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.


Ryan Bolland said...

I can already tell that baby Holtz has a VERY bright future ahead of him!

David said...

As a non-fan of Notre Dame, I think Faust Murphy has a nice ring to it.

Chad Johnson said...

Nice summary and pics George!! If you have any other pictures of my kids, let me know-- I forgot to take any pictures (to my wife's dismay!!).. And also wanted to let you know of a little clarification... the Sue Westering you wrote about is Scott's sister, not his wife. His wife is also named Sue (Susan), and she was the cheerleader in the stands! Anyhow, I know our family can be confusing... good seeing you and finally meeting you! Chad

Michael Contreras said...

Holtz "Rocket" Murphy?