Statistics cannot convey the explosiveness of John Johnson, the punishing style of Freddie Bradley, the second-efforts of Bryant Taylor, the sleight-of-hand of Johnel Turner or the quickness of Jerry Williams.
Cold figures cannot describe the timing of a pass completion from Tim Gutierrez to Matt Young.
But the results of that sort of athleticism are, indeed, reflected in numbers, many of which are Ventura County records. And the most notable aspect of the names and numbers of the 1988 football season in the county was the performance of skill-position players in the Oxnard area.
Five backs--Johnson and Williams of Channel Islands, Turner and Taylor of Oxnard and Bradley of Hueneme--rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Santa Clara's Gutierrez set several county passing records and established state marks for passing accuracy. Young set 5 county receiving records.
Has there ever been a better group of skill-position players in Oxnard?
"I've never seen a better group," said Steve Dann, the Santa Clara coach of 5 years who played high school football in the county. "I can't recall a passing combination like Gutierrez and Young. And all those backs with 1,000 yards. In terms of one group at one time, I can't recall anything close."
Neither can Joel Gershon, who has coached at Channel Islands for 16 years. He has seen better teams in the county as recently as last season, when his team and Thousand Oaks met in the Coastal Conference final. But he cannot pinpoint a year in which there was greater individual talent from Oxnard.
"There was so much talk last year about the high quality of football in the county. This was a down year in terms of playoff performance," Gershon said. "Statistics don't always tell story. The overall quality was not as good, so maybe all the wonderful statistics were not indicative. But there were a great number of impressive individual performances."
And look for more next season: Gutierrez, Turner and Taylor are juniors.
Gershon's team played Oxnard and Hueneme, and, of course, included Johnson and Williams. He was asked to rate the running backs.
On Bradley: "He's a big, strong athlete with lots of desire and heart. He likes the game. I kind of perceive Freddie Bradley as an athlete playing football. He's not a tailback per se. In college he could end up as a strong safety, down end, linebacker, maybe a fullback. maybe a halfback in a split-back situation. Heck, maybe at tight end."
On Taylor: "I was impressed with his drive. He has a burning desire to get it done. I saw a real athlete who was hungry, strong and ran with great intensity. He wanted to get into that end zone. You could just feel it."
On Turner: "He has a lot of gifts. Usually you don't find that many different talents rolled into one player. In our game against them, I remember a great offensive weapon."
On Williams: "This was his very first year playing offense in our program. He stepped in and it's a testimony to his sheer athletic ability and high level of confidence. He doesn't put mental blocks in front of him. His other dimension is that he's a great team player, quiet throughout practice, low profile when hanging out with guys, but when it's game time, that's when Jerry is most emotional and brings people together and draws out the best in them."
On Johnson: "Here is a very gifted athlete who dealt with so much adversity this year. He injured his left and right ankles back to back then had arthroscopic surgery in his right knee. He never got back to the point where he could cut. But he never complained or showed frustration. It was a tough situation and yet he was able to have, for anyone else, a great year."
The football season had other great moments, to be sure.
It was a year in which Oak Park posted a 10-2 record with only 17 players, the Frontier League sent 4 teams to the playoffs and won 3 first-round games, Thousand Oaks successfully replenished its traditionally strong defense with 8 junior starters, Channel Islands soundly defeated Thousand Oaks in a revenge match, and Buena emerged from the depths of the Channel League to become the only county team to advance to the playoff semifinals.
Left-handed junior Tim Gutierrez of Santa Clara became the most accurate single-season passer in state history after completing 73.1% during the regular season and 70.4% for the entire season. The previous records were held by Tom Tunicliffe of Burbank Burroughs (72.3% in 1979 regular season) and Calaveras-San Andreas' Barry Johnston (69.1 in 1974 season). Gutierrez, who owes his accuracy to excellent vision and a quick release, threw only 6 interceptions while completing 178 of 253 passes. He threw for 20 touchdowns in leading Santa Clara to an undefeated regular season, the Frontier League title and the second round of the playoffs.