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The pantheon of suburbia: high school football

Posted: November 29, 2008 9:13 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2008 4:55 a.m.

For the last two weeks I spent some time watching and re-watching YouTube videos of reaction to Barack Obama's presidential victory, particularly international reaction.

(Call me crazy, but I just prefer to see non-Americans waving American flags enthusiastically, rather than burning them.)

I must also say the American people slipped very comfortably into this cataclysmic change with early polls showing Barack Obama with a 68 percent favorability rating, meaning he already moved a substantial number of those who voted for McCain into the group wishing him well.

But change pervades the Santa Clarita Valley itself and in the most mundane of ways, and it now manifests itself in that pantheon of suburbia: high school football.

When we moved to the SCV in 1996, several truisms existed with respect to that most exalted sport. The Hart Indians not only dominated conference football but also the CIF.

Valencia, an up-and-comer with many headline Division 1 players coming from its ranks, advanced deeply into the CIF and even achieved two runner-up accolades, but would spend another eight hard years before it could finally defeat Hart in 2004.

Saugus limped along with conspiracy theorists claiming the mysterious disappearance of blue chip JV players into a Hart uniform in their junior year, the result of dodgy "academic" transfers, and Canyon still would wait several years until its Harry Welch renaissance, when the Cowboys would come to dominate state football for a season.

Where do we stand in 2008, a mere 12 years later? Two new schools in the Foothill League (West Ranch and Golden Valley) hold on to fifth and sixth places in their nascent programs.

Canyon holds fourth place, still experiencing a hangover from the Harry Welch years.

But the biggest change? While Valencia hopes to advance deep into the CIF playoffs with a resurrected explosive offense (who cares what the other team scores? We just score more!), the biggest change of all results in a total turnaround of 12 years ago with the Saugus Centurions objectively constituting the best chance of the SCV in the CIF playoffs and the Hart Indians exiting the playoffs early with an overall 5-6 record; their first losing season in 30 years.

What caused this seeming Indian schadenfreude? Some might say the institution of a legitimate football program at Saugus High School by coach Jason Bornn that went farther to prevent the poaching of players than the supposed apocryphal letter agreement between Hart and the CIF to stop stealing local players.

What about the diminution of the three-part Herrington brothers' coaching team, now reduced to a Herrington "brother"?

The more likely explanation? One knows I always think it boils down to numbers. The introduction of two new high schools into the SCV produced a very quick leavening effect on the talent pool, with Hart now one of the smallest in total enrolled students and Valencia still one of the largest.

This then results in a more competitive conference field with more teams receiving attention from Division 1 college recruiters, so no reason exists for an up-and-coming player at Saugus, Valencia or Canyon to suit up in the red and black of the Indians come their junior year.

While seasons cumulate and the conference stays competitive, the likelihood of Hart luring strong players to its ranks from other schools continues to diminish, even though, ironically, a student in the Hart district can now transfer to Hart High School for any reason - a side decision made along with the decision to move Castaic students out of West Ranch High School and into Valencia.

But don't write Hart off yet! The surging Vikings secured only their second win in school history over Hart this season, and a couple of personnel in the quarterback or running back slots who come out of Placerita Junior High could tip the balance way in Hart's favor.

Another offshoot of the Hart football dominance. For several years I took to referring to Hart High School by a different name, originally coined by a Valencia student broadcaster in 2003.

Signal personnel informed me that this reference would always result in not only angry letters to the editor but at least one phone call per day from an irate Hart fan not understanding how The Signal could let this "insult" stand.

Well, Hart fans will be safe for now from those taunts, but if they dominate again, all bets are off!

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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