Sunday, October 31, 2010

College Football Saturday & the NFL in London

It was another Saturday of college football angst for University of Washington (3-4, 2-2 PAC-10) fans as we faced the #13 Stanford Cardinal (6-1, 3-1) at Husky Stadium.

Stanford's QB, #12, Andrew Luck

The Cardinal dominated from start to finish, no suspense here at all. The final score was 41-0 in favor of the visiting Cardinal.

Up next for Washington is a road trip to Eugene, Oregon to play the #1 Oregon Ducks (8-0, 5-0) who are averaging 55 points per game . . . here we go again, light candles everyone!

Pacific Lutheran 35 - Lewis and Clark 23

The Lutes (6-1, 3-1 Northwest Conference) rebounded nicely from their first defeat of the season last week. It was not easy as they had to rally with two TDs in the fourth quarter to defeat the Pioneers (4-3, 2-2) on the road.

Up next for PLU is another bus ride to the state of Oregon to take on the Pacific University Boxers (0-7, 0-5).

Hey Jason! Go Jason!

West Virginia University Mountaineers

Johan Hammarqvist's favorite college team is West Virginia. This weekend he again joined me in the agony of defeat as the Mountaineers (5-3, 1-2 Big East) lost in overtime to UConn (4-4, 1-2) 16-13. WVU has a bye next week before playing Cincinnati (3-5, 1-2) on November 13.

Meanwhile, in London today . . .

San Francisco 49er QB Troy Smith

The annual NFL game in London's Wembley Stadium was played before 83,491 fans today. I hope the contingent of fans from the Hässleholm Hurricanes enjoyed the competitive game. I still do not know if any of the Catania Elephants made the trip to the UK this year.

Troy Smith led a Fourth Quarter 49er rally as San Francisco (2-6) outlasted the Denver Broncos (2-6) 24-16.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rio Mesa Is Improving

Friday was high school football day as it should be on a Halloween weekend.

First up was our son Michael's Hueneme H.S. J.V. game against the Pacifica Tritons. The Hueneme squad was outmanned as only 19 Vikings suited up for the game against the Tritons 40+ man roster. I was proud to see how hard the Hueneme players continue to play despite their record and the long odds. In the end, the Tritons just had too much for the 1-7 Vikings as they won 49-6. Next up for Hueneme is a home game against Oxnard.

Because of my new duties as the Spartan's morale/U.N. peacekeeper coach, I had to leave Michael's game at halftime to drive to Rio Mesa (3-4, 1-1 Pacific View League) for our homecoming game against Channel Islands (2-5, 0-2 PVL).

One of our core coaching beliefs is that you play like you practice. We made a real effort to pick up the pace and tempo of our practices this past week and the players responded well. By the end of Thursday's practice I really felt as if our players believed that they deserved to win because of their preparation.

As I have stated here before, the Rio Mesa games this season have been high scoring affairs ala the Italian Football League, not fun for a lover of defense but interesting to watch.

It was because of the potential for an IFL-like game that my good friend David Lassen attended the game, it was really good to see him. David, who for years was an excellent sports writer for the Ventura County Star, now works for a paper in Riverside covering the Dodgers, Lakers and Clippers.

Last night there would be both offense and defense for once.

Our team's 44 man roster only lists 13 Seniors. Of these 13 seniors, only eight are starters. As is typical with a team this young, it has taken half the season for the players to find their roles and gel as a unit. Our offense has become a run first affair with highly efficient passing adding to the mix. On defense, we are finally starting to perform up to everyone's expectations as we have settled down a bit in only allowing one TD in the second half of last week's game

Jordan Nunnery
15 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD
3 receptions, 30 yards

To sum up the Homecoming, there were fireworks at halftime as well as all game long for the Spartans. Five different running backs scored TDs for Rio Mesa as the Spartans rushed for 460 yards on the night, averaging an incredible 10.2 yards per carry.

Marcus Alford
3 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD

The "Fog Monster" made a special Halloween appearance during the third quarter only.

Payton Palmer-Newton
1 carry, 11 yards

Payton does a great job as our Scout Team QB during the week although he is a WR by trade. It was really good to see him get a carry during the game, he earned it.

Blair Benchwick
6 for 8 Passing, 92 yards

We were able to keep the Raiders honest by completing seven of our nine passes for 98 yards. Moving the rock for 558 total yards of offense is a good thing!

Tanner Wrout and Joe Alamillo
Running to the Football

Tanner had another fine all-around game at MLB and FB. Offensively, he had 13 carries for 141 yards and 3 TDs. Joe is an undersized OLB with an oversized heart and led our team in tackles.

We played inspired defense as well in holding C.I. to only seven points. The Spartans followed the game plan, read their keys well and executed game time adjustments to near perfection.

The final score was Rio Mesa 47 - Channel Islands 7.

The Spartans (4-4, 2-1 PVL) travel to Pacifica next Friday to take on the Tritons (4-4, 2-1 PVL) in a key Pacific View League contest. Pacifica beat Hueneme 56-14 on Friday night. The winner of our game next week will still have a shot at earning one of the league's two guaranteed playoff spots and the possiblity of winning a piece of the PVL crown.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Wallander Time

The Rio Mesa Spartans (3-4, 1-1 Pacific View League) host the Channel Islands Raiders (2-5, 0-2) in the annual Homecoming Game tonight.

In related football news, the San Francisco 49ers (1-6) play the Denver Broncos (2-5) in London this weekend. I know that many members of the Hässleholm Hurricanes family will be in attendance at this crucial NFL contest. I suspect that many of the Elephants will also venture from Catania to the UK for the weekend's festivities.

I know that it will be a GREAT DAY FOR AMERICAN FOOTBALL!

Meanwhile, back in the world of literature . . .

I continue to pour through Henning Mankell's intriguing Kurt Wallader mysteries set in the Skåne region of Sweden.

Firewall was about computer crime and I actually finished it on the Camino. I felt that Mankell was starting to hit a wall in his Wallander series with this effort. He actually took a long break from Wallander before finally penning . . .

I finished The Pyramid this morning. A prequel, it is a series of short stories detailing Wallander's life in crime fighting before he appears in the first of the Wallander mysteries, Faceless Killers.

I have really enjoyed all of his books but occasionally want to strangle Wallander, he never learns from his own mistakes.

I am now down to the final book in the Wallander series, Before the Frost.

What will I do without him and Swedish crime stories???

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Updates from the Golden State

Many things to report this week including a few things that I forgot from last week . . .

At the monthly Rio Mesa H.S.
retirees breakfast with
Deanna Owens, Karen Pecht
Betty Bright Martinez and Kathy Saliba

Last week, on Tuesday, we had our monthly meeting sans all of the males in this esteemed group other than me. It was good to see these friends and do some serious catching up.

After this meeting I drove down to Pasadena to have lunch with Mike D'Antuono and Mark Johnson to do even more catching up.

What a great day that turned out to be!

I also had my annual physical exam last week and am glad to report that all of the walking paid off in significantly better numbers on my heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Amazing what a 500 mile stroll can do for you!

After our weekend in the San Francisco Bay area, it was back to my first full week of coaching at Rio Mesa. We were scheduled to play at Hueneme H.S. on Friday in search of our first Pacific View League victory of the season.


This would be a special week for us as well because
of . . .

Michael Contreras
Hueneme H.S. J.V. Assistant Coach



Mike's team was a bit undermanned vs. the Spartans but only trailed 28-14 at the half thanks to two long TD passes. In the end Rio Mesa's J.V. squad prevailed by a final score of 53-14. The Vikings are now 1-6 overall, 0-2 in the PVL.

Mike in his classroom

Varsity Game Action

Rio Mesa in white on defense. The first half would be a spectator's delight and a defensive coach's nightmare.

The two teams both moved the ball at will in distinct manners. The Spartans pounded the ball on the ground while the Vikings gobbled up big chunks of yardage through the air.

At halftime, the Rio Mesa Spartans were in the lead 35-25!

The Spartans on Offense

The defensive adjustment at halftime worked and the Spartans limited Hueneme to only seven points in the last two quarters.

Rio Mesa ran the ball 34 times for 343 yards and added anotherv 123 yards through the air on 4 for 7 passing to storm to a 55-32 victory.

The Spartans are now 3-4, 1-1 in the PVL. Hueneme is 1-6, 0-2.

Next up for the Spartans is a game against the Channel Islands Raiders who are 2-5, 0-2. It is Rio Mesa's Homecoming game.

The Contreras Boys after the game

Nice disco belt Mike!


On Saturday, Laurie and I picked up her Dad, Bill, and his wife, Florene, and drove to Mike and Vanessa's new flat for dinner, where we had a wonderful meal with all the trimmings! Thank you so much!

Vanessa and . . . Mike???

That's better!

Of course, a Fall Saturday means college football, so lets check in on our two favorite teams.

#12 Linfield at #22 Pacific Lutheran

Always an intense Northwest Conference game with national Division III playoff implications. This would not be a good day for our Lutes.

The Wildcats would prevail 35-20 and Jason Johnson would experience defeat for the first time in his young coaching career.

Linfield is now 5-1, 4-0 in NWC play. The Lutes fall to 5-1, 2-1.

PLU will try to bounce back next Saturday at Lewis and Clark in Oregon. The Pioneers are 4-2, 2-1 in the NWC.

Washington at #15 Arizona

The Huskies continue a yo-yo season pattern losing to the Wildcats 44-14 after last week's exciting two overtime 35-34 victory over Oregon State.

The Dawgs are 3-4, 2-2 in the Pac-10. Arizona is now 6-1, 3-1.

The Huskies play #12 Stanford at home next Saturday. The Cardinal are 6-1, 3-1.


Sunday is reserved for NFL football which translates into watching the Cleveland Browns play a game at the Louisians Superdome against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

We would meet at Rod and Helen Fujita's home to watch the action. Of course, since the Browns' Scott Fujita played LB for the Saints the past four seasons, it would be a special day.

Rod Fujita explaining to his
Mother, Lillie, what Scott was up to

Helen's Birthday Present

Helen was really excited about Scott's gift in the background.

As it turned out, Scott and the Browns rose to the occasion.

Scott sacking Drew Brees . . .

. . . all the way to the turf

Scott celebrating after intercepting
a Drew Brees pass

He picked Brees' pass at the four yard line and returned it 15 yards!

Scott had a nice day at the office!

30 to 17 . . . WOW!!!

The assembled multitude was going nuts! The Browns are now 2-5 as they enter their bye week.


Monday, October 18, 2010

What a Week I'm Having!

My first full week back in California was a full one to say the least.

When I last posted, I had attended the Buena at Rio Mesa game which Buena won, I joined Joe Mollica at Cronies Sports Grill in Camarillo for the traditional post-game get together with Spartan coaches, parents and players. The only problem was that we were the only two Rio Mesa peolple there. Something was up but we'll get to that later.

On Saturday, it was time for a Baby Shower for Tim Murphy and his girlfriend Tori Velasquez.

Football was a common gift concept

Ian and Cyndy Murphy enjoying the moment

Tim and Tori with Grandma Mary Grouf
and the blanket she made for the baby

Tim and his proud mom, Debi

Everyone had a fun afternoon

Did I mention that Tim is a
HUGE Notre Dame fan?

They are having a boy and are naming him Holtz Murphy, as in Lou Holtz, the legendary Notre Dame coach.

I am still holding out for Knute Murphy or Ara Murphy.

It was after leaving the Baby Shower that I started getting more information about why no one was at Cronies on Friday night. With the loss to Buena, the promising season predicted for the Spartans now stood at a disappointing 2-3 with the league opener at 4-1 Oxnard looming next Friday. The team was at a crossroads with parents, players and coaches all upset about the results. Instead of pulling together in tough times, it appeared that many were willing to pull things apart.

Given the situation, I was asked to come back as an assistant coach on Monday to help with the Varsity for the remainder of the season.

In my experience, when you say "What the Hell. . ." as you make a key decision, it usually turns out to be a good thing.

I agreed to help out but stated clearly that I could not be at the Oxnard game because of a previous commitment to attend the Pacific Lutheran University at Menlo College game in Atherton, California over the upcoming weekend. Jason Johnson, our QB in Catania in 2008, is now the PLU Lutes' QB coach and it was our only chance to see his team play in California this season.

Everyone agreed to this stipulation, so I began coaching not so much a position as the team's morale and confidence levels. My main goal was to get them to understand that we all had to give a great effort every day in practice and then play to the absolute best of our abilities against a very tough opponent in Oxnard. That is all that we could and must control for the next few days, basically leave it all on the field.

From what I was told, it was the best week of practice the team had had in some time.

On Friday morning, Laurie and I were off to the San Jose area for the PLU game. When we arrived after about a 5 hours, 30 minutes drive, we still had not quite driven the distance we covered on the Camino de Santiago. It turns out that 500 miles is really a long way! Also, I have continued walking about 1 hour, 40 minutes each day in Camarillo. It is amazing how easy it is to walk on relatively flat, paved streets and sidewalks without a backpack!

We stayed at the PLU team hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, in Mountain View and I joined them for their unique Friday walk-through practice at Stanford University's Field Turf practice field. . . NICE!

Jason warming up his
starting QB Jordan Rasmussen

Jordan is a very poised QB who would be a great fit in Euroball with a team like, let's say, the Catania Elephants.

Jason coaching up the Shovel Pass

Head Coach Scott Westering

Scott does a fantastic job getting into his players heads and preaching a very positive approach to the game and to life. I will definitely try to implement some of his concepts into the Rio Mesa approach to this week's Hueneme game.

The PLU Lutes on the Stanford "S"

What a great experience for these Division III Servant-Warriors.

After practice, Laurie, Jason and I drove about half an hour into San Jose trying to find a Mexican restaurant called Los Tapatios that was recommended in one of Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" books. When we finally got to the address, there was indeed a Mexican restaurant there but it was no longer Los Tapatios and at 7:30 p.m., on a Friday night, the place was empty. Correctly interpreting this omen, we drove back to Mountain View and found a great Italian ristorante instead.

During dinner I found out that Mike's Hueneme J.V. team lost to Camarillo 48-6 to drop to 1-5 overall and 0-1 in Pacific View League play. The host Rio Mesa next Friday afternoon.

The Rio Mesa varsity played harder than in past weeks I was told but fell to a better Oxnard team 48-27. The Spartans are now 2-4, 0-1 in the PVL and play at Hueneme (1-5, 0-1) next Friday.

Coach Jason Johnson

Long hours and virtually no pay are Jason's rewards this season but he is so good at coaching and works so well with these young men. I pray that he sticks with it, he's a natural at coaching.

We met him in the Menlo parking lot and after he left us to rejoin the Lutes we struck up a conversation with some of the Menlo player's parents who were tailgating near our car. Quickly the conversation turned to their sons and the possibility of someday playing in Europe.

I got several e-mail addresses from them and sent them my "Playing American Football in Europe" Power Point presentation to share with their kids. One of the parents is a coach at St. Joseph's H.S. in Santa Maria and he wanted information in order to someday cross the Atlantic to coach in Europe. I found that there were indeed several players on the field on Saturday who could play well in Europe.

I also had a long talk with one of the PLU coaches about coaching in Europe and then talked at length in the stands with Mike Roberts, a legendary Washington high school coach, who is retired and the father of Trevor Roberts, the PLU Offensive Coordinator. Mike would be a perfect candidate for anyone's coaching job in Europe.

Even though I'm not actively seeking a coaching job in Europe this spring, I was offered two jobs this week. The first one is from a team in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. The second one was from my dream team, the Gijón Mariners in Spain. I so much want the Mariners' job but the timing may not be right for us right now, a year from now and I would be off to Gijón in a heartbeat!

The Menlo College Tailgaters
The Newest Chapter of

NCAA Division III football at it best

Here the Menlo team in blue across the way leads the crowd in singing the National Anthem, I don't think that the UW Huskies could pull this off.

Jason, on the right, at work

Jordan was cool under pressure and
hit the wide open underneath route


One on One Match-up

Former PLU Great Chad Johnson and Family

Chad's wife was on a religious retreat, so Chad brought his tribe from Fresno to watch the game. Chad is Jason's brother and led the Lutes to the NCAA Division III National Championship in 1999 and was an All-American Division III QB in 2000.

A Game of Adjustments

Coach Gavin Stanley, on the left, who is both bright and funny, helping the Lutes make offensive adjustments in the first half. The Oaks from Menlo proved to be a very tough opponent that would need to be worn down over the course of four full quarters of football.

Line Judge Cat Conti

About ten years ago, Cat was working as a waitress at Cronies Sports Grill in Camarillo and said she was interested in playing football for a new women's league that was being formed in southern California. That didn't work out for her but she still wanted to be involved so I suggested that she become a referee. She hemmed and hawed at first but I finally brought her a notice from the Ventura County Star stating that anyone interested in becoming a high school referee should attend an upcoming meeting. She attended and the rest is history. Besides working local high school games, she has been picked to work a California State Championship High School Bowl game. Now she is in at least her second season as a referee in the Division III Northwest Conference.

I've created a monster.

PLU Defense Bottom Line: GET THERE!

Has anyone seen my jockstrap?

Jason Coming Down at the End of the Game

It was not an easy game for the 25th ranked Lutes but they prevailed by a final score of 28-10. The Lutes are now 5-0, 2-0 in Northwest Conference play while independent Menlo Oaks dropped to 3-4.


EMAL is the PLU motto and stands for "Every Man a Lute."

Sue Westering is the Head Coach's wife and doubles on game days as the team's one and only cheerleader. She can get the crowd going and whistle with the best of them! She is not the famous EMAL Sue but she is trying really hard.

After the game,
Jason is still coaching Jordan

Answer the call Jason, answer the call. . .

Adam Hazel and Jason Johnson

Adam is the Oaks Offensive Coordinator and played a season in Germany. He is working with a very young team and they should be very strong in the next few seasons as they mature.

Jason, Jordan and Chad

Chad actually coached Jordan in the 8th and 9th grades.


I really like this PLU tradition. After the game the coaches, players and the PLU families gather in the stands to discuss the happenings of the day.

Here the four team captains address the assembled crowd as they each pick a player who they think made a key contribution today. Everyone takes ownership of both the good and the bad things that took place. There was no finger pointing and lots of positology today!

The Blimp even checked out the Afterglow

In the new NCAA Division III rankings that came out today, the Lutes 5-0 record moved them up from 25th to 22nd. This Saturday, the Lutes host Northwest Conference rival Linfield, 4-1, who this week is ranked 12th in the NCAA Division III poll. It should be a great game, what an awesome opportunity for PLU!

After the game, we drove Jason and Gavin to the San Francisco Airport to catch their early flight back to Tacoma and continued on into San Francisco for a night on the town in the City by the Bay.

Alice B. Toklas?
Only in San Francisco

Tommy's Joynt
established 1947

Hey, I was established that year too!

At the corner of Geary and Van Ness in San Francisco, this Guy Fieri haunt was open and served a great BBQ brisket!

Tommy's Joynt's Chefs

Tommy's Joynt has tons of ambience

On San Francisco's Embarcadero

That's Italian for Chocolate!!!

A Nice Sunset Over Ghirardelli Square

Soon after this, Laurie and I split one of Ghirardelli's dark chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate chips, dark chocolate fudge sundaes. It was oh so good! Before the Camino it would have been all mine, now, moderation is the word I try to live by.

Vino Tinto Anyone?

It turns out that wine is a bit more expensive in San Francisco than on the Camino de Santiago.

San Francisco's City Hall

On Sunday, we decided to take our time driving home and first stopped in San Luis Obispo for lunch and a little shopping.

Pinot Noir Grapes at the Laetitia Vineyard

The Laetitia Vineyard is located in Arroyo Grande in the heart of the California's Central Coast Wine Country. It is one of our favorite stops on the 101 Highway.

Solvang, Denmark comes to California

I always thought of this fun little town as being all about Scandanavian culture in general, I know better now. It is Danish to the core which is actually OK with the people from Skåne. Amazingly, Låry, Laurie in Swedish, found yet another pair of clogs to buy and they were made in Sweden!

A typical Solvang corner


Well, it did say "Conditori" now didn't it?

Evan's Ranch Vineyard Wine Tasting

We got a phone call from the FitzGeralds and low and behold, they were in nearby Los Olivos sampling some of the region's adult beverages so we joined them.

Grapes on the Vine

The new owner's of these vines are actually letting them die so that they can replant the vineyard with better, more productive vines.

The Kalyra Vineyard
in the Santa Ynez Valley

. . . and I always thought
it was loaves and fishes. . .

"A taste of white wine for eight please."

A beautiful rainbow ends a great weekend

OK, time to get back to work, BEAT HUENEME!

I'll post another update next weekend.