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High Schools | SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Thanks to 'Net, Colton Is Really Gaining

November 14, 2002|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

It started simple enough. Harold Strauss, the football coach at Colton High, was looking for an out-of-print book about the single-wing offense. He and assistant Richie Bray Jr. turned to the Internet and discovered more than they bargained for when purchasing online at EBay.

Strauss found his book, and a whole lot more -- decades-old playbooks and manuals that augmented the ancient offense his Yellowjackets run today.

The single-wing formation, which went out of style in the early 1950s when the wing-T became popular, is alive and well on the Internet among collectors and old-timers. Strauss considers himself one of the former.

One of his favorite books is "Modern Defenses," written in 1945.

"As I'm looking in these manuals, I'm going, 'Nobody's inventing the wheel today,' " Strauss said. "All we're doing is putting our spin on it.

"We got a copy of the UCLA single-wing playbook from 1952 for $10. Man, we loved it. Plus, we were running our single-wing out of an unbalanced [formation], and UCLA's offense was out of a balanced [formation], and they had some real success with it. We implemented it into our offense. It fit perfect. It kept getting better and better."

Strauss might have cornered the Southern California market on such items, but his quarterback, Robby Pope, let the cat out of the bag after he gained 35 yards using a play purchased off the Internet.

"My quarterback and me were looking at a book I had just received in the mail and we found a couple of plays we really liked," Strauss said. "We ran a play, it worked, and [Pope] thought it was pretty cool and told the reporters about it."

Over the last year Strauss has collected more than a dozen old playbooks, manuals and books, including one from 1929.

Almost all are more than 40 years old. The one Pope and Strauss were looking at was printed in 1946, and still had an original receipt from someone who bought it -- in 1963. And it all benefits senior wingbacks Ras Bowen and Matt Vinzon and junior fullback Tory Kennard, while opening up the passing game.

"As a coach, you're always buying a book or tape that interests you," Strauss said. "I actually get more out of the old books that I'm collecting than the newer books because it fits in with what we're doing, and a lot of people aren't using that style of offense. It gives me a lot of insight from the dead legends.

"We've added about 25 variations or exact plays from the books we've gotten, and if you multiply those by our formations, we've added close to 100 plays to our offense."

San Bernardino San Gorgonio (8-1, 5-0) will try to cast a net over Colton's offense on Friday as the teams play for the San Andreas League title. Colton (6-2-1, 4-1), coming off an 8-0 loss to San Bernardino, is trying to win a share of its first league title since 1992.

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One of the most impressive turnarounds of the season is at Rialto Eisenhower, where Glenn Thompkins salvaged an 0-5 start and has his Eagles on the precipice of an undefeated run through the Citrus Belt League.

Thompkins, 26, a 1994 graduate of Eisenhower, has guided the Eagles to a share of the Citrus Belt title, the first time in 30 years that a first-year coach has done that. Eisenhower plays at Fontana Miller (5-4, 2-2) on Friday.

"I don't feel I'm getting the last laugh," said Thompkins, whose first game in place of 19-year veteran Tom Hoak ended in a 49-0 loss to Corona Centennial, which recently had to forfeit the victory.

"The boys stuck with it, none of them gave up, they stayed positive the whole season and it paid dividends in the long run. I never really felt people were looking down on us or laughing at us, just that Eisenhower was having a rebuilding year."

Thompkins credited the seniors, particularly lineman Ula Matavao, for keeping the team together.

"[Matavao] took it upon himself to make our offensive line better, making the other players do extra work, and whether something was the offense's fault or not, he always put it on the offensive line," Thompkins said.

Eisenhower, officially 5-4 overall, 4-0 in league, made its greatest strides on defense. In its first five games, it was outscored, 168-58; in four games since, the Eagles have outscored opponents, 68-39.

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Apart from the Serra League, many of the playoff-caliber teams in Division I are on the soft side. Only eight of 18 teams in the Citrus Belt, Moore and Sunset leagues have winning records, and only three of those -- Long Beach Poly, Los Alamitos and Anaheim Esperanza -- have winning records against other winning teams.

The Serra League alone has three programs with winning records against other winning teams: Bellflower St. John Bosco (4-2), Santa Ana Mater Dei (4-2) and Santa Margarita (4-3). Los Angeles Loyola and Anaheim Servite are 2-2, and last-place La Puente Bishop Amat is 2-5 against winning teams -- the Lancers' two victories against winning programs is the same as six teams from the other leagues that are guaranteed a playoff berth.

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