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Preps / Scott Howard-Cooper : Cathcart and Huebner End Another Season

November 25, 1986|Scott Howard-Cooper

The season ended a couple weeks earlier than hoped for the Sunshine Boys of high school football, but what the heck. It wasn't such a bad start, especially since they plan to come back for more in 1987. Better than sitting around, anyway.

"Retirement is for the birds," said Sam Cathcart, a rookie coach again. "You can mow the lawn, clean the garage and travel, but after a while it gets old."

But will Cathcart and Paul Huebner ever?

Thirty-three years after leaving the San Francisco 49ers, 32 years after becoming a head coach at Santa Barbara High, 26 years after winning the Southern Section 4-A title, 16 years after coaching his last game and 2 years since retiring from teaching altogether, Cathcart, 62, got back into the game. He didn't need it, but he figured the kids and the program at Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara needed him.

"I didn't miss coaching," he said. "I had had enough, just like playing. I got it out of my system. We won a lot (134-43-9 at Santa Barbara) and friends were saying they would like to see some other teams win and that we should be fair. That kind of got to me, and the kids kind of got to me. There were the riots at UCSB in the early '70s and the kids were questioning everything. 'Question authority' and all that."

Cathcart, a few months into his new job as athletic director at Bishop Diego, saw Huebner at a social gathering of former Shrine all-star coaches during the summer and asked him to take over the program. Huebner, himself 62 and with City championships in 1958 and '60 to his credit as co-coach with Gene Vollnogle at Wilmington Banning, agreed. But only if the two could split the duties.

So off they went, 124 years' worth of knowledge of playing and coaching in high school, college and pro to teach a new generation. They had played against one another in high school in 1941--Cathcart at Long Beach Poly and Huebner at Phoenix Union of Arizona--and in college--UC Santa Barbara and Occidental--but now would be on the same sideline.

"One thing that's nice is that it is a Catholic school," Huebner said. "So if we die in the huddle, we're close to the last rites."

Things never got that bad. Huebner pulled a hamstring in the first practice while leading exercises, Cathcart pulled a calf muscle while running with the team to work off his pot belly.

In the games, Bishop Diego, a four-year school with an enrollment of 350, went 4-6 on the field, got two forfeits to make the official record 6-4, and just missed the Inland Conference playoffs as a Tri-Valley League representative.

"Football is fun," Huebner said. "It's quite a challenge. In fact, I don't think I ever worked harder than this year."

Cathcart even got the chance to face Santa Paula, whose head coach, Mike Tsoutsouvas, played for him in the late '60s and whose defensive coordinator, Sam Cathcart, is his son. Two others are also involved in area prep sports, Steve as the offensive coordinator at Santa Barbara and Scott as media and public relations director for the Southern Section.

Seems as though there's still plenty of football life left in these two.

"Amos Alonzo (Stagg) gave up when he was 102," Huebner said. "We've still got a lot of mileage left."

The November issue of The Physician and Sports Medicine contains a lengthy commentary by Harold B. Falls, a professor of biomedical sciences at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, Mo., on the dangers of high school football injuries, specifically for girls who play. Among his conclusions:

--"During a 47-year period (1931-78), 544 deaths were directly attributed to high school football (an average of 11.5 per year). With better equipment, rules and coaching, this rate has decreased somewhat in recent years. For the period 1976-81, the rate averaged 8.2 deaths per year. This is still a significant number of deaths for a school-sponsored activity, and one wonders if elective chemistry courses would still be offered if that many students per year were killed in lab explosions."

--"Almost all of these injury factors are likely to be more operative in secondary school females than in males. Although specific data on football are not available, a number of investigations have compared the male-female injury rate when the two sexes are participating separately or together in the same or similar physical activity. Without exception, these studies have demonstrated a higher injury rate in the female."

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