It is an overcast afternoon on a muddy practice field at Rancho Alamitos High, and quarterback John Frank is pondering why he feels he has not had his turn to shine in his senior season.
Frank was the hot new kid on the block in 1993, when he shattered the school's single-season passing record. He threw for 1,956 yards in a program that has been known for rough and tumble running backs.
Since his sophomore season, Frank, by his own admission, has only put up respectable numbers. This season, for instance, he has completed 39 of 71 passes for 559 yards.
"If you asked me to look back on my career, I would tell you that I am not very happy with myself this year," Frank said. "What I've done so far is OK, but I haven't had a chance to do what I like."
Still, Frank has set about half a dozen school records--including 3,582 yards passing and counting--and several more are within reach. He'll be at the controls at 7 tonight at Garden Grove High, where the Vaqueros play Los Amigos.
An upbeat young man, Frank is the "kind of guy every father would want his daughter to bring home," says his best friend and favorite target, wide receiver Aaron Trigg.
Frank has been active in school clubs and has been captain of the football team for three years. He also has played on the golf, basketball and track teams.
Friends and teammates say Frank is too hard on himself. In golf, for example, in which he has shot as low as 74, a score many players would envy. Yet Frank considers himself to be "good at everything, but not great at anything." "I know he doesn't feel like he's playing up to his ability, but I tell him it's not all his fault," said Trigg, who has caught 16 passes this season. "He had a great sophomore year and then last year we had two great running backs and we didn't need to pass as much."
Tailback Leo Kosi, who has rushed for 908 yards this season, agreed.
"It's nice to have that passing attack," he said. "If we didn't have that ability, then other schools would just key on our rushing and we'd be in trouble. Thank goodness we have him on our side."
Quietly, though, team members will tell you that Frank's lack of big numbers this year has little to do with his play, despite what he says. They say he has not had a lot of time to pass because the Vaqueros' inexperienced offensive line has struggled.
Frank reluctantly agreed.
"Sometimes I'm running for my life with no time to throw," he said. Coach Doug Case, who installed Frank at quarterback when he took over three seasons ago, has no complaints about Frank's performances.
"He wants to be a winner and go on to the next level," Case said. "Obviously, he realizes what it takes.
"He's very versatile. He can drop back, he can run, and he's an excellent leader on the field. He runs every team meeting we have, every practice. Everything I need, he does."
Rancho Alamitos started the season 0-3, which frustrated Frank. The Vaqueros lost a close one to Troy, 21-19, were blanked by Aliso Niguel, 14-0, and then, in what Frank feels was one of the worst games of his career, were beaten by Western, 25-18.
Again Frank might be too hard on himself. Those teams have a combined record of 13-5, and Western is 6-0.
"I demand perfection from myself," Frank said. "I can have a good game, but I will look at every incomplete pass and say, 'I should have completed that or maybe I should have run instead.' I see no reason why I should have any incomplete passes."
Rancho Alamitos (2-3-1) got its first victory of the season by walloping winless Bolsa Grande, 58-0. Then it tied a good Pacifica team, 28-28, during which Frank surpassed the school career passing record midway through the fourth quarter on a short screen to running back David Vickers. The old mark of 3,372 yards, set by Andy Jaramillo, stood for 13 seasons.
Frank had one of his best games last week, throwing for more than 200 yards in a 41-14 victory over winless La Quinta. It was one of the few times in the last two years that Kosi (103 yards) rushed for fewer yards than Frank passed for.
"Coming into my senior year I felt so good about my frame of mind," Frank said. "Physically I know I'm much better than I was as a sophomore. I feel like I can take a game and dominate it if I have to. I just did so much when I was a sophomore that I get upset when I can't do it all the time."