Remember the 1970 Sailors

Newport Harbor High alumni Tony Horvath, left, and Randy Hamilton are producing a documentary about the 1970 Sailors’ football team.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Ernie Johnson used many motivational speeches when he coached the Newport Harbor High football team in 1970. Motivation was sorely needed. There hadn’t been anything to really cheer about for 28 years.

One of the speeches that seemed to stick out for many during that season was when he reminded the Sailors how the opponent felt about Newport Harbor.

To paraphrase, Johnson said the other players were thinking they weren’t about to be beat by some “beach (expletive).”

The nickname fired up the Sailors during their championship season. They won their first league title since 1942 that year.


The derogatory, yet playful name also seemed apt for a project created by Randy Hamilton and Tony Horvath.

The two former Newport Harbor players are a part of B.P. Films, which they created to produce a documentary about the 1970 Sailors football team.

For the past three years, Hamilton and Horvath have been digging through newspaper archives and interviewing former players from that team, as well as putting the spotlight on Johnson, regarded as a great coach in his time.

B.P. Films is nearly done with the film, which should run about an hour and has a budget of around $150,000. There are some interviews left and they are still deciding on a title. Their goal is to have the documentary ready to appear at next year’s Newport Beach Film Festival.


There’s a problem, however. Hamilton and Johnson still need more game film from that season, as well as home movies from the stands and photos. They’re asking the community for help.

What they’ve already acquired is rather impressive and should help produce an entertaining documentary.

Truth be told, the 1970 team is not the greatest squad in Newport’s proud history, as these Sailors finished 8-2 after losing in the first round of the playoffs. But Hamilton and Horvath contend it was an important team. Johnson, in his only season at Newport Harbor, helped produce a winning mentality for the once-downtrodden program.

The 1970 team also started a tradition with the Newport Harbor helmet, Horvath said. Before 1970, teams had a cartoon cutout of Popeye the Sailor Man on the helmet. But players replaced Popeye with a sticker of the American flag, which remains on the helmet today. One of the reasons the American flag was used was because of Johnson’s patriotism, Horvath said.

Johnson had a strong influence on the players and made a huge impact on their lives, Hamilton and Horvath said.

Johnson also enjoyed coaching the team.

“That was a great bunch of young guys. It was a lot of fun,” said Johnson, 85, who is retired and living in San Juan Capistrano. “I would always coach with guys at Pico Rivera. This is really like the opposite end of the world. But I found out that boys are boys. I had a lot of interesting times. I saw some of them how they kept their hair. It was funny.”

Johnson, as well as Hamilton and Horvath, say the league title, a co-championship shared with Anaheim, was a big deal for that team and the community. The Sailors’ 7-0 victory over powerhouse Anaheim in Week 3 was just as huge.


Hamilton and Horvath were able to get that game film and the Sunset League opener is featured in the documentary.

The duo from Newport Beach came together to produce what should be a memorable film for many in the community. They want to do it right with the plan that it will relate to the general audience and be shown to many high school football teams, as it teaches important values, they said.

I was treated to a couple clips last week at Hamilton’s home and I’m really looking forward to the finished product. Newport Harbor football coach Jeff Brinkley is excited for the film too. He’s told Horvath and Hamilton that he will show the documentary to his players.

Brinkley appears in the documentary. He played for Johnson when the former Newport Harbor coach took the job at Cerritos College. Newport Harbor’s defensive coordinator Tony Ciarelli offers a different perspective in the film, as he played against Newport Harbor in 1970 with the Huntington Beach Oilers.

Hamilton and Horvath have great knowledge when it comes to Newport Harbor football history. That helps the movie. They also have other traits that have helped.

Hamilton, who lives in Newport Beach, has made other documentaries about dance when he lived in the Bay area. He made it big in pharmaceuticals and was able to retire before moving back to Newport Beach and concentrate on projects like the Newport Harbor football documentary.

Horvath, who became a high school teacher and coach and later a fitness manager for a cruise line, also lives in Newport Beach. He has been in touch with the community throughout his time here. He talked about producing the documentary at the school’s 30-year reunion.

“It was magical,” Horvath said of playing for Newport Harbor. “We had a group of personalities that were all over the board.”


Some of the guys from the 1970 football team still meet, informally, at Blackies bar on Sundays.

Somehow, they end up talking about those days in 1970, playing for the coach who constantly pushed them to be great and continually motivated them to achieve victory.

“We learned that you could set goals and if you worked hard enough and you were dedicated enough you could achieve great things,” Hamilton said. “That’s lasted a lifetime.”

Even though Johnson coached just one season at Newport Harbor, he remains grateful for the time spent with the Sailors. He calls it a great time amid the 40 years he coached football.

“I’m probably the richest guy you know,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any money really, but I have a lot of great young men that I had the privilege of coaching. In a way I see that as pretty rich. When you help them in their lives and for their future, I mean that’s what we’re out there for.”

Johnson might’ve stayed at Newport Harbor, but he didn’t think it was the best place for him. He said he left for personal reasons. He then took the job at Cerritos College.

” I wanted to be sure that I was the coach,” Johnson said of working at Newport Harbor. “I like to say that parents stick to the parenting and I do the coaching. I did the coaching because I really liked it. I was offered a lot of things to stay there. But you can’t coach if the parents are going to get involved. Any time someone gives you something that you could’ve and should’ve work for, you better turn and run, because they haven’t really helped you, they’ve bought you.”

The Sailors who played in 1970 were thankful Johnson was there for at least that season, but they were sad he left. The lessons he taught the players remain because he was able to get through to a bunch of beach (expletive).