There's something about paradise that makes you want to smile.
It's a bright, sunshiny day along the portion of Coyote Creek that borders the Los Alamitos football team's practice field.
Elsewhere--say at those schools whose football teams aren't 5-0--it's hot, sticky and oppressive. Here in Griffin-land, it's a balmy afternoon. Even the weather is cooperating.
A light breeze meanders in from the coast to cool some awfully confident football players. On the practice field, Los Alamitos' well-oiled machine doesn't produce a single squeak.
Oops, check that. Mr. Glue-For-Hands Tony Hartley just dropped a pass in the end zone. Oh well, the unusual does break up the monotony of winning.
This is a low-stress operation considering its high-octane style. But the Griffins, the No. 1 high school team in the universe, are going to win. They know it, you know it and, more importantly, their opponents know it. So why wouldn't life be grand?
Mark it well, guys. All fame is fleeting.
The Griffins are 39-1-1 the last three seasons and 5-0 this season. They revel in it and should. Practice is a collection of sight gags separated by some hard work.
--At no time does quarterback Kevin Feterik wander more than three feet from his offensive line. He gets the glory and they watch his back. Of course, Feterik's parents did shovel a truckload of groceries into the gang of five last Tuesday at dinner. A small price to pay for their son's protection.
--Defensive back Ryan Gragnano messes up during a drill, then whacks a teammate who offers consolation. Few players actually need a DMZ, but Ryan is a perfectionist. Stand clear.
--The clock that times each drill is busted. The withdrawals Coach John Barnes suffered were the doubled-over variety. A new clock won't arrive for another week, so a student, holding a stopwatch and horn, stays close.
--Defensive tackle Rashawn Davis, the mountain from Texas, flicks aside a blocker, then zeros in on a scout team running back. Coaches cringe. Horror flashes across a young ballcarrier's face. Notify the next of kin and send some flowers.
--Parents, 15 in all, dot the grandstand nearby. They coo about this and that, then toss out a little gossip. Don't these people have jobs? But why not take the afternoon off and bask in the glow?
--Barnes strolls with the team back to the locker room, hollering bad jokes (with contrived laughter in tow) into a microphone. Finally, the reason it's called a bullhorn.
Are we having fun yet?
Barnes had some last August. He was sitting around the office, quietly moaning about the one hole in his defense. Something like . . .
Golly gee, if we only had a big guy to anchor the defensive line.
At that moment, in walked Rashawn and his mom.
"Hi, my son just enrolled here and would like to play football."
The Law West of the Pecos? Don't run at Davis.
Just what these guys needed, out-of-state help. But some days, you live right.
So mark it well and enjoy, guys. You've earned it.
Edison, Servite, Santa Ana, El Modena, Mission Viejo, El Toro, Capistrano Valley. All spent time at the top of the heap. Heck, it wasn't too long ago that you wiped your feet on San Clemente before entering. Now the Tritons are the county's third-ranked team.
Have fun, fellas, in practice and in games. Public high schools have cycles. All fame is fleeting.
Oh yeah, whatever happened to Bret Johnson and Todd Marinovich?