Diversity. In the decade of the 1980s, it is tantamount to success for a high school football player.
Declining enrollment has thinned the talent at virtually every school. Accordingly, the ability of each athlete to play more than one position, and play it well, is critical to the success of the football program.
Take Valley Christian High School's multi-talented Sean McQuown, a member of The Times 1986 All-Southeast football team. McQuown, a senior, fills a variety of roles for the Crusaders. As punter, he is averaging 40.5 yards a kick. He has also connected on 8 of 11 field goal attempts and kicked 45 points after touchdowns. As a receiver, he has caught 44 passes for 718 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, the safety has 10 interceptions.
"He is our triple-threat option," said Crusader Coach Mike Wunderley, who sends McQuown and company into the Southern Section's Inland Conference championship game Saturday night.
It is that kind of output that is reflected in this season's selections for the All-Southeast team. Of the 23 players chosen, only four specialize in playing just one position.
Fifteen schools are represented on the first and second teams, with Whitmont League champion Bell Gardens High leading the way with five selections, followed by Big Five Conference finalist St. John Bosco High, with four picks.
The 23 first-team members will be honored at The Times' Football Awards Brunch Sunday morning at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel. John Cooper, head football coach of Rose Bowl-bound Arizona State, will be the featured speaker.
Awards for back of the year, lineman of the year and coach of the year will be announced at the brunch. Those selections will be published Dec. 18.
The Times selects all-star teams from 10 geographic zones in Southern California.
The following Southeast-area players were named to The Times' first team based on information supplied by coaches, college scouts and staff writers:
OFFENSE Quarterback--Andy Emch (Whittier, Sr.): Emch was a pillar of strength on a nowhere team that won just one game all year. Yet, at 6-5 he was the unanimous choice of every coach polled. Said one opposing coach from a team that beat Whittier this season: "I'd have liked to have a kid like Emch as my quarterback." In nine games Emch completed 52.8% of his passes for 1,429 yards and 6 TDs. It was also a running joke at Whittier to keep track of the number of passes his receivers dropped each game. Much of the time he was fighting off would-be tacklers, and his gritty play drew praise from league opponents. "That kid is tough," Bell Gardens Coach Dave Newell said.
Running back--Mondo Costello (St. Paul, Sr.): Swordsmen Coach Rick Ready calls Costello "versatile" and "flashy." He definitely presented multiple problems for his opponents. In regular season play he rushed for 769 yards and 3 touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 295 yards and 3 more scores. "He's a smart kid and always has his head in the game," Ready said. He was an All-Angelus League selection.
Running back--Robbie Watkins (La Serna, Jr.): A second team All-Southeast choice a year ago, Watkins took a step up this season. He was named the offensive back of the year in the Whitmont League after rushing for 1,330 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. He was primarily a dive back, with good power through the gaps. In 21 games during his two-year varsity career he rushed for 2,759 yards.
Running back--Jim Sterner (St. John Bosco, Sr.): Sterner, a triple-threat player, will be the Braves' quarterback in Friday night's Big Five Conference championship game at Anaheim Stadium against Crespi High. But he makes the team as a running back based on his ability to direct the Bosco veer offense. Coach Bill Friedrich was adamant in discussing Sterner's value to his team, which takes a 13-0 record into the final. "You're talking about the CIF player of the year," he said of Sterner. Sterner has thrown for more than 1,800 yards as well, and is the brains of the Brave offense, Friedrich said. "He's the reason we are still playing," the coach said.
Wide receiver--Jason Pantages (St. Paul, Sr.): Pantages was "the big-play guy" at St. Paul this season, according to Coach Rick Ready. Once, he returned an opening kickoff 91 yards for a score. Another time he legged a 74-yard pass for a touchdown. He scored five TDs on receptions. In all, he caught 44 passes for 570 yards in 10 regular season games. "He played hurt in the latter part of the year," said Ready, "but it never slowed him down."
Wide receiver--John Sung (La Serna, Sr.): Another all-purpose player. During the regular season Sung caught 4 passes for scores, kicked a field goal and 27 extra points and returned 2 punts and 1 kickoff for touchdowns. He also played defensive back. He was always a big-play threat for the Lancers, and often, while on defense, opponents would run away from the side of the ball Sung played on. Offensively, he often drew double coverage.