Standing on the sidelines with his arms crossed, Glendale High football Coach John Brennan stopped in mid-sentence.
"I can't think of the word I'm looking for," he said.
The silence continued as Brennan strained to complete his thought. Bending at the waist, he reached to pick at the grass--and missed.
It wasn't the first time Brennan had come up empty.
In his return to coaching at Glendale last season, Brennan grew accustomed to that empty feeling. The Dynamiters were winless in 10 games in 1984, and that's only half the story.
The overall losing streak was 20.
Brennan tries not to think about it.
Forget Dismal Past
"That's past us," he said. "We have to let that stand and go forth from here."
And so they are.
The turnaround at Glendale has begun.
Not only did the Dynamiters stop the losing streak in their season-opener, an 18-0 victory over Alhambra, but they came back the following week and routed Eagle Rock, 48-0.
With the dynamiters outscoring the opposition 66-0, Glendale's streak had taken on a new form--a two-game winning streak.
That they came back to earth last week in a 28-7 loss at San Marino hasn't dimmed the Dynamiters' new-found hope.
They know they can win.
"We're going to play tougher teams this year than Alhambra and Eagle Rock, but it was good for us to feel some success right away," Brennan said.
"You don't teach kids to be losers; there are enough of those in life. And just because they lose a game doesn't make them losers.
"It sounds like a cliche, but I think last year was a good learning experience. It showed the kids that they're not always going to be in a situation where they are winning all their life. Now they know how to fight back."
And they are.
Linebacker Tim Hull leads by example, said Brennan, who likes the 6-3, 200-pound senior's dedication and soft-spoken intensity.
But even Hull was beginning to wonder if he'd ever win a varsity game.
"It really got depressing," Hull said. "We always had hope that we had a chance to win, even though day-in, day-out we wouldn't see ourselves making progress."
As the losing streak grew, Glendale's hopes diminished. Even Brennan concedes that his team didn't have much of a chance:
"We were just outmanned, and we didn't have much speed, which hurt us in the Pacific League."
Even when the talent was sufficient in certain games, Glendale lacked the winning edge.
'Just Didn't Believe'
"I think there were a couple of times where we had our chances, but the kids just didn't believe they could win," Brennan said.
Neither did other Glendale students, who took to betting against the team toward the end of last season, according to then co-captain Loi Phan.
"Everywhere I go I hear them betting against us," Phan said last season. "They're betting against their own team. Sometimes it makes me kind of mad."
It shouldn't have been that surprising, though. In the 10-game stretch than spanned the last three games of 1983 and the first seven of 1984, Glendale was outscored by 364 to 39. The Dynamiters were shut out nine times during the streak.
The team's last victory, a 7-0 win over Hoover in the final game of the 1982 season, became the answer to a forgotten trivia question.
"It just snowballed and got bigger and bigger," Hull said.
But it didn't get better.
With no victories on the field, Brennan found some pride in his team's attitude.
"We just didn't have the talent, but the kids never stopped trying. I couldn't have asked them to give more."
The effort was consistent, but so was the result.
"When you're 0-and-whatever, you just don't want to lose another game," Hull said. "The pressure kept building."
And the losses kept mounting.
It has been a completely different story this season. Through three weeks, the perennial losers have become winners.
"Once we got that first win, the pressure was gone," Hull said.
After the second victory, the Dynamiters were brought back to earth by San Marino.
Glendale hopes to end this losing streak at one game when it plays Burroughs-Ridgecrest on Friday night.
"We should have won the San Marino game," said injured junior quarterback Steve Wickser. "They got two touchdowns in the first five minutes, but we had more total offense. We could have won it."
Brennan said the defeat may help the team in the long run.
"Maybe it's better that it happened now to brings us back down," he said. "This might keep things in perspective for us."
Hull doesn't deny that his mood improved with the taste of victory:
"It feels great. It makes it a lot easier to work hard when you can see that it's worth it."
The new optimism in the Glendale program goes beyond the quick start.
By starting 13 juniors who won a co-championship in the Pacific League as sophomores last season, the Dynamiters think they have a bright future.
Assistant Coach John Brinton, who coached the sophomore team, said the attitude is different among those he brought with him to the varsity.