After winning only four games in the previous two seasons, not much was expected from the Northview High School football team this season.
But Brian Beveridge, coach of the Vikings, had a feeling that this year would be different.
"Last year we took a chance and brought up eight sophomores and started getting better by the end of the season, even though we were 3-7," Beveridge said.
So it was not surprising to see improvement from the Vikings. The surprise was how much.
Surpassing its victory total of the last two seasons in the first five games, Northview won the Valle Vista League title and posted a 10-1 record--its best mark ever.
The dramatic turnaround was the biggest improvement from last year by any team in the CIF Southern Section and earned Beveridge the 1986 Times San Gabriel Valley coach-of-the-year honor.
"We had no idea that we would do as well as we did," Beveridge said. "We had some good players to start with eight juniors back. But we were fortunate that everything just came together for us."
Beveridge said that his team's 23-21 victory over cross-town rival South Hills, seven-time league champion, in the fifth game may have been its most important win.
"That was the big one," he said. "That was what got us going. We had never beaten them before and that gave us a lot of confidence."
Beveridge was one of three who received special honors at The Times' High School Football Awards Brunch. The others were Eric Bieniemy of Bishop Amat, named back of the year for the valley, and Tom Lassalette of West Covina, lineman of the year.
Bieniemy, Lassalette and Beveridge each received a trophy. The 23 members of the All-San Gabriel Valley first-team offense and defense were awarded golden helmet plaques and certificates, as were players from nine other Times circulation areas: Orange County, Westside, San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Southeast, South Coast, South Bay, San Diego County and Central City.
The awards, presented last Sunday at the Anaheim Hilton, were provided by the Los Angeles Times Fund.
Presenting the awards was John Cooper, who coached Arizona State to a 9-1-1 record, its first Pacific-10 Conference championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Cooper, the guest speaker, stressed the importance of attitude to the 230 all-star players and their parents and coaches. The coach also advised players to set high goals and maintain good work habits.
He said their top goal should be to graduate from college because the chance of becoming a professional football player is slim.
For Bieniemy, the award puts the finishing touch on his brilliant career.
In three years as a varsity player, the 5-8, 190-pound Bieniemy shattered school records by rushing for 4,882 yards and 64 touchdowns in 735 carries--an average of 6.64 yards a carry. That places Bieniemy ahead of former Amat rushing stars Randy Tanner, who plays for USC, and Pernell Taylor, who plays for Notre Dame.
Bieniemy finished his prep career fourth on the CIF Southern Section's all-time list for rushing yardage and touchdowns, and his 412 points is fifth on the list.
The speedy and strong Bieniemy, who bench-presses 325 pounds, saved his best for his senior season, when he rushed for 2,001 yards and 28 touchdowns in 245 carries--8.1 yards a carry.
It was the third straight season that Bieniemy had rushed for more than 1,000 yards--the first Bishop Amat player to accomplish the feat. He rushed for 1,824 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior and 1,057 and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.
He was named most valuable player of the rugged Angelus League for the second straight season and is one of the top college prospects in Southern California, recruited by USC, UCLA, Colorado and Arizona.
Lassalette is one of the premier players in the Southland. A fierce pass rusher, the 6-4, 235-pound defensive end was credited with 15 quarterback sacks and two fumble recoveries as a senior at West Covina.
A versatile player, Lassalette also played tight end and linebacker for the Spartans. A first baseman in baseball, he was one of the top hitters in the valley last year with a .400 average.
He was a pre-season All-American selection by Street & Smith magazine and Max Emfinger's National High School Recruiting Service and made the Herald-Examiner's Super 11. A top college scout rates Lassalette one of the top defensive prospects in the nation.
Lassalette is being recruited by UCLA, Notre Dame, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona.
Besides Bieniemy, members of the All-San Gabriel Valley first-team offense are quarterback Vince Phillips of Muir, running backs Ricky Ervins of Muir and Anthony Wallace of Pasadena, receivers Steve Peters of Los Altos and Eric Henley of Damien; linemen Richard Garrick and Troy Auzenne of Bishop Amat, Dan Ruiz of Damien, Paul Rio of Los Altos and Chris Bobo of South Hills and place-kicker James Flournoy of Claremont.
In addition to Lassalette, the first-team defensive players are linemen Jody Crawford of Ganesha, Willie Minor of Pasadena and Steve Hofstad of Temple City, linebackers Charles Fraley of Bishop Amat, Ken Lopez of Los Altos and Phil Russell of Wilson and defensive backs Tony Crutchfield and Marcus Robertson of Muir, Frank Galindo of Diamond Bar and Stephon Pace of Bishop Amat.