Last year, that wacky, which-way-is-up Sea View League gave us . .
--Tustin High School defeated Foothill, 21-6. It was the first time the Tillers had defeated the Knights in 14 years, thus winning the city football title and the coveted Golden Gauntlet, the championship trophy.
That was early October. By early November, Tustin defeated Saddleback, 9-7, and clinched part of the league championship--the first for Tustin since 1955.
--Saddleback's loss to Tustin was the Roadrunners' first loss in 17 games, which, at the time, was the county's longest winning streak.
--University defeated Estancia for the first time in school history. Of course, everybody beat Estancia. But more on that later.
The Trojans went on to beat Tustin, 13-10, in the final game of the regular season, earning a playoff spot and denying Tustin an outright league championship.
--Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor did not make the playoffs for the first time since the Sea View League was formed in 1978. The Sea Kings and Sailors each went 2-3.
The Eagles went 0-10. They were shut out in six of their last seven games.
Estancia lost to powerhouses (Capistrano Valley, 34-0) and next-door neighbors (Costa Mesa, 26-6) and provided a measure of happiness for the hapless--Laguna Hills got one of its two victories by beating Estancia, 14-13.
"I knew things were going to be bad, but I thought we could win one game," said John Liebengood, now in his second year as Estancia coach. "I knew things had hit rock bottom when the press wouldn't even talk to me."
Bucks: Despite Estancia's 0-10 season, despite the fact that the Eagles played, as Liebengood puts it, "like a JV team . . . we were slow, weak and, let's face it, not very good," school boosters helped raise money for a new weight facility complete with weight equipment, video machine and stereo. Total cost of the facility was estimated by Liebengood to be $70,000.
(Record) Books: Saddleback had the honor of being the team against which Capistrano Valley quarterback Todd Marinovich set the all-time Orange County passing yardage record. Marinovich threw for 146 yards in that game.
Saddleback thanked Marinovich and Capistrano Valley for the history lesson by intercepting Marinovich three times and winning, 48-7.
Here's a closer look at how the league shapes up this season:
CORONA DEL MAR
2-3, 4-6 (Tied for fourth)
Kurt Ehmann and Mitch Melbon both had playing time at quarterback last season, but neither made The Times' statistics for the top 30 quarterbacks in the county. There were no Corona Del Mar receivers among the top 30, nor were there any Sea Kings on the list of top scorers, which included 48 players.
There was no rhyme or reason to what the Sea Kings did last season. One week they scored three points against San Clemente, then a couple of weeks later lost to Tustin by just a point. The defense shut out Huntington Beach and then allowed Costa Mesa to score 28 points.
Ehmann and Melbon both return this season. Ehmann may have the inside track at the starting job after he led the Sea Kings to a 13-10 win over Newport Harbor in the final game of the season. Not only did he throw a touchdown pass, but he intercepted three passes at defensive back.
A healthy portion of a good, if inconsistent, defense returns. Leading the way are tackles Todd Katousich and Scott Sullivan.
0-5, 0-10 (Sixth in league)
Estancia was outscored, 301-51, and as Liebengood puts it, "could not tackle or block to save itself." But quarterback Todd Brooks, a junior, returns.
Liebengood had to take to the sales trail last spring to sell football to the student body. Last season, not enough boys went out to field a sophomore team at Estancia. That has been remedied this season, and the varsity has 39 players ready to begin what Liebengood expects to be a four-year rebuilding process.
Liebengood has brought up nine sophomores from a freshman team that won the Sea View League championship with a 9-1 record.
Other key players are wide receiver Seth Kolansinski and running back Greg Schabarum.
2-3, 5-5 (Tied for fourth)
The big question for Newport Harbor is whether Kirk Summers will become a star this season.
Summers was an all-league selection at quarterback last season, even though he twice threw four interceptions in a game. Summers did complete 96 of 185 passes (52%) for 1,059 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was helped by the talent of wide receiver Mark Craig, who caught 54 of Summers' passes. Craig has graduated, and in his place come Tyler Parks and Jim Stanley.
The Sailors also will have some key transfers this season: Montana's Dain Mangnall, a 6-foot, 205-pound linebacker and guard, Ohio's Chris Macklin, a 205-pound tackle, and Minnesota's Jay Williams, a 6-4, 225-pounder, son of former Ram John Williams, who probably will play anywhere he wants.
Other key players: center Perry Mason, running back Scott Morency and defensive tackle Dave Tullar.