Monday, November 25, 2013

2013-14 EuroBall Propaganda Blitz Begins at California Lutheran University

Now that the Division III college football regular season has come to a close, I can begin my annual attempt to speak to as many college Senior football players in Southern California as possible about extending their careers by enjoying at least one season playing American football somewhere in Europe.

As usual, thanks to the tremendous cooperation of Head Football Coach Ben McEnroe, my first stop on this year's tour was at nearby California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Eight Interested Kingsmen

Coach McEnroe has continued the great winning traditions at CLU and today he was able to assemble these former players who are interested in EuroBall.

We had a great two hour session in which I tried to educate these players about all of the ins and outs of landing a job.

These eight athletes had a lot of very good questions and I think that they would be good fits for teams in need of import players.

I do this because of all of the fabulous experiences that Laurie and I have enjoyed in our seasons coaching in Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and France. Simply put, I would love to see as many players as possible go overseas to broaden their horizons.

Today was a good day.

Next up, the University of La Verne.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Game of BIG BOY Football, a Celebration and a Book

I experienced a long and draining couple of days this weekend. Let's start with Friday Night Lights . . .


C.I.F.-S.S. PAC-5
Quarter-Final Playoff Game
Long Beach Poly (10-1)
Moore League Champions
St. Bonaventure (8-3)
Marmonte League Third Place Team
Ventura College

I met up with fellow Newbury Park coaches Gary Fabricus, Doug Dagan and Keith Smith to thoroughly dissect this contest for a couple of hours before kickoff at Santino's Pizzeria within easy walking distance of the stadium.

For those of you who may not know about the incredible history of L.B. Poly, suffice it to say that the Jackrabbits' program has sent more players (over 60) to the NFL than any other high school in the United States of America!

The Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, a Poly alum, was at the game as his Eagles had a BYE this week.

What promised to be a good game was quickly a massacre.

 Poly, in white, was MASSIVE!!!

#67, OL, Drew Ho, 6'1", 270 lbs., Senior
#75, OL, Justin Canada, 6'3", 325 lbs., Junior
#10, RB, James Brooks, Jr., 5'10", 205 lbs., Junior

The L.B. Poly offense played well . . .
Total Offense: only 45 plays for 304 yards and 4 TDs

The Poly Defense DOMINATED!!!

#15, DE, Joseph Wicker, 6'3", 270 lbs., Junior

Wicker has the best get-off that I have ever seen in a high school player. What he did to the St. Bonaventure OT is outlawed in several states.

California is not one of them.

How good were the Jackrabbit defenders? Well the St. Bonaventure QB is a Junior named Ricky Town who this past summer committed to play his college football at the University of Alabama.

Against L.B. Poly, he was 11 for 20 passing, good for 68 yards, a meaningless late 4th quarter TD and two significant interceptions. The pressure from the Poly front four was relentless to say the least.

So how bad was it for St. Bonaventure?
Rushing: 16 carries for -21 yards
Passing: 20 passes for 68 yards
Total Offense: 36 plays for 47 yards

Oh yes, Poly also blocked a punt for a Safety, recovered a fumble in the end zone for a TD and returned an interception for a TD.

The final score was L.B. Poly 44 - St. Bonaventure 8

St. Bonaventure was a very good team in 2013, but not tonight.

No, really, the Crimson Tide.

A Sad Goodbye

Jim Hansen

When I first started coaching and teaching at Thousand Oaks H.S. in 1970, our Head Freshman Football Coach was Jim Hansen. In the Spring of 1971, I was his assistant coach on the T.O.H.S. J.V. Baseball team.

Jim had been a longtime minor league baseball player in the Pirates, Cardinals and Red Sox organizations before deciding to finish his college career at Fresno State and start his 40 year math and business teaching career at Thousand Oaks H.S. In 1972 he would take over as the Lancers' Head Varsity Baseball coach, a post that he successfully manned for over 20 years.

Jim was always a straight forward man who brought "Old School" values to everything he did. As a result, he left a very positive, long lasting impression on everyone he met.

I was sad to read about his passing in our local newspaper this past week. When I saw that his memorial service would be held on Saturday at noon, I decided to brave the weather and distance to be there.

The service would be held in Camp Nelson, California located in the Sequoia National Forest about 200 miles from Camarillo and an estimated four hours of driving.

Bucolic Camp Nelson, CA

About an hour east of Porterville, Camp Nelson is a small retirement village located well over 4,000 feet above sea level with a posted population of 97 souls.

I left Camarillo at about 6:30 a.m. just to be sure that I had enough time to navigate the snow that might still be on the roads from recent storms on both Interstate 5's Grapevine Route and in the narrow two lane mountain road that is California's Highway 190.

Nelson's Tavern/Diner

I arrived in Camp Nelson at about 10:30 as snow was not an issue and decided to eat breakfast in Camp Nelson's one and only eating establishment.

Upon entering the Tavern, I spotted a flyer announcing Jim's Memorial Service and the luncheon afterward to be held in this very spot.

As I enjoyed my pancakes, the lady who owns the Tavern struck up a conversation with me because she had overheard me asking the bartender for directions to the Community Chapel. 

She related a typical Jim Hansen story to me. Jim loved to meet people and was never afraid to talk. Apparently, the Tavern has a family dinner night once a week with people being seated somewhat at random with other people. She stated that whenever newcomers entered on Family Night, she always would sit them with Jim and his wife Diana. She said that Jim never failed to make these strangers feel more than welcome.

Typical Jim.

Camp Nelson Community Chapel

This charming chapel was packed with people wanting to pay their respects one last time to Jim and his family.

The simplicity of the service was perfect for the type of no-nonsense man the Jim was . . .
Good Man, Good Life, Good Legacy

With snow threatening and no chains for my tires, I decide to leave Camp Nelson before I got snow bound and head back to Ventura County.

Bakersfield was two hours away, the half way point home, so why not stop at Dewar's at 1120Eye Street for some sustenance?

In Business Since 1909

They served an INCREDIBLE
Pumpkin Shake!!!

I also brought home a half pound of their delicious peanut butter chews to share with Laurie.

I can share if I have to.

Reading Is FUNdamental!!!

Alchemy . . .

The Book of Mormon . . .

The Lewis and Clark Expedition . . .

A Secret Society (no, not the Mormons) . . .

Native American Folklore . . .

Thomas Jefferson . . .

Iceland . . .

Fort Knox . . .

Nanotechnology . . .

Yet another great read. Merci to our son Andrew for lending me this intriquing tome.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The King's Deception

Reading Is FUNdamental

A Libyan terrorist

King Henry VIII

Lockerbie, Scotland

Bram Stoker

Northern Ireland

Rogue C.I.A. and MI6 agents

The Tale of the Bisley Boy


Was Queen Elizabeth I really an impostor and a man?

What was not to like about this book?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Washington vs. UCLA Game

Washington Huskies (6-3)
#13 UCLA Bruins (7-2)
The Rose Bowl

Mike, Laurie and I loaded up the Honda Civic with all sorts of tailgating goodies as we left Camarillo at Noon for the one hour drive to Pasadena to meet several Husky friends in support of our beloved Dawgs in their quest for their first victory over UCLA in this venerable stadium since November 11, 1995.

Go Dawgs GO!!!

We met in the Rose Bowl's parking area at about 1:45 p.m. to do some prodigious tailgating until the rare 6:00 p.m. Friday kickoff. This would be the 71st meeting between these two West Coast Universites in a series that began in 1932. UCLA led the series 38-30-2 going into Friday night's battle.

GREAT . . . 

 GREAT People!!!

We had a smashing time but, deep down inside, I knew that after who knows how many college games, the tailgating would be lots more fun than the actual game.

Laurie, Mike and Moi
Time to Take Our Seats

This would be our view of
the evening's festivities

Laurie, Mike and our great
family friend Mark Johnson

Here Come the 13th Ranked Bruins


Unfortunately, this two yard scoring run by Bishop Sankey with 6:46 left in the first quarter only cut the deficit to 14-6 as UCLA had already capitalized on early Husky miscues.

Make it 14-7 UCLA as Husky
Travis Coons adds the PAT

Fumbles like this spectacular
one did not help the UW's cause

It was 20-7 UCLA after 1 Quarter

#9 Husky WR Damore'ea Stringfellow

Stringfellow, a true Freshman, had a great night for the UW catching 8 passes for 147 yards and a TD.

At the half it was UCLA 27 - Washington 17.

The UCLA Defense swarmed all night

At the end of the third stanza, UCLA still led 34-24.

Public Enemy #1
UCLA LB/RB Myles Jack

This true freshman from, of all frustrating places, Bellevue, Washington, is rapidly becoming a college football legend.

He is one of UCLA's starting linebackers but now gets to crossover into the Bruin's offensive backfield to annoy opponents. Friday night he had 13 carries for 60 yards and FOUR TDs.

As I said, his legend is growing to the point that on one second quarter carry he was credited with both gaining four yards and the tackle!

Look for him on Dos Equis beer commercials in the not too distant future.

The Final Score was UCLA 41 - Washington 31

The score was close for much of the game after UCLA's quick 14-0 lead only 5:33 into the first quarter but the game never felt close.

Damon Huard was the Husky QB
in 1995's UW 38-15 victory at the Rose Bowl

That was the last time, and several jersey technological improvements ago, that we last experienced a Husky win in the Arroyo Seco.

Being a Husky fan is not for the weak.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Huskies Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics

Reading Is FUNdamental

I read this book with special pride as it detailed the hard work and dedication that led up to the University of Washington's varsity eight winning gold in Berlin and dominating the American rowing scene in the mid-1930s.

This great tome features insights into the Great Depression, Seattle, the State of Washington, the great traditions of Husky Crew and Hitler's Germany. I highly recommend it.

For more on the great history of the UW rowing program, go to:

Speaking of our beloved Huskies . . .

The Washington Huskies (6-3) will be in SoCal for a rare Friday night game at the storied Rose Bowl to take on the UCLA Bruins (7-2).

We actually met a bunch of Husky alumni at the home of Mike and Susan D'Antuono in Altadena last night for a very fun evening to celebrate our communal Huskiness.

On Friday, we will be meeting up about 1:30 p.m. with a group of 24 Husky fanatics to tailgate on the grass at the Brookside Golf Course that surrounds the Rose Bowl.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

End of the NPHS JV Season, an 8-Man C.I.F. American Football Game, a French Boulangerie in Ventura and the American Civil War

A very action packed weekend began at 7:00 p.m. Thursday with the Marmonte League's Fifth Place playoff game.

Newbury Park Panthers
5-3-1, 2-2 Marmonte League East
Agoura Chargers
3-6, 2-2 Marmonte League West

As you may recall, the Panthers are part of the ten school Marmonte League that has been divided into two five-team divisions, the Marmonte League East and the Marmonte League West.

This weekend was the last one of the 2013 high school regular season leading into next week's playoffs that in six weeks will end in crowning California state bowl champions.

What the Marmonte League does this tenth game at the Varsity, JV and Freshman levels is match up the two #1 squads against each other to decide the league crown. Similarly, the two #2s, two #3s, etc. also square off.

Since we finished in third place in the ML East, we were scheduled to take on the ML West's #3 squad in a re-match at Agoura H.S. 

Our two squads met in a non-league match back in early September in the season's third game played at Agoura as well. In that contest we eked out a very hard fought 22-13 victory. The question would be, which of us had improved the most over the course of the past two months.

Some of the following pictures are blurred because neither Laurie or I have learned how to shoot action shots at night.

Tackling Warm-Up with our LBs

OL Warm-Ups

Connor Williams' torn jersey

Connor had to be cut out of his jersey two weeks ago after suffering a season ending concussion in the St. Bonaventure game. 

Mike Contreras
Dashing Defensive Coordinator

Speedy Shane Sipes

Shane got the ball rolling with a great 42 yard kickoff return on the game's first play.

Shane Sipes 
Same Play, Mr. Koh's Camera

Larry Koh is the father of one of our players, lineman Kyle Koh, and has been taking great photos all season long.  Thank you, Larry.

Sipes Kickoff Return got us into
Agoura Territory

Workhorse RB Jonas Mello

On this night he would rumble for 190 yards on 26 carries and score two rushing TDs.

But that was not all that he would contribute to the cause . . .

Student Body Left

This "Old School" play was huge tonight.

Mello Loose in the Secondary


Jonas would finish the season with 1,176 rushing yards on 195 carries. He accomplished this in only eight games having missed our first Agoura game and our week #2  loss (12-18) to the eventual ML West champion Thousand Oaks Lancers due to a thigh injury.

QB Erich Wuesthoff

He picked a fine night to have his best outing of the campaign! Erich completed 13 of his 22 passes (59.1%) for 183 yards and 3 TDs. 

At the end of the First Quarter, we were tied 7-7. 

Kyle Popok caught this 12 yard
pass from Erich Wuesthoff

How many times is this going to happen?

Jonas Mello had big runs of 53, 37 and 36 yards on the night. 

Mello also kicked 5 PATs and . . .

Kicked Off Seven Times

This Agoura RB is a STUD!

He hurt us in the first Agoura game and he showed no signs of weariness this time either.

Dagan Sciamanna tackled him!!!

Aaron Chapman had a great
kickoff return nullified by a WWE move

Chapman ran well tonight 

FS Shane Sipes on the tackle . . .

Sipes again on a grab!

Will he score?

According to Laurie AND the Ref . . .

At the half, the Panthers owned a 21-10 advantage.

Interception by Jack Jensen,
his third of the season

Erich Wuesthoff throwing the old . . .

Hook and . . .

Luke Wuesthoff caught his brother's pass 12 yards upfield and promptly . . . 


Actually, Luke more volleyballed than lateraled the ball to Jonas Mello slipping out of the backfield. Mello rumbled the final 16 yards and voilà, a 28 yard TD passing play!

NPHS Principal Athol Wong signals TD

After Three Quarters it was NP ahead 35-17.

Our Kickoff Team was AWESOME!

We kicked off seven times with, surprisingly no ball reaching the end zone. Still, Agoura's drives after we kicked off started, in order, at the 21, 18, 31 (squib kick), 19, 28, 25 and 25 yard lines. What a great job by this group!

Jerrin Hazard, Matt Perez and Yaser Khokar
combining on a Kickoff tackle 

Defense Swarming

Luke Wuesthoff bobbling and . . .

Reeling in a 20 yard reception

Sweep Pass
Jonas Mello to Luke Wuesthoff

Agoura had scored to cut our lead down to 35-24. Mello completed his only pass of the season to Luke for a 46 yard TD play.

Mello thus scored 2 TDs rushing, 1 TD on a pass play, threw a TD pass and kicked 5 PATs.

Luke had his best offensive game of the season catching six passes for 118 yards and two TDs.

Shane Sipes returned this
Fourth Quarter Interception 14 yards

The Final Score was Panthers 41 - Chargers 24

We enjoyed our best offensive game of the campaign as we rolled up a total of 502 yards (273 rushing and 229 passing).

We finished the season with a 6-3-1 record while the Chargers were 3-7 in 2013.

A little background needs to be reviewed at this point.

In 2011, when our group was in the 8th grade playing Pop Warner football for the Newbury Park Steelers, they not only did not win a game, they failed to score a single point all season.

In 2012 as NPHS Freshmen, the team showed marked improvement in going 3-7 under the tutelage of our patient and fundamentals oriented Frosh coaching staff led by the legendary George Hurley and Kevin Koenig.

Thus, our 6-3-1 record really was a good one as our young men continue to improve on their American football odyssey.

But, the season was not quite over yet as the two coaching staffs agreed to play a "Fifth Quarter" to give the players who do not normally play, a chance on the field.

The Coaches were the Refs

Sam Ellison Interception

Each team got one 12-play series to strut their stuff.

Yaser Khokar and Daniel Milman
were ready on the DL!

Clay Velarde about to use his best
Barry Sanders spin move

Zach Mahon Rushing the Rock

No scoring in the Fifth Quarter but a lot of fun was had to be sure. As coaches, we were very happy to see all of these hard working players get on the field one last time.

Mike Contreras as a Fifth Quarter Ref

Last Hammer Award of the Season

QB Erich Wuesthoff was
the deserving winner this game

Mike giving a Special Spoon
to our team's self-proclaimed
"Water Boy" . . .

LB Troy Urquiza

Troy loves this Adam Sandler movie.

A satisfied looking Shane Sipes

Shane is a great all-around player, PERIOD.

Hats Up One Last Time!

The 2013 Newbury Park JV Panthers

This was a very good group to work with this season.

2013 NPHS JV Results
6-3-1, 2-2 Marmonte League East
Newbury Park 24 - Buena 21
Thousand Oaks 18 - Newbury Park 12
Newbury Park 22 - Agoura 13
Newbury Park 7 - Moorpark 7
Newbury Park 14 - Royal 12 *
Newbury Park 42 - Calabasas 6
Westlake 34 - Newbury Park 6 *
St. Bonaventure 20 - Newbury Park 12 *
Newbury Park 37 - Simi Valley 15 *
Newbury Park 41 - Agoura 24 **
* Marmonte League East Game
** Marmonte League Fifth Place Game

C.I.F.-Southern Section
Division I
8-Man Football Playoff Game

Desert Christian Academy Conquerors (6-3)
Thacher School Toads (5-3)

I had never seen an 8-man game so Saturday it was finally time to rectify this hole in my sports resume. Laurie and I were off to Ojai, California to see the Thacher Toads in action.

Beautiful Setting and a Simple Stadium

Thacher School was founded in 1889 and is an exclusive private school with a coed enrollment of 253 students. Desert Christian Academy is located in Bermuda Dunes and has 106 proud Conquerors in their coed student body.

These small man-power pools are the reason for the 8-man option. This form of American football is played on a smaller field that is 80 yards long and 40 yards wide as opposed to the 11-man field that is 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide.

The offense must have a minimum of five men on the line and no more than three in the backfield. Defenses align as needed.

No, a REALLY Nice Setting

Toads Tackling during Warm Ups

Rich Romine, Sports Writer
Ventura County Star

Rich has been writing about high school sports in our county for over 40 years. He was able to share a wealth of knowledge about the 8-man game with us before the main event.

The night before he worked another 8-man C.I.F. Division I playoff game that ended with Price sneaking by Hillcrest Christian 87-72!

Wait, you scored 72 points and got beat by more than two TDs???

Italian Football League action comes to California. 

Desert Christian's Nate Frahmann

The hitting was hard and the passion was intense as these two squads battled in a defensive game. 

Sacking the D.C. QB Hunter Hurja

The Imposing Thacher Toads Defense


D.C.'s Cade Burt is tackling the Toads' Momo Lewis, but this one would be called back.

#15 Toads WR Stuart Brown isolated
on D.C.'s #14 CB Kenny Gagnon
Reed Gulick-Stutz trying
to turn the corner

He made it!

Hole Closing Fast

#7 Momo Lewis is from nearby
New York City, New York

Gulick-Stutz being Hog-Tied

Everywhere you look . . . LEGS!

Brown with the catch for the Toads

#66 Tucker Bennett would score a
Defensive TD later in the game

He recovered a fumble in the end zone when a teammate jarred the ball loose from the D.C. QB, Hunter Hurja.

Trench Warfare 8-man Style

Coach Jeff Hooper in the Huddle

Jeff has his back to us in this photo. He has led the Toads into the C.I.F. playoffs in all 12 years of the programs existence.

Toads Jet Sweep

Interesting Crowd Scenes

Very casual crowd control to say the least. The stands were all only four rows higher than ground level and could hold, in total, upwards of 100 fans.

It was more of a picnic ground than a stadium in the traditional sense.

Getting their Toad Momo On!

Momo Lewis rushed for a game high 163 yards rushing and passed for another 73 yards.

Horses, Dogs and Football

WR Stuart Brown
breaking a tackle and . . .

. . . Going 65 yards for SIX!

In the end, the Thacher Toads prevailed 40-8 thanks to their stout defense. 

Up next for the 6-3 Toads is another home game next Saturday against the high flying 9-0 Lucerne Valley Mustangs, coed enrollment 133.

Two words kept popping up in my mind while I watched the Desert Christian-Thacher game. One was "cute" and the other was "pure." The size of the majority of the players caused the first word to appear and the second word was brought about by the innocence of the contest. There were no snack bars, mega scoreboards, obnoxious fans or anything else that made this anything more than it should have been, a contest between two good high school teams.

It was a fun afternoon.


We stopped in downtown Ventura on the way home from Ojai for dinner. It was then that I spied this sign on Main Street . . .

Oh Boy, I have a chance here!

Would the search for a good croissant and/or pain chocolate in America finally be over?

Bad Omen

This map drawn on the bakery's wall failed to point out Lyon, "The Gastronomic Capital of France." SAY WHAT???

I ordered both a croissant and a pain chocolate knowing full well that ordering these in the late afternoon might spell disaster since they should have been made in the morning.

I was right.

The quest continues.


For the 13th straight year, the Moorpark Rotary Club has hosted an American Civil War Re-Enactment Weekend with a total of five battles over the two days.

This year, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, all five scheduled battles would feature a part of that historic three day battle in Pennsylvania.

Civil War Weaponry Everywhere 

President Lincoln was in the House

Our own Private George Hurley
Fighting the North's Vermont Regiment

George is, of course, the Hall-of-Fame former Head Football Coach at Newbury Park H.S.

 Assembling the Troops for the Noon Battle

One of the South's Finest

Rebel Cavalry Officer

Northern War Horse

Sword Play

Bring in the Infantry

Keep Your Head Down Kid!

Cannon Blast

Yankee Cavalry Officer

An Ambulance Doing
Its Gruesome Work

Rebel Firing Line

Northern Chaplain Providing Comfort

Riding Off After the Battle

Hey, Our Niece's Name is
Amy Elizabeth

There were several merchants selling Civil War crafts like this   weaving.

Whiling Away the Time
Between Sunday's Two Battles

Colt Revolvers

I hope this fine Southern Gentleman
survived Sunday's second battle

What a great and wonderful three days!!!