When the St. Bernard High School track team found itself without a pole-vaulter last spring, coaches knew exactly who to turn to: Jason Lucky.
Lucky, a track team member in running events, may be the school's best athlete. In football, he was the state's leading wide receiver this season and was a top defensive back, and he is a star halfback on the soccer team.
Though he had never pole-vaulted, Lucky was happy to accommodate his coaches. "I had no technique, so I just went out and did it," he said. "I won a couple of times, but I don't think I ever went over 9 1/2 feet."
Lucky went a lot farther than that on the football field.
In 10 regular-season games and a playoff contest, he caught 78 passes for 1,468 yards and 13 touchdowns. His longest scoring catch covered 96 yards.
In a 41-6 defeat of Bellarmine-Jefferson, he caught 13 passes for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving him second place in yardage for one game in the CIF-Southern Section. He is only 6 yards behind first-place Tori Brown of Duarte, who had 335 yards in 1983 against Keppel.
He was most of the offense on a St. Bernard team that finished the year with a 5-7 record.
Defensive backs considered that they had done their job if they could hold Lucky to less than 100 yards.
He was named the most valuable offensive player in the Camino Real League by league coaches.
If a headline had read, "St. Bernard Team Is Lucky," it would not have been describing a role of chance. Nor would the headline have been far off the mark in assessing Lucky's value to the Vikings and to Coach Duke Dulgarian.
"He's the kind of kid who will give you 100% in practice," Dulgarian. "And after practice, if a ball or some hitting or blocking pads need to be brought in, he will do that.
"He's not afraid to dedicate himself to the program, whether it's in a game or a support situation. I don't think he has one enemy on the team. I think everyone likes him, and a lot of times that's unusual on a high school football team."
Dulgarian said that Lucky probably would have had even more receptions and yardage if the quarterback situation had been settled at the beginning of the season. Terrence Sullivan, who played five positions this season, didn't start at quarterback until after the season opener.
Lucky also would have done better, the coach said, if Sullivan hadn't spent much of his time in the team's last two games (one-sided losses to Serra and Morningside) on his back staring at the sky. Dulgarian said that "Jason was open a lot during the last two games," but Sullivan also was sacked a lot by Serra and Morningside pass rushers.
Lucky also ran into double coverage by defensive backs most of the time. "They would put a corner up tight on him and a safety deep," Dulgarian said.
"One thing he was really good at--even better than a quarterback--was on how to read defenses. Once he learned that, it really helped his game, helped him in getting open."
Lucky, a 5-foot 11-inch senior, has also taken good readings on where he would like to play college football and on the kind of attitude required to succeed in a college classroom.
Football scouts from Notre Dame, California, Iowa State and Washington State are among those who have come to see him play, but Lucky has narrowed his choices to Utah or Brigham Young.
The last two schools "throw the ball a lot," he said, vital for a wide receiver. He would prefer BYU because his older sisters and their husbands went there.
He said he has passed the Scholastic Aptitude Test to get into college but that he intends to take it again in order to achieve a higher score.
Working hard to improve is something that he apparently is always willing to do.
At the beginning of the football season, he said, he weighed about 180 pounds, but the long hours of practice and playing wide receiver have caused him to shed 10 pounds.
He said he has been timed at 4.6 seconds for a 40-yard sprint, pretty good for a player at any position, but he intends to run dashes for the St. Bernard track team this spring in an effort to improve his speed.
His role model on the football field, he said, is USC receiver Eric Affholter, who also has had to work hard to get open and who has been a clutch receiver for the Trojans.
He plans to major in architecture in college, which requires hard work.
If he approaches architecture with the dedication that he has shown in avoiding defensive backs, he shouldn't have many worries. And he'll wind up being good--not lucky.