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THE BEST EVER : Choosing Greatest County Football Players Isn't Easy

November 26, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana Valley running back Myron White or Edison's Kerwin Bell?

Mater Dei quarterback John Huarte or El Toro's Bret Johnson?

Fullerton lineman Keith Van Horne or Esperanza's Brendan Stai?

Western kicker David Bell or Pacifica's Norm Johnson? Or Servite's Pat Blottiaux, who kicked six field goals of 50 yards or more?

This was no easy task. But someone had to stand up and set some historical perspective. And so it is that The Times presents its All-Time Orange County football team, a collection of the greatest players spanning six decades.

Comparing Donn Moomaw, who played linebacker in 1948 for Santa Ana, to Chris Draft, who played in 1993 for Valencia, isn't easy.

Dick Hill, who has more victories than any Orange County coach, pooh-poohs these kind of exercises.

"If you are great in the era you played in, you deserve to keep that greatness," Hill says, "and no one should say someone in another era is better than you."

Dick Hill or Clare Van Hoorebeke?

OK, we see Hill's point. Players today are bigger, faster and stronger. But are they innovators? Are they at the forefront of change? Did they crack eight helmets in one season making tackles?

The public deserves to know. And so, with the best of intentions, every high school coach in Orange County was given an opportunity to pick a team and make his case. So were local college coaches. We even supplied some athletes' names to jog their memories. The only rule? No current players.

We selected our 26-man team based on those responses, recollection and actual high school performance. You might be surprised to find that Capistrano Valley Robo-passer Todd Marinovich is absent (didn't receive a vote). And Valencia's Ray Pallares, the all-time rushing leader, isn't to be found (but is still represented). And that only one player from Mater Dei is on the list (it isn't who you think).

Quarterback/Steve Beuerlein

Servite, 1982

Beuerlein passed for 2,244 yards and 21 touchdowns, directing the Friars to the Big Five championship and being named player of the year his senior season. An astute leader--he was given enormous leeway to change plays at the line of scrimmage and had an uncanny ability to recognize defenses--Beuerlein (6-3, 195) fit the prototype for a professional quarterback. He was big, strong-armed, and could throw every kind of pass, from those requiring soft touch to threading the needle with a fastball. The next year, he started at Notre Dame. Sunday, he started for the Carolina Panthers.

Running Back/Kerwin Bell

Edison, 1979

Bell averaged only 13 carries per game and still rushed for a then-county record 2,268 yards and 26 touchdowns. Edison beat Redlands, 55-0, in the Division I title game. The section and state player of the year, Bell was part of the county's greatest backfield, which included quarterback Frank Seurer (who passed for a county-record 2,063 yards). Former Edison Coach Bill Workman said a person could close his eyes and tell if Bell got the ball: "There was a hush that fell over the crowd, a collective 'Oooh,' and then pandemonium." Bell attended Kansas, set a Big Eight freshman record (1,114 yards) that stood until 1993, but injured his knee as a sophomore. He gained fewer than 900 yards his final three seasons and failed in his bid to play professionally. He is now a sports agent in Dallas.

Running Back/Mickey Flynn

Anaheim, 1956

A two-time All-CIF player of the year, Flynn was the first bona-fide Orange County prep legend, an inductee into the inaugural class of the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 based solely on his high school career. Called "The Ghost of La Palma Park" for disappearing into the night in the dimly lit stadium on his long touchdown runs (he scored 55 touchdowns). "He was very rhythmic, very smooth," Hill said, "ahead of his time." Flynn gained 3,651 yards and scored 55 rushing touchdowns as Anaheim won the section title in '55 and shared it with Downey in '56--in front of a still-record crowd of 41,383 at the Coliseum. After a season at Long Beach City College, Flynn attended Arizona State, but never played a game. Retired as a heavy equipment operator, he's in maintenance operations in the Fullerton school district and is coaching for the first time--at Fullerton College.

Wide Receiver/Ken Margerum

Fountain Valley, 1976

Margerum (6-0, 176), now the receivers coach at Hawaii, caught everything in sight and made it look effortless. He was quick, with deceptive speed (he went to the state finals in the high hurdles), and made acrobatic catches routinely. Margerum attended Stanford, where he was a two-time All-American. In the NFL from 1981 to 1987, he was a member of the Chicago team that won Super Bowl XX.

Wide Receiver/Scott Miller

El Toro, 1986

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