They Know Their History : Prep football: Instead of studying the passing tree, several players from the Valley region can trace their family trees to famous relatives.
Inventiveness, leadership, bravery, courage. History books tell us our ancestorshad these qualities in abundance, enabling them to blaze trails, settle frontiers and generally hold down the fort.
It’s the stuff of movies and schoolboy dreams. But for today’s teen-ager, perhaps the most-civilized alternative to trading musket shots or dodging arrows is suiting up for high school football.
And when the blood surging through adolescent veins under Friday-night lights has been passed down from Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone or a legendary Indian chief, the game becomes a more-convincing slice of Americana.
Area players claim as ancestors famous folks of all stripes. A descendant of Benjamin Franklin makes electrifying plays for Agoura. A seed sown by Jesse James turns up more than a century later in a Saugus player intent on pilfering passes.
And more than one running back claims lineage to Pancho Villa. No wonder they’re elusive.
Coaches have long known the importance of bloodlines, the frequency with which a brother or cousin of a former standout is a sure bet to excel.
What if the standout is named Standish, as in Myles Standish, straight off the Mayflower?
Kevin Standish of La Canada, a direct descendant of Myles, tackled a Blair runner short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with 18 seconds left to preserve the Spartans’ 13-12 victory two weeks ago. He also recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving his father, Myles Standish The Eleventh Or So, something else to puff his chest about.
The Standishes, incidentally, can’t stop exploring. The family moved to La Canada from Wethersfield, Conn., a town the original Myles Standish founded, because the current Myles Standish works at Caltech for Jet Propulsion Laboratories and NASA.
Other descendants of those who shaped American history do work similar to their ancestors.
Samuel Chase signed the Declaration of Independence and generations later Stephen Chase signs his share of important papers as an administrator for the City of Ventura.
“If you look to the immediate right of John Hancock’s signature, there is Samuel Chase’s,” Stephen Chase said.
Look to the immediate right of the football when St. Bonaventure is on defense, and there is Stephen’s son, also Stephen Chase, who puts his John Hancock on opposing quarterbacks as a Seraph tackle.
Of course, without the Revolutionary War there might never have been a Declaration of Independence. Our first American soldiers were inspired by the writings of Thomas Paine, who wrote the immortal words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Quartz Hill’s Justin Holtfreter might have used that line after the Rebels’ 27-0 loss to Antelope Valley on Thursday. A descendant of Paine, Holtfreter is a backup quarterback who constantly exhorts his playoff-bound teammates with Rebel yells.
“Justin’s outgoing and tries to get everyone fired up,” teammate Matt Matros said.
Paraclete fullback Scott Wolfe occasionally is asked to bring in plays from the sidelines, and for good reason: A long-ago relative served as a cartographer for George Washington. If anyone can map the way to the end zone, it’s Wolfe.
Need more proof that certain traits can be passed through the years like that electrical current discovered by Benjamin Franklin? Take Shayne Sobel, who is related to the old kite-flying, stove-inventing icon himself.
Just last Friday night, the Agoura receiver lit up the Westlake secondary, scoring touchdowns on pass plays of 44 and 12 yards in the Chargers’ upset. Two weeks earlier he electrified the crowd with an 88-yard punt return.
And inventiveness? Shayne’s father, Jan, founded the ever-popular Whizbo Disk, a cousin of the Frisbee, and developed a beach football game with the thing. Wouldn’t you know it, Shayne’s team won the “Whizbo World Championship” at Santa Monica pier last summer by knocking off three opponents.
To believe Jan Sobel, appearance as well as genius carries through many generations.
“If you look at Benjamin Franklin, and look at my mom, she looks a lot like Benjamin Franklin,” he said.
Sobel added that his mother, Miriam, was stunning in her youth, and was the model Walt Disney used to develop Snow White. This would make Benjamin Franklin and Snow White look-alikes, although one would swear he bears a stronger resemblance to her sidekick dwarf, Doc.
Leadership could be expected from descendants of Presidents, something certainly true of Saugus guard Jason Huml, whose maternal grandfather traced the family back to John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Huml, a 230-pound senior, takes the lead on sweeps, making blocks that have helped the Centurions to the playoffs.
Players claim blood ties to many Presidents, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Zachary Taylor, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The obvious pride is tempered a bit in the family of Royal receiver Jesse Garner, a descendant of Jackson.
“Jackson had no legitimate children, so you know what that means,” said Jesse’s father, James Garner (no, not that James Garner).
Jackson served as President at the turn of the 19th Century, the beginning of the American frontier era. Billed as “King of the Wild Frontier,” was Davy Crockett, whose descendant, Scott Weaver, became king of the wild Frontier League when his Moorpark team defeated Calabasas for the championship Thursday.
Weaver has a relative at Highland. Tackle Andy Sneden’s father is a Civil War buff who researched his family tree, which pointed straight to Crockett.
Sneden and Weaver might want to chat with Bobby Mosier of Canyon, a linebacker descended from Sam Houston, the first governor of Texas. They may not recall every detail of American history, but it’s safe to say they all remember the Alamo.
Rivaling the Alamo as a bitter defeat is Custer’s Last Stand. And we can thank a proud ancestor of Simi Valley’s Joe Sarcinella for that one.
Sarcinella’s ancestor, Chief Tatanka Iyo Tanka, and his Hunkpappa-Lakota tribe joined with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and the Sioux to rout General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn in 1876.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Pioneer lineman belongs to the Ventura County American Indian education consortium and takes part in Native American dances.
Anyone doubting the football ability of a Native American need only recall Jim Thorpe, perhaps the greatest athlete America has produced. Defensive back Casey Keltner, one of Hart’s leading tacklers, is related to Thorpe. Keltner’s mother, Linda, last week traveled to Oklahoma to attend the 85th birthday celebration of the wife of Thorpe’s brother, Roscoe.
As for Chief Tanka, he didn’t mix it up on the battlefield.
“He sat on a mountain and prayed,” Sarcinella said. “He was a spiritual leader.”
Sarcinella chased Royal quarterback Paul Janousek during Simi Valley’s game against the Highlanders on Saturday, but Janousek might appreciate that his rival’s ancestor helped collar Custer. Near the end of the Civil War, relentless pressure from cavalry troops of the dashing Custer hastened the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.
Janousek is related to Lee’s wife, Mary Custis Lee. This would explain Janousek’s ability to stand tall even when Royal’s season began to go the way of the Confederate army.
“I’ve done reports on Lee all through school and my dad and sister did some research,” he said.
Another quarterback hunter is defensive end John Irace of Saugus. But Irace is a descendant of Daniel Boone, and had his coaches known they might have also employed him on the offensive line. Who better to cut a path to the end zone than a relative of the man who opened the Wilderness Road through Kentucky?
The migration west was not unlike a long touchdown drive. Diagram a plan and methodically carry it out with a lot of sweat and teamwork.
That’s the way the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Coast was accomplished in the early 1800s, according to St. Genevieve receiver Patrick Muller, whose great-great-great uncle, William C. Thralls, was part of the groundbreaking team.
Robbing trains and banks in the expanding frontier made Jesse James larger than life. Chris Higgins of Saugus and Adam Woods of Fillmore both swear to be descendants of the outlaw.
James had several children, which must account for the disparity in size of his football-playing relatives. Higgins, a linebacker, is 5-8 and 160 pounds, while Woods is a 6-3, 220-pound lineman.
Woods, by the way, hits the jackpot. In addition to James, a family tree completed by an uncle sends branches back to Andrew Jackson and Pocahontas.
Perhaps a bit of one-upmanship persists in the discovery of famous ancestors. The family of La Canada fullback Matt Clemo is rightfully proud of descending from naval hero John Paul Jones, who when asked by the British to surrender his ship in 1779, responded, “Sir, I have not yet begun to fight.”
Among the La Canada faithful, the Clemos willingly give up the mantle of most-famous ancestor.
“John Paul Jones is good,” Matt’s mother said, “but it’s not Myles Standish.”