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Characteristically Blunt : Cousins Stay at Home, Keep San Fernando Football Tradition Alive

September 23, 1993|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FERNANDO — Sean Blunt, then a rangy 17-year-old defensive back at San Fernando High, was asked by a teacher 10 years ago what his plans were for college and thereafter.

Blunt looked off into the distance and said: "I'm going to play college ball, get my degree in P.E., then come back and coach football at San Fernando High."

The teacher, Bill Frazer, was impressed. That's some story, if it turns out as planned, Frazer thought. I've got a Tiger by the tale.

At an age when many teen-agers don't know whether to thumb their noses at college or do the same to the work force, Blunt had his future all mapped out. Or so campus legend goes.

"I was just talking to hear myself talk," Blunt said at a recent practice. "I didn't have any idea what I was going to do. I was no different from any other snot-nosed kid."

To most in the coaching ranks, he is still exactly that. Only 27, Blunt has taken over the storied program at San Fernando, his alma mater. But to heck with class reunions, this is a family reunion.

Sean is only the second-most famous Blunt affiliated with the team. His second cousin, Leon Blunt, is a highly regarded quarterback who is challenging several school records. Not to mention Sean's memory bank.

"I vaguely remember his father, my first cousin," Sean said. "I maybe met Leon once when he was an infant, in diapers. I'm not sure."

Swaddling clothes are now toddling clothes, but they'll be cutting their teeth together.

*

The wood is so new, it still smells of sap. Things take time to mend in the Los Angeles Unified School District, so nobody was really holding his breath.

The press box at San Fernando High, burned to a crisp more than a year ago in the wake of the Rodney King verdicts, is finally being rebuilt. Charbroiled lumber is being replaced by new framework and 2x4s. Slowly.

"Part of the bad old days," Blunt said, eyeing the structure.

There haven't been many bad Friday nights at San Fernando, which has sent most teams home stamped Return to Cinder.

The Tigers are 216-108-8 over the past four decades. Moreover, of the 16 other City Section schools in the Valley, none have winning records against San Fernando, which played its first game in 1914.

Blunt has firsthand knowledge of the Tiger tradition. He was an All-City selection as a senior in 1983 and was one of many to earn a college scholarship--in his case, to Nevada Las Vegas.

Oh, yes, he is a believer. In his time, Blunt was a Tiger front man.

His senior year, Blunt and his girlfriend, Kim, were voted cutest couple. She was a San Fernando cheerleader. They wrote open poems to one another in the school yearbook, sort of.

"Well, she actually wrote my poem from me to her," Blunt said. "But she crystallized my thoughts."

Another thing is crystal clear. Blunt and San Fernando have become even more inextricably intertwined. Sean and Kim were married over the summer in Las Vegas, six weeks before the season opener.

This guy's clearly big on familiarity. He surrounded himself with experienced personnel, including several holdovers from the staff of former Coach Tom Hernandez, such as Dwight Chapman and his former high school teammate, Chris Richards.

"There's something to be said for loyalty," Blunt said.

That's a two-way street. Blunt was added to Hernandez's staff three years ago as an assistant, then was promoted to defensive coordinator last season. When Hernandez resigned after last season to spend more time with his family, Blunt was the logical replacement. Hernandez, another former Tiger player, finished with a record of 73-43-2 and the most coaching victories in school history.

Blunt's task is to keep the program from slipping. Over the past few seasons, more and more athletes from the San Fernando attendance area have played elsewhere. For instance, when Leon was at Maclay Junior High in San Fernando, his classmates included standouts Vince Carthron (Kennedy), Jerry Brown (Taft), DaShon Polk (Taft) and Johnnie Brown (formerly of Poly).

Before his sophomore year, Leon gave serious thought to enrolling at Sylmar, which is located just a few miles to the north.

"That's what's really screwed us up," Leon said. "Taft, Poly, Sylmar. They all have guys from here.

"They get the wrong impression before they ever get here. I made the right decision. I don't know if others feel that way, but it was right for me."

Players, of course, gravitate toward the team that has the hot hand. A rival school is just a bus ride away.

"Winning helps keep 'em at home," Sean Blunt said. "That's evident at Sylmar."

When Sean was in grade school, he used to hang around the high school locker room, watching Tigers such as Malcolm Moore, who later played in the NFL, suit up for the big game. He hopes to instill the same sense of pride in the program, which routinely draws the biggest crowds on the Valley floor.

"People from the community know me," he said. "They know I'm from here, that I'm a hometown guy. I hope they want to send their kids here.

"I grew up here. That's a big edge for me."

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