Two of Tustin High School's top cross-country runners were assaulted by a group of youths during a practice run last Tuesday, suffering injuries that will cause them to miss Friday's Sea View League championship meet.
Don Glover, a senior who runs in the No. 4 or 5 position for the Tillers, had his nose broken, and Tom Manzella, a junior who runs in the No. 7 position, suffered a sprained wrist and concussion during the fight that followed the attack.
Glover and Manzella were the last in a group of about 70 runners heading east on Santa Clara Avenue between Prospect Avenue and Esplanade in East Tustin Tuesday afternoon when, Manzella said, four youths in a car drove by and yelled obscenities at them.
According to Manzella, the car returned and pulled to the side of the road, at which point one of the passengers got out and charged Glover. Manzella said that two other passengers then attacked him.
Moments later, Manzella said, three others drove up in a second car and joined in the assault. He added that Glover had been held and kicked in the face.
"There were seven or eight of them by the end," Manzella said. "After we had been beaten up pretty good, Don jumped up and got the license plate number of the car."
Three Tiller assistants had been running the nine miles with the team while Coach Tom Coffey followed the group in his car. Coffey said he had passed Glover and Manzella and pulled over at an intersection about 300 yards from the site of the incident to wait for his runners.
They never came.
"A woman pulled over and told me that two of my runners were getting mugged by some punkers," said Coffey, who has coached at Tustin for 14 years. "By the time I got there, they (Glover and Manzella) were a bloody mess."
Coffey took Glover and Manzella back to school and called the police. According to Coffey, Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies arrested seven youths a few hours after the attack. Coffey said the seven were students from Foothill High School and nearby Hillview Continuation School.
Sheriff's Lt. Russ Elsner said the case is under investigation.
"It was very shocking because it happened in one of the most affluent areas of Orange County, in an open area where there is a lot of traffic," Coffey said. "And my kids are highly supervised. If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere."
Coffey stressed that the incident had nothing to do with the Tustin-Foothill rivalry. "These were kids who don't have school spirit," he said. "They were just out trying to pick on other people."
Glover, who is 6-feet 1-inch and 160 pounds, is showing few mental scars from the assault.
"I never really lost my temper through the whole thing," he said. "It was just something that happened. Obviously, they were out looking for a fight."
However, Manzella, who is 5-7 and 120 pounds, said he is still shocked by the incident.
"I'm kind of jumpy when someone's behind me," he said. "That was my first fight-ever. I really can't sleep at night."
For weeks, the Tillers had been pointing to this Friday as the day they would win the league meet and prove that their dual-meet upset of third-ranked Corona del Mar in early October was no fluke.
But after losing Glover and Manzella, the Tillers, unranked in Orange County but 5-0 in league dual meets, have all but conceded the title to the Sea Kings.
"We're as good as anyone when we have everyone going perfect," Coffey said. "To win the league, we have to have another perfect meet, like we had the first time against Corona del Mar. But to have this happen is very frustrating. It's definitely going to affect us."
Manzella got right to the point.
"This destroys the whole season, because we're probably going to lose the league title because of it," he said.
Cheers: Rancho Alamitos football partisans had plenty to suffer through Thursday night. The Vaqueros had only 25 players for their game against favored La Quinta and were losing, 42-0, midway through the fourth period.
The La Quinta cheerleaders compounded matters by leading their fans in a few chants addressed to the Vaquero side.
"We've got points, yes we do! We've got points, how about you?" That was followed by "We've got players, yes we do . . ." and then "We've got perfection . . ."
After the perfection cheer, there was a long pause from the Rancho Alamitos side. Then came: "We've got class, yes we do! We've got class, how about you?"
Stony silence prevailed on the La Quinta side.
Touche , Rancho.
Prep fads: The latest in homecomings--having a hot-air balloon take the queen for a ride to close out the halftime ceremony--has caused a few problems.
On Oct. 10 at San Clemente, homecoming organizers began inflating the balloon with about two minutes left in the first half, unaware that it was obstructing the scoreboard as San Clemente mounted its only scoring threat of the night.