LYNWOOD — It is the new season at Lynwood High School, which means it is time to win again, time to emerge from a cramped locker room into a sunny September, cross the dingy asphalt and enter the little purple and gold stadium where the grass is as thick as the tradition and where young men, barely able to contain their happiness at being Lynwood football players, sing the old Temptations hit "My Girl" and wait for their coach.
The coach is a short man named Larry Anderson dressed in the school colors with "The Wood" sewn on his cap. He is happy, too. In three years as head coach, his record is 30-4-1, and now, as always, he is surrounded by talent. It just keeps coming year after year.
And nobody in the San Gabriel Valley League can cope with it. The Knights have won 24 straight league games since 1981. The only tarnish on Anderson's record is three straight defeats in the playoffs.
"What I enjoy most here is the opportunity to coach some of the finest athletes in Southern California, and the rapport we've built with the kids," Anderson said before practice Monday.
"A lot of schools have good athletes, but here we have a consistency in coaching. I'm not saying we're super coaches, we just teach the same things every season and (as a result) we have the same type of team we had in the early '70s."
Before becoming the head coach, Anderson was a Lynwood assistant for 10 years.
The Lynwood philosophy is basic in its roots.
"We firmly believe in teaching fundamentals and techniques," Anderson said. "We figure we already have the good athletes, so all we have to do is teach them how to play."
When most of his players leave Lynwood, they are equipped to play anywhere, Anderson believes. Many of them play at major colleges.
Talent and teaching spawn confidence and victories, and football seasons at Lynwood become slices of glory from a seemingly never-ending loaf.
"Kids get so used to winning that they expect to win, no doubt about it," Anderson says. "You get that kind of thinking and it makes things a lot easier."
What really makes life easy for Anderson is Anthony Burnett. He is on the field practicing punting, exploding his right leg with its long, stringy muscles into the ball, sending it high and 50 yards down the field. Punting is something that Burnett just recently volunteered to do. It is the very least of what he does.
He is a marvelous free safety, a fierce tackler. On offense, Anderson says he'd make a great wide receiver but he can't play there because he's been designated the quarterback to succeed Darren Hughes, who was all-league in 1984. Burnett has never really played quarterback. "I feel a lot of pressure," he says. "Darren was great."
Anderson doesn't seem too worried, believing that Burnett's athletic ability--he can high-jump 6 feet, 8 inches and run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds--will carry him through, along with his leadership. "He's mature enough to take a coach's role on the field," Anderson said.
Burnett is not the only reason that Lynwood is favored to extend its league streak. Other players likely to be recruited heavily, according to Anderson, include Chico Akaveka (6-2, 210), a linebacker-offensive guard; running backs Keith Sparks and Reggie Pitchford; defensive end Ronald Murphy, who had 14 quarterback sacks last season, tight end-defensive end Marc Birch and linebacker Reggie Gentry.
Burnett says, "A lot of people think the teams in our league are kind of weak, but when they play Lynwood they get hyped up and play at double their capabilities." A look at the rest of the San Gabriel Valley League:
2. Paramount--It amuses Coach Ken Sutch that some of the other league coaches, especially Lynwood's Anderson, think the Pirates are in Lynwood's class. "We better get a lot better," Sutch said last week. "We just scrimmaged each other and nobody won." But Sutch has 16 starters back from a 5-3 team, including senior tailback Michael Wooten, who averaged seven yards a carry in '84. Senior fullback Rudy Sauceda and junior quarterback Kojuan Williams, who passed for 950 yards as a sophomore, also return. Jessie Jamison, a junior, has impressed as a backup tailback and fullback. Sutch is worried about his offensive line where he has to replace star tackles Stewart Ibrahim and Wayne Manu.
3. Gahr--The Gladiators have a premier runner in Travonn Johnson, a 5-11, 180-pound senior who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and is being recruited by Pac-10 schools. He gained 1,100 yards last year, but Gahr won only three of 10 games. However, almost everyone is back, which makes Coach Darrell Walsh optimistic. The quarterbacks will be seniors Keith Harrison, a runner, and senior Chris Borza, a passer. Other top offensive players are running back Eric Walters and center Scott Shimel. The defense is led by Maurice Miller, a quick senior tackle who shaped up by dropping from 240 pounds to 225.