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.


Before he became known as A.D. and the latest in the long line of outstanding USC tailbacks, Anthony Davis had a sensational career at San Fernando High.

He is the most dominant high school football player I have ever seen, and I saw some good ones while covering City Section sports for the Hollywood Citizen-News from 1966 to 1970 and The Times from 1970 to 1975.

Wide receiver Wesley Walker and linebacker Marvin Morris of Carson, quarterback Vince Ferragamo of Banning, tailbacks Wendell Tyler of Crenshaw and Ricky Bell of Fremont and wide receiver-defensive back-kick returner Greg Hudson of Roosevelt are a few of the great players I had the pleasure of watching.

But Davis was special, particularly in 1970, his senior year. Davis was an efficient passer, completing 87 of 184 attempts for 1,665 yards. But he excelled as a runner. He carried 166 times for 1,568 yards--an average of 9.4 yards--and scored 29 touchdowns. In the City title game, which the Tigers lost to Mid Valley League rival Granada Hills, he scored on runs of 99, 85 and 71 yards.


As for multisport performers, few equaled Willie Davis, who graduated in 1958 from Roosevelt, which also produced 1962 graduate Mike Garrett, the 1965 Heisman Trophy winner at USC and now the school’s athletic director.

Long before he became known as “Three Dog” while playing center field for the Dodgers, Davis excelled in track and field (setting a City long jump record of 25 feet 5 inches), basketball (a high-scoring guard) as well as baseball. When not in center field, he was a very effective starting pitcher.