Players at Canyon High might be expected to break into a boastful song and dance when reminded of their 20 straight Golden League wins over the past four seasons. But as far as they are concerned, the wins are nothing more than a collection of Golden oldies.
"We're looking ahead," said Canyon running back Paul Chadwell, who started every game last season and watched from the stands in 1983 while his brother, Carl, helped the team in its first 10 wins of the league streak. "The only time I think about the past is when my brother reminds me."
Not coincidentally, the streak began the year Harry Welch took over as coach at Canyon. He has never lost a league game--a streak separate from Canyon's 38-game winning streak against all opponents.
Welch is aware, however, that the balance of power in high school football can change from year to year--even if his team has seemed immune to the phenomenon.
"Antelope Valley must be considered the outstanding team in the area this year," Welch said.
Humbly put, Harry. And accurate.
The crown jewel of the Golden League until Welch showed up, Antelope Valley has more talent than Canyon for the first time since 1981 and has the home field advantage when the teams meet Nov. 7.
"Our senior class is excellent," said Brent Newcomb, who is beginning his ninth season as coach of the Antelopes. "Also, we play a whole lot better up here, especially late in the season when it starts to get a little cold."
Since winning Southern Section championships in 1976, '77 and '81, however, the Antelopes have endured five straight losses to Welch-coached Canyon teams, including a 9-7 defeat in last season's Northwestern Conference title game.
All of which makes Newcomb speak respectfully when discussing Canyon.
"As always, they are a good football team," Newcomb said. "One thing that impresses me about Welch is that when someone gets hurt, another guy steps in and is just as good. That's good coaching."
Although no team other than Canyon and Antelope Valley has made a serious challenge for the league title in five years, Quartz Hill and Palmdale should soon have the talent to contend for the title. This may be the last year that Canyon and Antelope Valley can take the top two spots for granted.
The juniors at Quartz Hill were league champions the past two seasons on freshmen and sophomore teams. "They know what it's like to beat Canyon and Antelope Valley," Quartz Hill Coach John Albee said.
Palmdale went from 1-7-2 in 1984, Coach Bill Norton's first season, to 8-4 last year. "One thing about Palmdale is the tremendous number of kids in the ninth and 10th grades, about 1,800 of an enrollment of 3,000," Norton said. "Attendance at home games went from 300 to 4,000. We are a school on the rise."
A lack of experience at quarterback and overall depth are problems that dwarf even the huge offensive line at Burroughs of Ridgecrest, where the toughest obstacle for opponents usually is the three-hour bus ride to the school.
Dave Gross has replaced Al Hansen, who chose an opportune time to exit as coach at Saugus. The Centurions are at a woeful low in the talent department. "Everybody seems the same on this team," Gross said. "Small."
Gross led Rosamond to the Desert-Indio League title in the Small Schools Division the past two years. His jump to the Coastal Conference is a long one, but every Golden League coach knows the feeling of moving up in the Southern Section.
The league has been shifted to the Coastal Conference because of its domination of the Northwestern Conference during the first half of the decade. Golden League teams can expect a more rugged journey through the playoffs, but the reputations of Canyon and Antelope Valley have preceded them: The Cowboys are ranked No. 2 and the Antelopes No. 5 in the Southern Section's Coastal Conference preseason rankings.
Anyone debating whether the Antelope Valley-Canyon game will be worth the long drive, consider: If the Cowboys are unbeaten to that point, they will be attempting to break the Southern Section record of 46 wins in a row and tie the state record of 47.