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Memories That Help Define the Prep Sports Year

June 11, 1996

Another ho-hum year in Orange County high school sports.

A county team won the Division V football championship (The division, of course, only has county teams in it).

Mission Viejo won the Division I boys' swim title.

And Mater Dei won a state basketball championship.

Huh? The Mater Dei girls' team won the state title? Whoa, hold the presses.

So among the quasi-traditional events (Woodbridge winning a State Division II girls' basketball title) there were some unexpected occurrences (no county "beach" school won a volleyball championship).

Los Alamitos did not end up the No. 1 football team in the county for the first time since 1991. Esperanza beat the Griffins, 21-17, and finished as the No. 1 team for the first time since 1991.

Santa Ana Valley won its first football title in 17 years. Valencia failed to qualify for the football playoffs for the first time in 16 years.

Woodbridge boys' tennis upset eight-time defending champion Santa Barbara, then won the Division I title.

And Mater Dei girls won a state basketball championship. The boys' program already has three state titles, but it was the Monarch girls' turn this year. Mater Dei had lost to Ventura Buena in the Southern Section Division I-A title game, then came back to beat the Bulldogs in the Southern California Division I Regional final. The Monarchs defeated San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 59-48, to win their first girls' state title.

First in the state, second in the section. It was that kind of year.

There were good-byes.

To Western football Coach Jim Howell, who resigned after guiding the Pioneers to an undefeated regular season. He ended 32 years of coaching, the last 17 of which were at Western.

To Costa Mesa boys' basketball Coach Jason Ferguson, who died of cancer after a yearlong struggle. He was 24. His memorial service was a mixture of sadness and inspiration.

There were hello-theres and hello-agains.

Irvine freshman Amanda Beard became the first county high school swimmer to qualify for the Olympics since Janet Evans (1988). Beard will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. She won the 100-yard breaststroke at the Southern Section Division I finals, helping Irvine finish second.

El Toro football Coach Mike Milner became only the third county coach to win section titles at different schools. The Chargers beat Servite, 27-17, giving Milner a title to go with the 1988 championship he won while at Fountain Valley. Dick Hill (Santa Ana and Santa Ana Valley) and Ted Mullen (Villa Park and Foothill) are the only other coaches to won titles at different schools.

There was the expected.

Brea Olinda girls' basketball won its eighth consecutive section title.

Calvary Chapel won the dual meet and Division I individual team wrestling titles.

Fountain Valley reached the division title baseball game for the third consecutive year.

There were controversies.

Mark Hill was fired as the Esperanza boys' basketball coach after guiding the Aztecs to their best season.

Orange soccer player Alex Garcia was sucker-punched by a Dominguez player during the post-game handshakes after the Division II championship game. Garcia scored the only goal in the Panthers' 1-0 victory.

Quarterback Austin Moherman made it three schools in three months, when he transferred from Los Angeles Wilson to Capistrano Valley. He had left Mission Viejo after the previous school year.

Orange Lutheran's football had to shift gears for the Division X championship game when it was learned that its opponent, Rosamond, had doctored game films. The Lancers played Cerritos Valley Christian instead and lost, 21-17.

And what about the Mater Dei boys' basketball team?

The Monarchs won 34 consecutive games and won their fifth consecutive section title--their 10th in 13 seasons.

Then, as expected, they lost to Los Angeles Crenshaw in the regional final for the third time in four seasons.

Members of The Times Orange County prep sports staff share their memories about the people, events and issues that made the greatest impression on them in the last 10 months.

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