Coaches Stan Clark and Jack Bowman have planned a whirlwind tour for the Westminster High School football team this week.
The team will tour Washington D.C., George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, the Gettysburg battlefield and a day at King's Dominion, an amusement park near Richmond, Va.
Not to be forgotten is the focal point of the 11-day trip, Westminster's football game Thursday against Robert E. Lee High of Springfield, Va., a Washington suburb.
While such out-of-state trips for season-opening games have become increasingly common for Orange County schools, most schools prefer more exotic locales such as Maui.
Three other county schools (Edison, Tustin and Brea-Olinda) played their openers in Hawaii last fall. This season, however, only Westminster will play outside of California.
"(The trip) kind of evolved," Clark said. "We (the coaches and players) were all talking (before the start of last season) about how neat it would be to take a trip. Hawaii would be nice, but that's just party time there. We talked to some Texas coaches, but they have a rule that says their schools can't play anyone over two state lines away."
Jim O'Hara, then the co-coach with Bowman in 1986, was the driving force behind the trip.
"He was the main pusher, trying to find something really good for us," Clark said of O'Hara, who died of a heart attack last December.
Westminster took its cue from El Toro, which had played at Whitehall High of Allentown, Pa., last year. The Charger coaching staff recommended the Lions go east.
Clark couldn't be happier.
Indeed, Robert E. Lee has thrown out the red carpet for Westminster, acting as if it were an entourage of foreign dignitaries visiting the nation's capital.
Steve Sengstack, Lee's coach, has turned over the Lancers' practice facilities, including a locker room, the playing fields and the weight room. Lee also is showing its hospitality by hosting a breakfast and a watermelon feast for the Lions.
Sengstack and the Lee players came out last Tuesday morning to watch Westminster's first practice at the school.
The trip hasn't been without headaches, however. Clark and Bowman, having narrowed their eastern choices to Virginia, initially couldn't find anyone interested in a game.
Said Clark: "We originally wanted to play in Southern Virginia, near Norfolk. One of our assistants is from near there."
Virginia's playoff structure is based on "power points" which rates a team by strength of its schedule as well as its record.
"If you win a game you get a point," Sengstack said. "You also get a point for every win the other team has. So if you beat a team that's 0-10, you get just one point. If you beat a team that's 10-0, you get 11 points."
Lee's game with Westminster will not give the Lancers a chance at gaining any power points because Westminster is an out-of-state opponent. But Sengstack was interested nevertheless.
"We felt like the positives of playing someone from California and the attraction of a big crowd and all the publicity outweighed everything else," he said.
Newspapers and television stations in Lee's area have shown interest in the game, according to Sengstack. He also said he expects a crowd of 8,000-10,000 for the game, which will be played the night before other schools' openers in that area.
"The (power points) may have been why they had trouble getting a game," Sengstack said.
Then there was the considerable cost of the trip.
Clark figures it cost about $43,000, which stretched the Lions' fund-raising efforts to great heights. Fund-raising began last fall when the Lions decided to make an out-of-state trip.
Clark said it cost about $650 per person traveling, including the coaching staff and the 54 players. Airline tickets, rental cars and 10 nights at an Arlington, Va. hotel all figured prominently into the figures.
There was no out-of-pocket expense, except for spending money.
"We had to raise $43,000, so we had lots of car washes and bake sales and pancake breakfasts," Clark said. "The booster club probably came up with half of the money."
Clark said he knows little about the Lancers. Lee, which has an enrollment of 1,500 students, was 3-7 last season. The school plays in the Class Triple-A, Virginia's top division, and most of Lee's opponents in the Northern Virginia area average about 2,500 students.
Westminster was 5-4-1 last year, placing third in the Sunset League with a 3-2 record.
"Needless to say we're excited," Clark said.