By Brandon HENSLEY
In the early 1970s, the history of the football program at Crescenta Valley High was bleak. Since the school’s inception, no player had been selected All-CIF and no team had ever made the playoffs.
But that all changed in 1973 when the Falcons went 12-1 and won their first and only CIF championship.
That team was honored at Angeles National Golf Club last Saturday along with seven other inductees into the CV Hall of Fame class for 2011. The ’73 team joined Greg Vasquez, Gene Sutherland, John Mirch, Donna Mayhew, Michele Hampton, Gary Beck and Bob Herrold as this year’s class.
“I don’t think anyone going into that season … thought we would accomplish what we did,” said Dennis Gossard, who was an assistant coach for the ’73 team and who presented the attending players to the audience.
The Falcons were a dominant defensive team, as evidenced by their seven straight shutouts at one point during the season. Their only loss came to Blair High in a rain-soaked game.
Mark Miller was named CIF 3-A Player of the Year and junior quarterback Brad Holland earned all-league honors.
Gossard remembered a game against rival Burroughs in which backup quarterback Randy Knapp had to fill in for Holland, and the normally genial assistant coach Ken Bierman gave Knapp some advice.
“I can remember only the one comment he had to Randy: Do not screw this up,” Gossard said. CV won 41-14.
It wasn’t all roses for the Falcons. In a playoff game against Pomona High [this information was corrected on Dec. 15, 2014], Tim Richards was injured, resulting in his being paralyzed. Richards was at the ceremony and received a standing ovation when he was given his Hall of Fame medal.
Gordon Warnock, the head coach of the team and 2010 HOF recipient, passed away last year, and was fondly remembered at the ceremony. Gossard said he knew what Warnock would say he were still here.
“He would deflect all the praise away from himself and give it to all of his players” Gossard said. “But the ’73 team had a special place in his heart. Believe me. And I’m proud and honored to be standing in his place tonight to introduce the greatest football team to ever play at Crescenta Valley High School.”
Vazquez was a baseball star with the Falcons and earned All-Foothill League honors as a junior and senior and was named All-CIF as a senior in 1980. Standing just 5-foot-6, Vasquez went on to success at the University of Hawaii and later coached with the Falcons and at community colleges.
He thanked his parents for moving him from Glendale High School to CV so he could be a part of the Falcon tradition.
“I just want to say thank you so much for giving up your life for me to live my dream,” he told them. “They were my two biggest fans.”
Vasquez also thanked his father for coaching him as a kid and for how he was raised. “He taught me how to be a great person and a great man, that’s the most important thing.”
Sutherland was part of a dominant sports family around town in the 1950s and 60s. His brothers Darrell and Gary played baseball, but Sutherland dominated in basketball.
He was the first CV player to earn All-CIF first-team honors in 1964. Sutherland went on to play at UCLA, and the late coach John Wooden personally recruited Sutherland by walking into the Falcon gym and telling Sutherland he wanted him to play for the Bruins.
Mirch was a football and track star in the 1970s. He was the 1976 Foothill League Defensive Player of the Year and was on the 4×440 champion relay team. As a football player, Mirch recalled the intensity of his coaches.
“With all those men, the only thing you had to stay away from was their arm’s reach, because once they had you,” he said, “you were wet and you were trying to figure out what was going on.”
Big things come in small packages, and at 5-3, Mayhew packed quite a punch in the late 1970s. She was a Pacific League Champion in the discus and competed in the shot put and javelin, where her best throw was 135 feet.
Mayhew went on to Olympic success in the javelin. She placed seventh in her first Olympics in Seoul, Korea. She was national champion in javelin in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1992 through 1995.
“God blessed me with a throwing arm, and it was only by the Lord giving me that talent to throw that I was able to accomplish what I did,” Mayhew said.
Hampton was a successful swimmer at CV from 1979 to 1981, and also at Cal State Northridge where she is in that school’s Hall of Fame as well.
Hampton also played water polo, and was a member of the boy’s team. She recalled the long drive her mother made for her and her sister Roxanne when they were kids to a pool in El Monte.
“My mom would drive us back and forth. She would dry her hair in the car by the heater in the front seat,” she said, “then after school, my mom would pick us up; she would have dinner waiting in the car. We would eat our dinner, then jump in the pool and do our evening swim workout.”
Beck was great running back for the Falcons football team. He was Foothill League Offensive Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976 and earned a full scholarship to the University of Oregon.
He joked that he grew up Catholic and admitted that going to St. Francis High School was tempting.
“I was an altar boy, and I didn’t know where to go,” he said. But he remembered watching the 1973 team and knew he wanted to play for CV.
“It made my choice very easy,” Beck said of the team.
Herrold was credited with starting the water polo and swimming teams at CV, and later became a Falcon coach. He ran youth programs in the summer and winter at the school and was considered a mentor by many coaches. He was also a basketball referee for the PAC-10 and worked several Final Fours.
Herrold passed away in 2005 in Auberry, Calif.