As a star player turned coach, Edison High School's Dave White thought he had seen it all. He had seen the Chargers dominate the Sunset League. He had seen them win Southern Section championship after championship. He had seen his alma mater lose half its enrollment but stay powerful.
But he had never seen hard times like these.
Servite shelled the Chargers, 34-0, Saturday, sending them to their third straight defeat in a season only three games old. Not since Edison opened its doors in 1959 have the Chargers lost three consecutive games. And after Kaleaph Carter, their strongest and fastest player, was felled by injury Saturday, the Chargers' luck doesn't seem to be on the verge of changing.
"This is my 11th year as a player and a coach, and I've never seen injuries like this," White said. "Some of them are freak, some of them are the nature of the game, but it's definitely snowballed."
Carter, who played sparingly in the Chargers' first game because of back spasms and a pinched nerve in his neck, suffered a dislocated shoulder Saturday when he was reaching out with his left arm to make a tackle. He is expected to be out four to six weeks.
That means the Chargers have not only lost a running back who needed only 99 yards to break the school rushing record, but also one of their best linebackers.
"We're a completely different team without Kaleaph," White said.
Now the Chargers' three best linebackers are out with injuries. After the Servite game, 10 players are hurting.
In spite of the Chargers' plight, other coaches around the Sunset League aren't exactly ready to schedule Edison for homecoming.
"I think they'll bounce back and bounce back big," said Westminster's Stan Clark. "I hope we're not in their way when they do."
White isn't so sure.
"We're hoping that in three weeks, when the league rolls around, we'll be healthy," he said.
Not surprisingly, the South Coast League has the best combined record among the county's nine leagues, posting a 14-4 record after three rounds of nonleague play. Capistrano Valley, El Toro and Mission Viejo are 3-0 and ranked among the county's top 10 teams. Only Irvine (1-2) has a losing record among the league's six members.
Other strong leagues include the Empire (11-7), Sea View (11-7), Angelus (10-7-1) and Century (10-8). The league with the worst record? It's the Sunset with a 5-14 mark. Perennial powers Fountain Valley and Edison are 0-3. Huntington Beach (2-1) is the only team in the league with a winning mark.
Here's something to think about when Southern Section officials meet to plan the groupings of leagues in football conferences after the 1987 season. When Westminster upset Esperanza, 16-14, on Thursday night, it marked the first time this season that a team from the Big Five Conference had defeated one from the Southern Conference. The Southern Conference held a 7-0-1 advantage in nonleague games between the conferences.
Speaking of Westminster's coup, the Lions pulled that one off partly because senior Troy Rossean's punts kept sending Esperanza close to its own goal line. Just when it seemed that the Aztecs would have decent field position to unleash their running game, Rossean, who averaged 51 yards, would launch another bomb.
One of Rossean's eight punts traveled 63 yards, two were 60 yards and another was 55. His worst effort was 40 yards.
That performance was no fluke. In Westminster's season opener against Robert E. Lee of Springfield, Va., Rossean averaged 47 yards per punt.
"It's a real weapon," said Clark. "We were real pleased with how well he cut it. We think if he's not the best punter in Orange County, he's in the top two."
Clark believes Rossean can do more than punt.
"We feel he's capable of being a very good field goal kicker," Clark said. "You can't believe how far he kicks them in practice. He's hit them from 60, 61 yards. Not on a consistent rate, but I've seen him hit them. If he can start hitting more of those, that will give us another weapon."
Feelings among principals in the San Gabriel and Whitmont leagues have been strained over league realignment proposals that will go into effect next season. Some principals are no longer talking to each other.
The problem is that schools in the San Gabriel Valley area are resisting the idea of being placed in the same league with Lynwood and Dominguez. Lynwood's football teams have dominated in the area for the past decade, and Dominguez has experienced violent outbreaks among gangs at more than one game in the past couple of seasons.
Larry Tripplett, Lynwood principal, speaking at the Southern Section's general council meeting last week, said: "Sometimes I think if we had a weaker football team, we wouldn't have so many problems. On the other hand, if some of my colleagues hired better football coaches, they wouldn't have so many problems."
To which John Sherman, El Rancho principal, replied, "You can have my coach, I'll take your players."