After his football team lost its season opener to Rosemead, 30-7, in September, said Coach Tony Zane of Baldwin Park High, his biggest concern was not how many games the Braves would win.
It was whether they would win any games this season.
Fortunately for Zane and the Braves, the prospects improved considerably after the loss to Rosemead.
Baldwin Park wound up finishing the regular season on a roll, going 7-1-1 the rest of the way and losing only to undefeated Sierra League champion Nogales.
The Braves made even more strides in the CIF Division IV playoffs, upsetting previously undefeated Canyon Springs and Santa Margarita on the way to their first berth in a Southern Section championship game since they reached the Southeastern Conference final in 1984.
In the title game, Baldwin Park suffered a 10-6 defeat to Arlington, but it was still a remarkable season for the Braves--the only 11-man team in the San Gabriel Valley to reach the Southern Section finals.
So it should come as little surprise that Zane has been honored as the Los Angeles Times Coach of the Year in the valley.
In his third year as coach of the Braves, Zane guided his squad to a 10-3-1 record. He also improved his overall record to 23-10-2.
Zane had been offensive coordinator at Baldwin Park for 17 years under longtime Coach Ty Pagone. When Pagone retired after the 1987 season, Zane was named his successor and has followed in the school's winning tradition.
At The Times' high school football awards breakfast last Sunday at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers, Zane was honored along with two athletes. Sedrick Thomas of Muir was named Back of the Year and Jason Patterson of Bishop Amat Lineman of the Year. All received trophies provided by the Los Angeles Times Fund.
It would be difficult to find two players in the valley this season who displayed more versatility than Thomas and Patterson.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Thomas distinguished himself as a passer and rusher and also handled punting chores for the Mustangs.
A senior, Thomas made his biggest impression as a passer, completing 87 of 132 passes--an outstanding 65.9%--for 1,991 yards and 19 touchdowns, with only five interceptions.
Thomas also took advantage of his 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash to rush for 740 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 38.6 yards per kick as the team's punter after spending his junior season as a starter at linebacker and part-time starter at quarterback.
A two-time All-Pacific League selection who led the Mustangs to an 8-4 record and the Division II quarterfinals, Thomas is regarded as one of the top college prospects in the valley. His recruiting list includes NCAA Division I programs such as Colorado, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Oklahoma and Washington.
Patterson has not received nearly as much attention from Division I schools, but he was every bit as important to the fortunes of Bishop Amat, which won its sixth consecutive Angelus League title en route to a 9-2 record and a spot in the Division I quarterfinals.
Also a 6-0, 210-pound senior, Patterson was crucial to Bishop Amat's success on offense and defense.
As a defensive end and linebacker, Patterson paced the valley in quarterback sacks with 18. He led the team with 18 blocked passes and also caused two fumbles, recovered two others and posted 45 tackles.
Patterson was also one of the team's most consistent players on offense. At fullback, he rushed for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns in 134 carries and caught 22 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown.
Patterson was named the most valuable player of the powerful Angelus League, where he made the all-league first team two years in a row.