Dorance Kohlmeier remembers Hoover High being ahead, 7-6, in a 1954 Southern Section championship game at the Los Angeles Coliseum against Centennial with no time remaining.
The school's athletic director also remembers that Hoover had 12 men on the field seconds before the game ended, enabling Centennial to run one last play. Quarterback Paul Lowe, who would later star for the San Diego Chargers, backtracked from midfield to the Hoover 40, got away from the pass rush and sent the football floating 60 yards toward the end zone.
Hoover lost and has not been back to the championship game since. Kohlmeier still might have trouble stomaching the 1954 championship loss, but he has no trouble finding a reason why Hoover has won only five of its past 15 games.
"I've found out over a period," said Kohlmeier, who has been a coach and athletic director at Hoover for 29 years, "that good teams come in three- to five-year cycles."
Hoover isn't the only team going through rough times these days. Only Franklin (4-1), La Canada (6-2-1) and Eagle Rock (3-3) of the 10 area teams are having winning seasons this year. And only Franklin, the defending City 3-A champion, had a winning season last year.
Why so much losing?
Every coach has an answer, most different than the other.
Verdugo Hills Coach Bill Novikoff, whose team is 3-4, said you could take the best coaches in the City and they would not win at Verdugo Hills.
"Our problem is easy," the 53-year-old coach said. "We have 1,800 students here and over 1,000 of them are bused in, most of which are first-generation Americans and not interested in football. Of the 800 left, 400 are females."
Novikoff coached Verdugo Hills to the City 2-A championship game in 1979 and 1980. At that time he had 65 to 70 players on the team. Now he has 30.
"I have kids playing now who wouldn't make my JV team back then," he said. "I took guys on the team six weeks after the season started this year. They didn't know anything about football but I just hoped some would develop."
Marshall Coach Ken Gerard says his 12-year-old son, Shane, knows more about football than some of his players.
"We had a chance to win against Franklin," he said. "When one kid picked up a fumble and only one player stood between him and the end zone, but he didn't know you could run zigzag. He thought you could only run straight and got tackled.
"We have to have an interpreter on the sideline to tell some of our players what to do. There is definitely an ethnic change taking place at our school."
Aside from speaking a different language, Gerard and Novikoff both have to teach players basic football skills because there is no youth program in the area.
"You know you're in trouble when you have to teach a kid how to put on shoulder pads," Gerard said.
Crescenta Valley also doesn't have a youth program. But it used to have something similar.
Gordon Warnock, who coached Crescenta Valley to the 3-A Southern Section championship in 1973 and now is an assistant at Pasadena City College, said most of his players from that team played on elementary school teams.
"Proposition 13 cut physical education programs as well as band and drama at the lower-level schools," he said. "Now we're reaping the harvest from the cut.
"My last trip to a Glendale junior high was disastrous. It was deadly; there was nothing for kids to do."
The budget cuts, Warnock and other coaches agree, leave youngsters to find other pursuits besides sports.
"The community wonders why we have drug problems," Warnock said. "But what is there for kids to do? The kids who are athletes, musicians and actors are risk-takers, and if there is nothing for them to do, they'll find something else. It's a terrible problem in this community and I've told the City Council that before."
Crescenta Valley Coach Jim Beckenhauer blames his team's 0-9 record on having some youths "who have never competed at anything before their freshmen year."
Pater Noster Coach Andy Herrera, whose team is also 0-9, faces an even more difficult problem.
"I have nice kids but they're spoiled," he said. "It's difficult to discipline them because they don't like to be spoken to in a raised voice or corrected when they do something wrong.
"They're lacking desire. It's hard to teach kids when they don't want to learn."
While the players are a concern to Herrera, Eagle Rock Coach Dennis Shaw is worried about shortage of coaches.
"When I was young, I'd work for free just to get the experience," said Shaw, who has only two assistant coaches. "Now it's hard to find anyone like that. No one wants to put in the time and involvement with kids to become a coach anymore. Just as there is a shortage of teachers, there is a shortage of coaches."