Dick Bruich is one of Fontana's best known citizens. Since taking over as the town's high school football coach 17 years ago, he has won almost everything.
The Steelers have never had a losing season with Bruich. They have won 11 league titles and two Southern Section championships. They are a staple in the playoffs and a contender in the section's major division every season.
The success has resulted in some of the rowdiest and most loyal fans in the Southland. In recent years, the team sold out every home game and even had a large contingent of season-ticket holders.
It seemed a happy relationship.
Things are a bit strained this year, however. Fontana is off to its worst start, having lost its first four games.
The losses have been close and to quality teams. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs, Pasadena Muir, Sante Fe Springs St. Paul and Long Beach Poly have beaten the Steelers by an average margin of four points.
"Losing close almost makes it worse," Bruich said. "Every game has been decided on one critical key play, and we keep not making that play. You start to question whether you're doing the right thing or not.
"Starting 0-4 is very difficult," he said. "But it is not the end of the season. Hopefully, we're good enough to turn this thing around and get into the playoffs. But the coaches, players and fans are all going to have to do a better job."
Fontana has been hurt, in part, by the opening of A.B. Miller High three years ago. A.B. Miller is the town's second high school and is drawing students that used to play for the Steelers. In only its first season with seniors, the Rebels are 3-1 and a Division V contender.
"A lot of factors have changed around here," Bruich said, "and the opening of A.B. Miller is just one of them."
Loyola dropped from No. 1 to No. 8 in The Times' football poll this week after losing to Lancaster Antelope Valley, 15-14, last Friday night.
The Cubs' defense gave up 15 points in the fourth quarter. Trailing, 14-8, Antelope Valley quarterback Mike Gleich completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to David Newman with 15 seconds to play. Chad Shrout kicked the extra point to finish the upset.
"We wanted to make history tonight," Brent Newcomb, the Antelopes' coach, said after the game. "This is what coaching is all about."
Loyola's loss opened the door for La Puente Bishop Amat as the new No. 1 team. The Lancers, the defending Southern Section Division I champion, improved to 4-0 with a 31-6 victory over Arroyo Grande.
Bishop Amat, which finished last season as the top-ranked team, has won 19 consecutive games.
Figuring out the best football team in the City this season is a difficult task. Perennial powers Carson, Wilmington Banning and Dorsey are struggling with a combined record of 7-5. Defending Division 4-A champion Sylmar is 2-1-1 with a loss to Woodland Hills El Camino Real and tie to Granada Hills Kennedy.
The surprise favorite may be San Pedro, which quietly ran its winning streak to 13 games Friday with a 21-20 upset victory over then No. 19 Dorsey. The defending 3-A champions don't play in the section's largest division, but they do face many 4-A opponents during the regular season.
The lack of recognition does not bother Coach Mike Walsh, whose team has outscored its opponents, 140-53, this season.
"It doesn't matter to me if we're in 3-A or 4-A," said Walsh, in his third year as head coach. "We play a lot of 4-A teams during the season, so we prove how good we are then. My only concern is that we get better every season, and we've made some big strides the past couple of years."
Washington Coach Ed Johnson accepted full responsibility for a costly mistake in the team's 34-8 loss to Carson last Thursday.
With Carson leading, 7-6, late in the second quarter, Johnson got mixed up on downs. Washington had the ball on its own 20-yard line and faced a fourth-and-24. The Generals' coach, however, thought it was third down and sent in a long pass play for quarterback Amar Brisco. The attempt was incomplete and the Colts took over on downs.
On the next play, Ramon Rogers threw a 20-yard touchdown to J.R. Redmond to give Carson a 14-6 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
"That's my mistake," Johnson said of the fourth-down attempt. "I didn't know what down it was. I thought it was third down. Otherwise, I never would have done that."
Said Carson Coach Dave Williams. "It was a gift."
Both teams are 2-2.
San Pedro Mary Star ended a 19-game losing streak last Friday with a 19-14 victory over Downey Pius X. The Stars had not won since the third game of the 1991 season. . . .Running back Chad Morton, younger brother of USC receiver Johnnie Morton, rushed for two touchdowns to lead South Torrance to a 14-0 victory over Inglewood Morningside on Saturday. . . .The Peninsula-North Torrance game was delayed 20 minutes in the fourth quarter Friday after the sprinklers came on near the Peninsula sideline. . . .Defensive back/quarterback Albert Cerranza of Santa Clara and defensive lineman Jason Paris were ejected for fighting in a bench-clearing brawl between the team's Saturday night. After Bell-Jeff scored a touchdown in the third quarter, a fight erupted between the teams and both benches cleared. Santa Clara won the nonleague game, 34-15.
Placentia Valencia, upset by Villa Park in its opener, has outscored its last three opponents, 115-0, including a 49-0 victory over Long Beach Wilson on Friday. . . .Los Alamitos surrendered its first points of the season Thursday in a 48-26 win over Palmdale. Quarterback Mike Good completed 20 of 37 passes for 346 yards and six touchdowns for the Griffins, who improved to 4-0. . . .Junior Dwayne Cherrington of Santa Ana Valley rushed for 327 yards in 27 carries and scored four touchdowns in his team's 34-20 win over Dana Hills on Friday.
Mark Madsen, one of California's top basketball prospects, has made an oral commitment to Stanford. Madsen, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound center, plays for San Ramon Valley in Danville.
Times' Top 20 Football Poll
The Times' top 20 high school football poll, with teams from the City and Southern Sections.
School Sect. Div. Rec. LW 1. Bishop Amat SS I 4-0 2 2. Eisenhower SS I 4-0 3 3. Newbury Park SS III 4-0 7 4. Hart SS II 4-0 5 5. Los Alamitos SS II 4-0 6 6. Muir SS II 3-1 4 7. Antelope Valley SS I 3-1 13 8. Loyola SS I 3-1 1 9. Hawthorne SS III 3-1 8 10. LB Poly SS I 3-1 12 11. Esperanza SS II 3-1 10 12. Norco SS V 4-0 11 13. Fountain Valley SS II 4-0 14 14. Hunt. Beach SS II 4-0 15 15. Taft City 4-A 4-0 16 16. Quartz Hill SS I 4-0 NR 17. Irvine SS IV 3-1 17 18. Dominguez SS II 4-0 18 19. Mater Dei SS I 3-1 NR 20. CC Canyon SS II 3-1 9