You'd think the loaded 38-special those Cowboys from Canyon High carry would be getting heavy on the hip. They are asked about it everywhere they go.
Canyon hasn't lost a football game since Sept. 30, 1983. The Cowboys won their last 10 games that season and posted 14-0 records each of the past two years.
Yet the players, even the ones who have played a major role in the streak, check their holsters at the locker room door. What streak?
"Our record is 0-0, not 38-0," says quarterback Ken Sollom, who is beginning his third varsity season.
"We don't talk about the streak at all," says wide receiver Chad Zeigler, another third-year varsity player.
They gladly talk about the brand of Cowboy football that has led to the victories, however.
"Cowboys don't accept anything less than a maximum effort," Sollom says. "It's something special. You've got to have a big heart."
"Cowboy football is working hard all day long," says running back Lance Cross, who has gained 2,440 yards rushing in two seasons.
The architect of Cowboy football--and the streak--is Coach Harry Welch, who has a four-year record at Canyon of 49-5. His outward ambivalence for the streak is purposeful. Welch doesn't want the 38-special blowing up in his players' faces, who believe him when he says, "The measure of success is not the scoreboard. If you put out your best effort, you have nothing to be ashamed of."
All the talk of Cowboy football, is clearly corny, but the Cowboys crack corn and they don't care what anyone else thinks.
"Sometimes it's OK to be corny," Welch says. "What these young men are doing every day crackles with life and energy. Cowboy football is a way to live."
And the streak is something Cowboys have to live with. Whether they like it or not. Here are a few reasons why:
It is the third-longest current win streak in the United States and the longest in the state. (East St. Louis, Ill., has won 40 and River Ridge of John Curtis, La., has won 39.)
It is the sixth longest ever in the state. (Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa won 47 straight from 1972 to 1977.)
It is the second longest in Southern Section history. (Temple City won 46 straight from 1970 to 1974.) Another eight straight and the Cowboys will be in the record book.
But those could be a crazy eight. Severe tests await Canyon this fall.
First, of course, is Hart, the No. 1 ranked team in the Northwestern Conference and Canyon's Santa Clarita Valley rival. Canyon faces Hart at College of the Canyons on Friday night.
The Cowboys edged the Indians last year by six inches, the distance Hart quarterback Jim Bonds was held from the goal line on a fourth-down play in the game's final seconds. Canyon won, 6-3, which wasn't as close as the Cowboys' 22-21 win over Hart in 1983, but was closer than their 21-6 win in 1984.
Two weeks later, the Cowboys face Thousand Oaks, which is ranked third in the Coastal Conference. Canyon is ranked No. 2 in the conference behind Muir, the defending champion. Canyon and the rest of the Golden League moved up to the Coastal Conference this season.
If Canyon wins its first eight, the game for a piece of the state record will be on the home field of league rival Antelope Valley, which has its strongest team since 1981, when the Antelopes won the Northwestern Conference title. Antelope Valley grudgingly succumbed to Canyon, 9-7, in the conference title game last season. It was Canyon's third straight conference championship.
"That was our least satisfying win," Welch said. "We try to set our own standards rather than let opponents set standards for us. We didn't play Cowboy football that night."
There they go again, soft-pedaling a hard-earned victory in favor of an ethic. Idealism aside, what kind of football is Cowboy football?
What kind of offense has scored 1,154 points in the past 38 games?
"We're almost always in the I-formation," Welch says. "We don't use motion. I don't even hand out a playbook. I have a good friend who used to coach in the league. He tells me, 'You are so simple.' I like that an awful lot."
OK, so the offense is as easy to read as a pulp Western novel. How about a defense that has allowed just 292 points and accounted for nine shutouts over the same span?
"It's a cross between a 5-2 and a 4-4," Welch says. "We sit in it. It's something I came up with over the years. People say, 'You can't do that.' It's basic, simple and tremendous. But it's too boring for some people."
If the Xs and O's are ordinary, the players must be physically imposing specimens, right?
"We're mostly little guys doing the little things right," counters Cross, who is 5-6 and weighs 160. Paul Chadwell, his running mate, is 5-6, 150. Only one Canyon lineman weighs more than 200 pounds.
Palmdale Coach Bill Norton has a theory about Canyon. His teams have been beaten by the Cowboys three times during the streak--in the 1983 conference title game when he coached at Bishop Montgomery and the past two years while at his present post.