Granada Hills High shocked Carson, 27-14, in the 1987 4-A Division championship game to become the first Valley team to win the 4-A football title since 1975, the year a future Heisman Trophy winner played fullback in San Fernando's wishbone offense.
The Highlanders thus ended, for one season, a 12-year domination by two schools. Either Banning or Carson, which recovered the championship last year, had won the City title since Charles White capped a glorious Tiger campaign with a 20-8 triumph over Banning.
But in their own back yard, the Highlanders had a difficult time enjoying that glory. They had opened against neighborhood rival Alemany, a Del Rey League team that plays in Division I of the Southern Section. Alemany was to embark on a 3-5-2 season that ended with four consecutive losses and the dismissal of Coach Enrique Lopez.
But the downtrodden Indians defeated Granada Hills, 17-14. Besides that game, and a loss to Carson in the regular season, the Highlanders' only other defeat was a 21-12 decision against Thousand Oaks, the eventual Southern Section Coastal Conference champion.
Granada Hills might have been the City champion, but the team finished 0-2 against the Southern Section, an unconvincing advertisement for City football.
That season underscores a decade-long trend. Since 1980, City and Southern Section football teams from the Valley have met 41 times, and the City can claim but nine wins. In the past two years, the City is 1-11, a record that includes such embarrassments as: Servite 35, Taft 7 (1988); Crespi 44, Taft 0 (1987); and Camarillo 43, El Camino Real 6 (1987). In addition, the same year Alemany defeated Granada Hills, the Indians thrashed Kennedy, 28-0, making the Del Rey League's last-place team the king of the Granada Hills area.
Comparisons are commonplace between Valley City and Southern Section teams in the three major sports--football, basketball and baseball. The sections seem even in baseball, talent being shared equally from Chatsworth to Camarillo and Sylmar to Saugus. Valley City schools, which draw from all over Los Angeles via the numerous desegregation programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District, are a step ahead of the Southern Section in basketball.
But the record speaks clearly in football.
In an informal survey, coaches felt that the talent level was virtually even, but they also agree that there is truth to the following stereotype: Some of the best individual players, especially in the skill positions, wear City uniforms, but Southern Section teams play a more disciplined brand of football.
Bob Francola, Kennedy's coach since 1986, notices that difference every time he attends a Southern Section game.
"Those teams have the same look," he said. "You look at Canyon's offensive line and the mechanics are great. City schools find that they're behind the Southern Section. Their senior athletes seem more mature than the guys in the City. At that Taft-Servite game last year, those kids up front from Servite knew what it took to get their running game going and they took control in the second half."
Sean Burwell, a freshman running back at Oregon, is unique among Valley players in that he posted 1,000-yard seasons in both sections. He rushed for 1,211 yards as a sophomore at Chaminade and gained 1,145 yards last year as a senior at Cleveland. His perspective lends support to the team-versus-individual theory.
"In the City Section, every school had at least one or two bona fide players, and the City players were faster, especially the defensive backs," he said. "At Chaminade, we didn't worry about a particular player, but we worried about the whole (opposing) team."
Burwell respected the more-disciplined style of play at Chaminade, but enjoyed playing in the City more.
"In the Southern Section, they go more by the rules," Burwell said. "They play fair and are really disciplined. In the City, they take advantage of every little thing. They hit a little harder and they let you know about it when you're hit. There was a lot more talking going on in a City game."
Few dispute the claim that a City game--especially early in the season--can get out of control. Penalties abound, and missed assignments and confusion are commonplace. But as coaches in both sections argue, City coaches face a more-demanding job than their Southern Section counterparts.
Accordingly, the record this decade between the sections is no accident. The following factors are working against the City Section coaches:
Availability of players.
Because a majority of City schools in the Valley accept students from all over Los Angeles, the schools have lost some of their neighborhood ties. Buses bring in talented players, but those players live as far as 50 miles away, creating logistical headaches.