Armed with a full tank of gas, a press pass, a video camera and a good night's sleep, I set off last weekend on a prep football adventure to watch five games over three days.
So much driving and so much fun, even if it was exhausting.
First stop was Palos Verdes High, located in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the world. I stopped on the side of the road and looked out at Bluff Cove and saw a calm, soothing Pacific Ocean. What a great way to lower stress by standing on the side of a cliff and watching sailboats cruise by.
Off to the Palos Verdes-Narbonne game I went. Near halftime last Thursday night, I walked past the Palos Verdes student section known as the Red Tide and got soaked by a squirt gun. Apparently one of the students used me for target practice. No harm, no foul. I needed to be cooled off.
In the press box, they offered bags of HK Anderson honey wheat braided-twists pretzels. I don't get that at City Section games.
By the fourth quarter, I decided to avoid a traffic jam and headed to Crenshaw High to see the Cougars take on Norco. First priority for every sportswriter attending a City Section game is to find a roster. I spent three days leaving messages for Crenshaw administrators and none were returned. But Crenshaw Coach Robert Garrett came to the rescue and pulled out a roster like a magician revealing a rabbit.
The press box is about as small as a closet and there's no room for press, so I spent the night on the Crenshaw sideline listening to Garrett. The man never stops talking, laughing or shouting. And then there were the players who seemingly never get a rest but find the energy and toughness to keep going hard.
The most memorable moment came when Devonte Singleton, a transfer from St. Bernard making his Crenshaw debut, fumbled the ball and came back to the sideline with his head down.
Teammates went up to him and provided emotional support. Garrett sat him down and kept saying, "Keep your head up."
Friday night entailed a two-hour drive to Rancho Santa Margarita for Tesoro-Hart. It's no wonder the three high schools located nearby — Tesoro, Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo — are football powerhouses. Each has a loyal fan base that expects nothing but perfection, from how the hamburgers are cooked to how soft the $10 seat cushions are.
Tesoro players are friendly and respectful. They believe in their coaches and they love their community. Now, if only one of them can grow up to be an architect and figure out how to fix the parking lot so that it doesn't take an hour after a game to escape.
The game was a defensive struggle won by Tesoro, 10-7. The best player on the field was Tesoro defensive lineman Chazz Roberts. He deserves a phone call from USC recruiting guru Ed Orgeron. Hart players were not happy because they had outplayed the Titans but lost. And yet, they were classy afterward, answering questions and recognizing it's a long season ahead.
Three parachutes descended from the sky as part of the Battle for Veterans event at Westlake High. There was a flyover of vintage airplanes. An Oaks Christian student sang "God Bless America" so well everyone wanted to shake her hand.
They kept offering hot dogs and hamburgers to the media in the press box. And Westlake Coach Jim Benkert kept telling all the students and parents working the event, "Volunteers go to heaven."
Upland routed Windsor, and I concluded that Upland's Nate Romine has to be one of the most underrated senior quarterbacks in the region. Oaks Christian routed Granite Bay, and I concluded that quarterback Brandon Dawkins is one day going to wake up wearing an NFL uniform, and he won't be dreaming.
Westlake players were manning fundraising booths. There was a dunk tank where you could throw a ball and see a lineman plunge into water. And there was a wrestling booth where players were knocking each other over with padded pugil sticks and celebrating as if they were gladiators.
I got to sleep at midnight Saturday only to be awakened at 5:33 a.m. by the sound of a text message: "Just got home . . . Lost on last second Hail Mary. Life is good."
It was Carson Coach Jimmy Nolan finally arriving home after taking his team to Fresno Edison on a bus.
So much for the idea of sleeping in on Sunday.
And so began another unpredictable day in the life of a sportswriter.