California's Five Most Momentous Football Games

Where will this weekend's De La Salle-Long Beach Poly game rank on the list? Plus, one of our readers recalls the last time -- and believed to be the only other time -- a high school football game has been played at Cal's Memorial Stadium

The significance of this year's DLS-Poly showdown depends on the outcome, of course, but also on what happens for the rest of the season. If Poly wins, for example, and then loses later on in the season then the impact of the result is reduced.

Based on what happened in the game and on other historical factors, here's our list as of now for the five most momentous games ever played in California:

1. 2001 De La Salle 29, Long Beach Poly 15
Spartans were No. 1 in the nation coming in, Poly was No. 2 (unless you go by always-wrong USA Today, which had it the other way around) and both teams played with courage and played well.

2. 1998 De La Salle 28, Mater Dei 21
This was what most SoCal people thought would be De La Salle's rude introduction to first-class prep football. Instead, it offered a first glimpse to SoCal people just what the DLS program is all about. A crowd of more than 20,000 was on hand at Edison International Field.

3. 1969 Blair 28, Bishop Amat 27
The main reason we didn't put this one at the top was because it didn't involve the entire state as much as the recent DLS games have. It matched two great teams at the L.A. Coliseum and involved probably the state's best ever running back duo -- Blair's James McAlister and Kermit Johnson -- vs. probably the state's best ever pass-catch combo -- Bishop Amat's Pat Haden and J.K. McKay. The game decided the Southern Section large class title and Amat came back to go unbeaten the next year with Haden and McKay as seniors.

4. 1956 Anaheim 13, Downey 13
Still known as the Game of the Years in some circles in the Southern Section, the spectacle of unbeaten teams and star running backs -- Mickey Flynn for Anaheim and Randy Meadows for Downey -- meeting for the large class crown at the L.A. Coliseum brought in a record crowd of 41,383, which is still the best ever for a playoff game in state history.

5. 1916 San Diego 9, Manual Arts 0
This one from way back still has historical impact since the players from both teams went on to form the nucleus of Cal's Wonder teams in the early 1920s. Those undefeated Cal teams are still some of the most dominant in college football history. Among San Diego High's victims in 1916 was the USC frosh (10-7) and Long Beach Poly (62-0). Manual Arts lost early in the year to San Diego, 6-3, crushed everyone else, and then was able to play San Diego again in the Southern California final. San Diego's 1916 team was led by sophomore end Harold "Brick" Muller, still one of only two sophomores who have ever been State Player of the Year.

Memories of a game

at Cal in 1957

There has been a high school football at Cal before although no one can remember on from before 1957 or since. The following recollections of the 1957 game, which matched Berkeley High against Capuchino of San Bruno, are from longtime subscriber Ken Olitt:

"This was a makeup game that was supposed to be played at BHS earlier in the year. It rained all that week and they decided to postpone the game to the end of the season. Both Berkeley and Capuchino went undefeated to the end of the year; so when it came time to play that game, it was moved to Memorial Stadium in order to accommodate a crowd larger than the BHS stadium could hold.

"About 13,000 saw Berkeley demolish Cap, 41-13, and it vaulted Berkeley into the CalHiSports Team of the Year for 1957. A memorable play from that game was a 101-yard pass interception return by Ed Whittle. The Berkeley single wing offense was led by Don Kasso, who later went on to Oregon State and the Denver Broncos. Capuchino was headed by Jerry Scattini, who later played all of his college home games in Memorial Stadium.

"A few years ago, Memorial Stadium was chosen by Sports Illustrated as the most beautiful setting for a college football game. Strawberry Canyon in October can be very warm. I remember an extremely warm October day in 1991 when Cal lost a very close game to Washington when they were both ranked in the top 10 in the nation. The very next day, the Oakland and Berkeley hills caught fire, destroying hundreds of residences."

Hopefully, the only fires this weekend will be the emotional ones burning inside each of the players.


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