The high school football playoffs for championships of the CIF Southern Section have concluded, continuing a tradition of crowning the best that stretches back 100 years.
In fact, the very first CIF football champion came from Orange County, with Santa Ana High winning the initial gridiron crown in 1914. It wasn’t a playoff win, though; the Saints had the best record of a prep league that stretched across Los Angeles and Orange County. (Chaffey High won the 1913 football title of the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Council). Over the last century, Orange County teams have won 87 of what used to be called “schoolboy” football titles.
The first OC school to win a playoff was Fullerton High, which grabbed the 1918 “major” title by defeating Coronado High 18-0 in a game that was actually delayed to February 1919 because of the flu epidemic ravaging the country. The most recent Orange County team to win a CIF football title was Garden Grove High, which defeated long-time Garden Grove League rival Rancho Alamitos 35-0 for the Southern Division title last week.
Over the years, the all-time grid title champ from the county is Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, with nine titles. Next is La Habra with six, followed by three schools tied with five crowns (Corona del Mar, Servite and Santa Ana). Winning four titles were Brea Olinda, Mission Viejo, Irvine, and Los Alamitos. Winners of three were Fullerton and Anaheim.
Of course, the sports landscape a century ago was very different. Student-athletes were allowed to compete up to age 21; some basketball games were played outside rather than inside gymnasiums. Among the disappeared sporting activities from the old days were grenade throw, rope-climbing and rugby. In addition to Southern California schools, the CIF-SS included schools from parts of Arizona and Nevada.
But the top sport was always football. In 1956, a championship contest between Downey and Anaheim drew 41,383 fans to the Coliseum in Los Angeles to see a 13-13 tie. More recently, in 1991, a crowd of 33,204 fans were at Anaheim Stadium to see Mater Dei beat Eisenhower 35-14.
The presence of college and pro football on TV practically all week, along with other societal changes, has cut into the appeal of prep football. The times when the local stadium was the place to be on Friday night have passed, except for the most successful and high profile teams. But when the local team makes it all the way to the big title game, even the most blasé student still seems to find the time to show up and continue a tradition a century old.
Categories: Orange County