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High Schools | SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

This Debut Was One Rough Ride

September 19, 2002|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glenn Thompkins knows what it's like to win.

And, after his coaching debut for Rialto Eisenhower on Friday, what it's like to lose. And lose big.

"It was a mess," said Thompkins, who led Eisenhower to a 56-3 rout of Santa Ana Mater Dei in the 1993 Southern Section Division I championship game. "I didn't imagine that.

"As a young coach, I want to go 14-0 my first year. I don't think anybody thinks, 'What if I get shut out?' "

Thompkins, 27, is believed to be the youngest varsity football head coach in San Bernardino County history. His initiation came in a 49-0 loss to Corona Centennial, the Eagles' worst loss in at least two decades.

Thompkins replaced Tom Hoak, who retired after 19 seasons and this year became the school's athletic director.

Thompkins' day started badly, and got worse. Both Eisenhower team buses encountered problems on their way to Centennial High. A hatch flew open on one and the other was involved in a fender bender less than a mile from the school. Both arrived late.

"Hoak told me he never had a bus problem his entire career," Thompkins said.

Once the game got under way, it didn't get any better:

* Thompkins has good receivers, but at least three passes were dropped, including one to a wide-open receiver in the end zone with 30 seconds remaining. They caught only one of 12 passes for 11 yards.

* Though four starters returned on the offensive line, quarterbacks Jon Brownbridge and Michael Penn were tackled eight times for losses.

* The defense had to stop the run and make Centennial pass the ball, but Centennial passed for 221 yards and its offense rushed for 99 yards and four touchdowns, three by Terrell Jackson.

"It's two different worlds," said Thompkins, who had a hand in 29 passing or rushing touchdowns his senior season. "With the coaching thing, there's more on my shoulders.

"There are people who are expecting us to be mediocre or average, and we're used to being one of the top programs around. There are a lot of eyes on us. I feel like I could control it more when I was playing."

Thompkins had been groomed the last three years to replace Hoak, serving as his offensive coordinator.

"He's enthusiastic, he loves football, he's great with kids," Hoak said. "He has all the ingredients we look for. It could have been 149-0, we're still happy with our choice."

*

The automobile that clipped Eisenhower's bus on the Magnolia Avenue off-ramp in Corona did not stop, so a half-dozen coaches jumped off the bus to pursue the vehicle.

Strength and conditioning coach Walter Ford managed to face down the driver at a stoplight.

"I stood in front of the car and said, 'Stop,' " Ford said. "We convinced him to pull into the parking lot. The guy was driving, like, a 30-year-old Buick LeSabre. If it was a Saturn, I'd have tackled it."

*

Confusion reigns among coaches and officials when it comes to Southern Section's football Rule 1906.14. It's the rule that allows teams to play overtime in nonleague games if both coaches agree beforehand. If either objects, overtime won't be played.

Officials have been inconsistent in asking coaches what they want to do in a tie situation. Some officials' associations are being more pro-active in asking before kickoff. Sometimes, coaches haven't been asked.

Newhall Hart Coach Mike Herrington told officials before kickoff that he didn't want to play overtime, to the chagrin of Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes. Hart scored on a last-play, 68-yard pass from Sean Norton to Cody Kase and tied Los Alamitos, 21-21.

Officials did not ask coaches before the Orange Lutheran-Mater Dei game. Jim Kunau, whose Orange Lutheran squad pulled to within 21-20 of Mater Dei with three seconds left, chose to go for the victory with a two-point conversion, which failed, rather than kick to tie the score and set up overtime. Kunau said he didn't know overtime was an option.

The next day, Kunau said he received a call from an official who asked if the tie-breaking option had been presented before kickoff. Kunau said it hadn't.

"I'm not upset with our officials," Kunau said. "I don't blame them in any way, shape or form. But I do think that if that's the protocol, it's important that it be followed."

But at its heart, it isn't protocol. The rule has been in place for at least 17 years, according to Rob Wigod, the section's assistant commissioner in charge of football. It is included in the annual Southern Section Blue Book and football preview, which are sent to every head coach in August, but not to officials.

Wigod said there's no excuse for not playing overtime if the coaches want it.

"It's incumbent on the coaches to know the rules, and they could just as easily notify the officials without being asked," Wigod said. "The decision to play overtime rests squarely on the shoulders of the coaches of the teams playing the [nonleague] football game.

"The rule doesn't say that the officials should ask the question."

*

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