Along with his strong legs, a well-conditioned heart and pun-wonderful name, Johnny Mountain provided yet another boost to the Foothill High School football program last week: a school single-game rushing record.
Mountain, The Times' Player of the Week, rushed for 248 yards in 32 carries and scored a touchdown Friday night, leading Foothill to a 13-7 nonleague victory over Marina. Mountain broke the former record of 220 yards set by Mark Templeton in the 1981 Southern Section championship game.
And how did it feel to set such a record?
"To tell you the truth, in the game, I felt really sluggish," said Mountain, a 6-foot 1-inch, 195-pound junior running back. "Usually, that's not like me. But everyone was telling me to eat spaghetti before the games. So I did, and it just weighed me down. I almost got sick at halftime."
Compared to some of his travails, nausea is rather tame.
At 7, Mountain was a star softball thrower for the Tustin city age-group track team and played forward for a youth soccer team. But his participation in sports was suddenly cut short when he fell out of his father's car as it backed down the driveway. The front tire rolled over his left arm. It wasn't broken but it was plenty sore enough to keep him out of action for a few months.
"He still has the (tire) track marks to prove it," said Carroll Mountain, Johnny's mother.
At 8, Mountain signed up for his first season in the Junior All-American football league. The evening before the opening game, Mountain, coming home from practice, ran across a parking lot and into a slow-moving car, breaking his leg. His season was limited to walking the sidelines with a crutch. At 10, Mountain got a break--no cast needed--and stayed healthy enough to lead his football team, the Tustin Packers, to a 12-0 season. The Packers captured the Orange County Junior All-American championship in 1980 when Mountain scored the winning touchdown in sudden death during the title game against Cerritos.
With Mountain leading the way, Tustin won the Junior All-American title again in 1981 and '82, and enjoyed a three-year, 44-game winning streak. That streak ended in 1983 when Mountain broke his arm while being tackled in a playoff game.
"I don't want people to think he is injury-prone, because really he's not," Carroll Mountain said. "He just plays full-force all the time. He has never let his injuries keep him down, either.
"He was playing baseball at 13. In the opening game, John hit a homer on the first pitch, but then broke his leg when someone slid into him at home. He came back at the end of the season to pitch in the city championships. They had to take him out after three innings because his leg hurt."
Mountain rushed for 1,068 yards for the Tustin freshman team. On his 15th birthday, he was called up to varsity.
Last year, as a sophomore, Mountain's first varsity experience came against Westminster, replacing Foothill starter John Fischbeck, who had suffered a knee injury in the third quarter.
"On his very first play (against Westminster), Johnny took a pitch, then took the hardest hit I've ever seen," Knight quarterback Tom Hawkins said. "He got knocked up and over on his back by (Westminster linebacker) Ray Smith, that guy with the beard. Everyone was intimidated by him (Smith) then, but Johnny just went right back out."
This season, Mountain has rushed for 550 yards in 71 carries--a 7.7-yard average--and has scored 4 touchdowns. His coaches say his success comes from a combination of increased leg strength, superior conditioning and a general workhorse attitude.
Foothill High School
Position: Running Back.
Height, Weight, Class: 6-1, 195. Jr.
Last Week: Mountain rushed for 248 yards in 32 carries (7.8-yard average) and scored a touchdown to lead the Knights to a 13-7 nonleague victory over Marina Friday night.
Season: In three games, Mountain has rushed for 550 yards in 71 carries (7.7-yard average) and scored 4 touch- downs for Foothill (2-1).