Nowhere in Orange County is the football helmet pinch greater than at Los Alamitos High School.
Ten years ago, Los Alamitos High and Oak and Pine junior highs left the Anaheim Union High School District to join the Los Alamitos Unified School District.
In 1981, Los Alamitos became a four-year school while Oak (now closed) and Pine (now McAuliffe) went from seventh-through-ninth grades to sixth-through-eighth, thus eliminating their football programs.
Los Alamitos snapped up the helmets previously used by the junior highs, along with other football equipment, to accommodate its incoming freshmen.
Everything was fine for a number of years.
Soon, the program's supply of helmets began to decline; the helmets seemed to be wearing out all at once.
Three seasons ago, the district purchased 70 helmets from the Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. and all was well again.
But Rawlings, citing increased liability and insurance costs, stopped making helmets in 1988.
"We said, 'Uh, oh. What do we do now?' "said Frank Doretti, Los Alamitos athletic director.
Getting the Rawlings helmets, which make up a large percentage of the Griffins' total, tested and reconditioned has proved to be a "big hassle," according to Doretti.
Previously, Los Alamitos had sent its helmets to an athletic supply company in Anaheim for testing and repairs after each season. But no longer.
The company doesn't have enough spare parts. Now, Doretti scrambles to get the helmets repaired where he can.
"We have to cannibalize parts from different helmets," he said.
This year it took so long to get the helmets back that the freshman team, which uses the Rawlings helmets exclusively, was without helmets for the first week of practice. Fifty-three of the 70 helmets were approved and in use. The rest had to be replaced.
"Fortunately, our district does replace 12 helmets a year," Doretti said. "From now on we'll stick with Bike (now called Athletic Helmet, Inc.) and phase the others out."