CERRITOS — 'Christians are aggressive. There's nothing un-Christian about being aggressive.' ---Mike Wunderley,Valley Christian football coach
It was raining, but Valley Christian High School Coach Mike Wunderley didn't care, for he was in a place where spirits seem immune to dampening and where the football season has been as rich as the wet-earth smell the drizzle raised from the practice field.
"Great day, gents," Wunderley said to his gold-jerseyed players.
The way he and his team have been going, every day is great, no matter what color the sky.
The Crusaders, who have talent, size, speed, intelligence and, said Wunderley, the ability to not get flustered, are undefeated in six games. They have won by scores of 46-0, 49-0, 24-0, 62-0, 42-0 and 38-7. They are in first place in the Olympic League and ranked No. 1 in the Inland Conference.
They actually gave up a touchdown last week (to Orange Lutheran), which sent mild shock waves through the VC campus.
But Wunderley told his team before practice Monday, "You knew in your mind that (being scored on) would happen, but in your hearts you never wanted it to happen."
And then he injected them with a dose of confidence.
"I don't think anybody can shut you down the way you shut people down," he said in a locker room decorated with a banner that read, "We Believe in VC" and was signed "Sandi" and "Denise" and "Rachel" and "Jennifer" and "Karla," the cheerleaders who made it.
At VC, where cars in the parking lot have bumper stickers that say, "Hugga Friend" and "Beam Me Up, Jesus," everyone believes.
"What makes it unique here is that Christ is at the center of everyone's life," Wunderley said.
Senior quarterback Mike Zoetewey said, "We know our gifts come from God. That doesn't mean we're going to win, but He's with us all the time."
Zoetewey's gift was a strong right arm. A commanding presence at 6 feet 3, his helmet hides a face of a much younger boy. Zoetewey has completed 71% of his passes and has thrown 11 for touchdowns.
Public school opponents, such as Mayfair, like to dub Valley Christian the "Angel Factory," which amuses the Crusaders.
"We're tough angels," said Zoetewey, noting that VC beat the devil out of Mayfair a few weeks ago, 49-0.
The Crusaders have some of the biggest players seen on the campus since the early '60s when Dutch kids who worked in dairies populated the school.
The offensive line averages 225 pounds and the defensive line averages 230.
The defense, which held Orange Lutheran to an average of nine inches a carry, is led by linemen Jeff Hogan, Eric Johnson and John Vander Ploeg and linebacker Steve King.
"They have so much strength and depth," said Mike Fitch, coach of Brethren High School, whom VC will play Friday night. "They blow people out."
Wunderley, who often attends church with his players and their parents, said it should come as no surprise that young men who study the Bible can also be feared football players.
"Christians are aggressive," he said. "There's nothing un-Christian about being aggressive."
Wunderley, 39, is in his seventh year as head coach. His wife, Letty, went to Valley Christian (he went to Excelsior) and his son, Michael, 5, and daughter, Kristen, 10, are in the system, which has three campuses--grammar school, junior high and high school.
Wunderley never played football. But as a graduate assistant at Cal State Fullerton in 1970, he developed a penchant for the game's strategy. He attended clinics and read everything he could about Xs and O's.
"He's a good motivator," said Jeff Westra, the team's leading pass receiver.
Lineman Brian Biedebach said, "He doesn't yell at you, he speaks to you."
Not that the Valley Christian players are the type that have to be yelled at.
Willingly Follow Code
Except for occasional horseplay in the locker room, they willingly follow a code of conduct that states: "You represent your team, school, parents and your God.
Wunderley's gray-bristled mustache is the only facial hair in the vicinity. And there is not much on the tops of heads.
"My football players have to cut their hair," Wunderley said. "We want them to look good because we love these kids."
Vulgar language is absent, even from casual locker-room conversations.
"That type of behavior is not part of our life styles," Wunderley said. "I'm not a goody-goody but I don't go home and swear at my kids, so why would I swear at my football players?
"We will not permit profanity or the use of God's name in vain. It's going to happen because football is emotional and things are going to be said you don't mean to say."
Slips of the Tongue
Zoetewey admits to occasional slips of the tongue.
"It just comes out sometimes," he said. "When it does, the coaches tell us to watch our mouths."
Many of the players have been at Valley Christian since they were in kindergarten. They grew up watching their brothers play for the Crusaders and spent many Friday nights tossing footballs behind the bleachers and dreaming of future glory.