He spoke softly, his sentences fractured with pauses. It was obviously painful for Brad Ratcliff, University's football coach, to recall the shock of what had happened.
"I just couldn't believe it happened to us," he said.
Friday night at Reseda, University quarterback Craig Perry must have been thinking exactly the same thing.
With four seconds to play, University had the ball, a six-point lead and the game seemingly signed and sealed. But Perry delivered it to Reseda.
"I'll bet he feels pretty dumb today," Reseda linebacker Chris Vargas said.
With University on Reseda's 19-yard-line, Perry needed only to take the snap and fall on the ball for a University win. After a delay-of-game penalty, Ratcliff called a timeout and instructed Perry to drop back 10 yards and drop to a knee.
"He did what he was told to do," Ratcliff said. "But he never downed the ball. He just kept running and running and running."
Perry backpedaled 61 yards, all the way to the Warriors' 20-yard line, where, thinking the game was over, he raised his arms in victory.
"He said 'I didn't know I had to fall on the ball,' " Ratcliff said. "He said he doesn't remember me telling him that."
Perry was blind-sided by Vargas and the ball squirted loose. Defensive back Henry Ray returned it for a touchdown and Reseda won, 13-12.
After the game, it Perry lay devastated on the sideline.
"He just laid there," Vargas said.
Had the quarterback smothered the ball, University (5-3, 4-2) would need only a win over Sylmar next week to repeat as Pac 8 League champion. But with the incredible victory, Reseda (7-0, 6-0), the defending City Section 2-A champion, clinched the league title.
"You won't see that happen again in 50 years," Reseda Coach Joel Schaeffer said.
Reseda's defense, which called a full-scale blitz known as "Geronimo," felt that Perry needed a lesson in sportsmanship.
"He was taunting us," Vargas said. "He was was running back and saying 'You guys ain't no City champions.' It was getting to us."
Ratcliff denied that Perry taunted Reseda.
"I don't see how Vargas can say that," he said. "He couldn't have seen Perry say anything. Perry was looking at the clock--the video shows that. And with all the cheering and noise going on, I don't see how he could have heard him."
One fan confronted Schaeffer and pointed a finger in the coach's face. " 'Coach,' he said to me," Schaeffer said. " 'You'll never do that again.' "
Neither will Craig Perry.
Playoff hopefuls: Notre Dame bade farewell to the Del Rey League with consecutive wins over defending league-champion St. John Bosco (42-12) and Alemany (42-26). But the Knights (5-5, 2-3), who will move next season to the newly formed San Fernando Valley League, hope to be greeted today with a Big Five Conference at-large playoff berth.
"Our team is really peaking right now," quarterback Morgan Shepherd said. "I think that our performance in the past two games shows that we could make a strong showing in the playoffs."
Notre Dame finished the regular season tied with St. Francis for third place. St. Francis, which has an overall record 3-7, edged Notre Dame, 17-16, to claim the league's third playoff berth. The Southern Section office today will choose one at-large team from the five-league conference to join the 15 playoff qualifiers.
"Our coach told us everything would help," running back Jere Deranja said. "And we wanted to say farewell to the league by beating Alemany by a big score."
Tired dogs: Playing only for pride, Burbank cannot be proud of its performance Friday night against cross-town rival Burroughs. Coach Dave Carson and the Bulldogs, who were forced to forfeit their six victories because they used an academically ineligible player, were beaten, 41-0, in their season finale. But the Bulldogs were beaten before they arrived for the game.
Earlier in the day a Burbank Municipal Court judge had denied Burbank's request to overrule a Southern Section bylaw and allow the Bulldogs to participate in the playoffs. Did the Bulldogs' loss in court preclude one on the field?
"Everybody is asking me that question," Carson said. "I don't know. I think that after the first decision the players had so much anger that they went out and vented it toward Hart." That effort, he said, took a lot out of his team.
Last week, after it was determined that Burbank would be excluded from the playoffs, the tenacious Bulldogs battled league-champion Hart before losing, 17-14.
Watts honored: In its December issue, Track and Field News magazine voted Quincy Watts of Taft the No. 1 high school sprinter in the nation at both 100 and 200 meters. Watts also finished fifth in the magazine's balloting for high school athlete of the year.
Watts, 17, won state titles in the 100 and 200 meters, led the national high school list in each event, and qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials. His best of 10.30 in the 100 meters ranks him ninth on the all-time high school list and his 20.50 in the 200 moves him to sixth on the all-time list.
The 6-3, 197-pound Watts also teamed with David Feinstein, Sean Roberts and David Flores on Taft's 400-meter relay team, which was ninth on the yearly high school list with a 40.88 clocking.
Other Valley-area athletes honored were former Royal standout Dave Bultman, who was fifth in the shotput (67-0) and sixth in the discus (196-10), and former San Fernando hurdler Shelton Boykin, who was tied for eighth in the 110-meter highs (13.84).
Sharon Manship and Staci Leach, formerly of Thousand Oaks, were the only Valley-area representatives on the girls list. Manship was fourth on the heptathlon list (4,544 points) and Leach was ranked 10th for the 300-meter low hurdles (42.69).
Staff writer John Ortega contributed to this notebook.