SAN DIEGO — One day after attending a class in 1986 on "The Power of Positive Thinking," Doug Kamon received a phone call from Frank Andruski, Mt. Carmel High School's football coach.
It came five years after Kamon had first expressed interest in Mt. Carmel, and in the interim he had not even received a "thanks, but no thanks." So when he was offered a job as an assistant, Kamon credited it to his new attitude.
The assistant's job wasn't exactly the one Kamon envisioned in the class--he pictured himself as the head coach--but it would do.
Four years later, Kamon is the head coach, and he's looking into the teeth of the Palomar League--another test of the power of his positive thinking.
But Kamon won't be alone as a first-year coach in a league many consider the San Diego Section's toughest; Bob Davis is taking over at Torrey Pines, Marty Albert at San Dieguito.
Sure, Torrey Pines will have All-Everything quarterback Chad Davis, who is on pace to break Todd Marinovich's national passing marks, but the Falcons were just 1-6 in league last year. San Dieguito will pass more than it did when Ed Burke was the coach, but the Mustangs have just five returning starters off a 4-3 team.
Things were different at Mt. Carmel. The Sundevils were 5-2 in the Palomar and finished second to eventual section champion Rancho Buena Vista. They were 5-0 until quarterback Matt Miller was injured in the first quarter against RBV, then lost three in a row, including a first-round playoff game to Mira Mesa.
Though Miller is back for his final season, and the Sundevils were impressive in the summer passing league, there have been plenty of other changes that Kamon and his team must overcome.
--Mark Ochsner, Mt. Carmel defensive coordinator, became athletic director at nearby Rancho Bernardo High and took Coach Bill Christopher with him. The Sundevils' strength in 1989: defense.
--Many RB students will be on the Mt. Carmel campus until the new school's facility opens at the end of the year. How will the team react to the distractions that are bound to be there?
--RB will eat into Mt. Carmel's depth, costing the Sundevils about 60 players program-wide. The Broncos will field varsity and freshman teams, but no JV.
Still, you won't find bad karma in Kamon's locker room.
"At least we have a JV program," he said. "And if you look at Mt. Carmel's history, the strength of the defense has always been outstanding linebackers. The linebacker coach, Gary Jolk, has been awesome as our defensive coordinator; he has far exceeded my expectations."
Other than that, Mt. Carmel is like any other team; it can't afford injuries, and it can't afford to lose its focus.
"Injuries are a part of football," Kamon said. "And it's my job to keep them focused despite the distractions."
Kamon has kept other teams focused enough to win. He coached his alma mater, South Gate High, to the 1976 4-A Los Angeles Section semifinals and the quarterfinals two of the next three years. He went to Van Nuys in 1980, and it won the LA Section 3-A title game in 1981. After two years as a college assistant, he led Gardena to the quarterfinals in 1984 and the semifinals in 1985. Before Kamon arrived, South Gate was a .500 program, Van Nuys and Gardena had losing programs.
But when it comes to winning, Davis and Albert are no slouches, either.
Davis compiled an 85-56 record at four different schools. All had losing records when he took over, all made the playoffs before he left. Albert was 120-95 over 17 years in Ohio and New Mexico. Both know what it's like to turn losers into winners.
Albert is trying to maintain the status quo at San Dieguito, though he knows that not much is expected of this year's team.
"That Rocky underdog role is a great way to motivate people," Albert said. "We're going to try to build upon that, of being the overachievers."
Davis, too, is ready.
"If I didn't think we could be successful here, I never would have come," he said. "I looked at hours and hours of film before I made my decision; I saw a lot of depth with a lot of young kids playing football. I know they were a 2-8 football team, but I saw a lot of positive things."
They are not unlike Kamon, the good student.
"We're going to roll the dice," he said. "Sometimes it's going to be good, sometimes it's going to be bad, but I believe it's going to come up good most of the time."
PALOMAR LEAGUE FOOTBALL
Defending champion: Rancho Buena Vista (10-3 in 1989 with two forfeit losses, 6-1 in league).
Who should win: Rancho Buena Vista.
Who could win: Mt. Carmel (6-5, 5-2), Poway (4-6, 2-5).
Who should look toward 1991: San Dieguito (8-4, 4-3), Orange Glen (6-6, 3-4), Fallbrook (3-7, 3-4), Vista (5-7, 3-4), Torrey Pines (2-8, 1-6).
The Game: Rancho Buena Vista at Mt. Carmel, Nov. 8. The last regular-season game could have everything riding on it.