Gone is the 37-game losing streak that left kids embarrassed to admit they attended Southwest. In its place is a three-game winning streak, thanks to a season-ending win over Montgomery in 2002 followed by season-opening victories against Calexico and Scripps Ranch.
"We had 25 new kids show up for JV football the Monday after our first win," Southwest head coach Gil Warren said. "The kids are excited about football."
Warren -- whose career includes two championship stints at Castle Park, where his rosters have included Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox and NFL players Moses and Zeke Moreno -- was lured out of retirement in 2002 to do more than win football games.
The school spirit of an entire campus was riding on Warren's skills as a coach and motivator.
"Football starts the year off," said Ed Bajet, a Southwest assistant principal. "(Former principal) John Devore recognized that when he brought Gil over last year. Gil's team won three games last year, and the impact helped the whole athletic department."
Warren may be in his 60s and his coaching career may have started in the 1960s, but he still knows what makes hip-hop generation kids tick.
"These are the same type of kids we had at Castle Park," Warren said. "These kids just needed to believe in themselves."
For the Scripps Ranch game, Southwest had a rooter bus full of chanting students travel to the game. That was something new. There were home games during the Raiders' 37-game losing streak when fans needed to bused on to campus for home games.
"Coach Warren has taught us how to win," said receiver/outside linebacker LaMar Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder in his third varsity season who is receiving recruiting interest from Cal, Oregon, San Diego State and Colorado. "He taught us to have a positive attitude and made football fun again."
The city of Oceanside is a hotbed for San Diego high school football as home to the Oceanside Pirates and El Camino Wildcats. Well, Monte Vista coach Ed Carberry has the unique distinction of beating both schools in the same season. Monte Vista defeated El Camino -- although the game counted officially as a scrimmage in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 29 -- and a 33-13 rout of Oceanside last week that ended the Pirates' 12-game winning streak. Give him some early votes for coach of the year.
THIS WEEK'S FIVE-PACK
La Costa Canyon (3-0) at Torrey Pines (3-0) -- Maybe a Thursday night date is the change of luck the Mavericks need to beat Torrey Pines. Naw. Better explanations for an LCC win are running back Vinnie Perreta and defensive back Ryan Metee making the difference.
Mission Bay (2-0) vs. Rancho Buena Vista (1-1) at Vista -- The Bucs have their next great running back, following in the footsteps of Darryl Conyer and JaJa Riley, in Arian Foster (501 yards in two games) to keep an improving RBV team offbalance.
Carlsbad (2-0) at Chula Vista (3-0) -- Carlsbad has climbed to No. 16 in the state rankings and is too strong for Chula Vista. The Lancers can match Chula Vista's new Donnie Edwards weight room -- a donation to his alma mater by the Chargers' linebacker -- with Carlsbad's weight room that was built by funds from New England linebacker Ted Johnson, a Carlsbad alum.
Helix (3-0) at El Camino (1-1) -- The Highlanders and fourth-year coach Gordon Wood are showing there was more to their program the last three years than Reggie Bush, the future Heisman Trophy winner now toting the ball at USC.
Eastlake (1-1) at Castle Park (1-1) -- The Titans found a passing game in a loss to Rancho Buena Vista. That should be enough to carry them past Castle Park.
Editor's Note: Tom Shanahan has been writing about high school sports in San Diego for 25 years. He worked for 18 years with the San Diego Union-Tribune, but is now pursuing other interests, including free-lance writing.