a game at Servite in two seasons, compiling a record of 21-0. Witt threw a three-hitter against Arcadia in the Southern Section 4-A division championship game. Buechele turned down a six-figure contract with the Chicago White Sox, played three seasons at Stanford and then signed with the Texas Rangers.

Santa Ana, 1982: Likable Bill Ross coached in five decades at Santa Ana and earned a Southern Section 3-A division championship with a 3-2 win over Fullerton at Dodger Stadium. Outfielder Billy Bean hit .438 and won six games as a pitcher.

Santa Ana had finished third in the Century League but upset top-seeded Cerritos in the semifinals, 6-5, and then met Fullerton in an all-county matchup.

Capistrano Valley, 1983: Bill Dodd was the county's player of the year in 1983 and 1984. He led the Cougars to a Southern Section 2-A division championship in his junior year and compiled a 22-1 record and struck out 238 batters in two seasons. He was equally effective at the plate, hitting nine home runs his senior season.

Esperanza, 1986: Junior third baseman Tom Redington, now battling for a spot with the Atlanta Braves, belted a towering home run in Dodger Stadium that ignited the Aztecs to a 9-3 victory over Fontana in the Southern Section 4-A division title game. Redington hit 21 homers in three seasons at Esperanza.

El Dorado, 1992: The best of Coach Steve Gullotti's teams. The featured players included catcher Brian Loyd, outfielder Tyson Dowdell and pitcher Shawn Holcomb. But the Golden Hawks never reached the Southern Section 5-A division title game, losing to Diamond Bar in a memorable semifinal game at Cal State Fullerton.

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