RESEDA — When Joel Schaeffer arrived at his office Monday, there were 15 phone messages waiting for him instead of the usual one or two.
Welcome to championship game week at Reseda High.
"It was beyond belief," Schaeffer said.
Almost as hard to believe is the coaching arrangement at Reseda, where Schaeffer and his trusty sidekick, assistant Mike Stone, have coached the football team by themselves for 18 seasons.
In an age of specialization, Schaeffer, 53, and Stone, 51, represent a simpler, do-it-yourself era. They're throwbacks, and proud of it.
"Some of these guys with larger staffs don't get near as much done as I do with two people," Schaeffer said. "Too many cooks spoil the soup."
It's hard to argue with Schaeffer's recipe for success. Since taking over the Reseda program in 1978, his teams are 123-64-5 with appearances in the City Section 2-A Division finals in 1986 and 1987, winning the title in '86.
Tonight he will guide the Regents (10-3) against Eagle Rock (11-2) in the 3-A Division final at Birmingham High. Kickoff is at 7:30.
At his side will be Stone, who plays Tonto to Schaeffer's Lone Ranger. They work together on all phases of the game, sharing responsibilities on offense and defense. Combined, they have 57 years of coaching experience.
Stone says the arrangement works because of the intuitive nature of their relationship, which has lasted nearly as long as Schaeffer's 31-year marriage to his wife Nancy.
"We've interacted so much through the years, I know what he's thinking about and he knows what I'm thinking about," said Stone, who also coaches the Reseda baseball team. "In games, it really comes out."
But there's no doubt who's the boss. Schaeffer has the final word.
"In our type of situation, he's the chief and I'm the Indian," Stone said. "There's no gray area and no arguments. I get to contribute."
Schaeffer has earned a reputation over the years as a stubborn, take-charge coach who favors conservative game plans. His teams are usually run-oriented, but he defended himself against charges that he lacks creativity.
Schaeffer's recent change of appearance (he has lost 50 pounds since January) is proof that he can't be typecast.
"I can get as wild and woolly as the next guy offensively," he said. "I don't think I'm archaic with the things that I do. We have passed for over 100 yards in a couple of games this year, and we passed for 200 yards [in the playoff opener] against Roosevelt."
He displayed a split personality with his play calling last week in Reseda's 24-0 semifinal victory over Monroe. On the wild side, he attempted two "fumblerooski" trick plays and a pass off a reverse. On the conservative end, the Regents ran eight dives up the middle on a touchdown drive.
Either way, Reseda's players seem to be enjoying themselves.
Junior quarterback Jamaal Washington has nothing but praise for the work of Schaeffer and Stone.
"They got us to the championship [game], so they've got to be good," Washington said. "They get the job done and keep things under control for it being just two coaches."
Michael Martin, a junior who plays receiver and linebacker, says he was skeptical of the two-coach system because he was accustomed to working with larger staffs at Cleveland, his previous school.
"I didn't think two would be enough," Martin said. "At Cleveland we had a line coach, a special teams coach, all of that. But here, two coaches for everything, it's fine. Everything is under control."
So how do two coaches keep 40 players in line?
"It's not difficult at all," Schaeffer said. "The most important thing is to get practices as organized as possible and get everybody involved. I'm a great believer in getting players involved with terminology and other [coaching] techniques."
The formula has worked, especially lately. Reseda has won four consecutive games and outscored opponents, 109-28, since losing to Monroe, 34-21, on Nov. 3, a defeat the Regents avenged last week.
Monroe Coach Fred Cuccia credited Schaeffer with getting Reseda ready for the rematch.
"His teams are always prepared to play," Cuccia said. "They reflect Joel's mentality. He's a very tough individual. You always know you're going to be in a battle against Reseda."
Cuccia, who heads a three-man staff at Monroe, said Schaeffer and Stone have been successful because of their expertise and experience.
"You can have 15 coaches on the sideline, but what the hell do they coach?" Cuccia said. "It's not the amount of coaches you have on the staff, it's if the kids believe in what you are saying. The kids at Reseda believe in what Schaeffer is saying."
Rudy Lugo, longtime Canoga Park coach, said he acquired a greater respect for Schaeffer after teaching summer school at Reseda a few years ago and becoming familiar with the school's administrators, teachers and students.