Armed for History


High school sports serve as a rite of passage for the athletes who play them, the student, friends and families that gather to watch them and the sportswriters who cut their professional teeth covering them.

High school football games in Los Angeles date to 1896, but it wasn’t until 1934 that the Los Angeles City Section was born.

The Southern Section was established in 1912 and held its first athletic competition in 1913.


This story is not an attempt to document the achievements of every outstanding athlete, coach and team that made a mark, for there are far too many to chronicle here.

Rather, it is a history lesson of sorts told by current and former Times staff writers who have written about Southland prep athletes. Most of the writers graduated from Los Angeles-area high schools. And while many have gone on to cover college and professional sports as beat writers or columnists, all maintain indelible images of the prep athletes they watched, covered and, in some instances, competed with and against on the playing field.


Never before and never since have I seen a high school athlete who could do more extraordinary things on an athletic field than John Elway. He arrived at Granada Hills High in the summer of 1976 from Pullman, Wash., the same year I started covering high school sports for the old Valley News & Greensheet.

His father, Jack, came in as the more visible personality, having been named football coach at Cal State Northridge. But John quickly overtook his father because of his magical arm.

It was a great time to play high school football in the City Section, for it was the era of terrific quarterbacks, from Elway to Tom Ramsey of Kennedy, from Jay Schroeder of Palisades to Steve Clarkson and Ron Cuccia of Wilson to John Mazur of El Camino Real.

Elway’s scrambling ability combined with Coach Jack Neumeier’s innovative spread offense made Granada Hills games as entertaining as any college or NFL contest.


Then there was Elway, the baseball player. He played on two City championship teams and had nine hits in 13 at-bats during the 1979 City playoffs.

What was most memorable besides the amazing velocity of Elway’s passes was his maturity and character. He never stopped being polite, respectful and friendly even as his athletic feats made him a teenage sensation. As the years went by and he became a bigger and bigger celebrity, his core values never changed. That, in itself, separated him from so many others past and present.