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Three Hours in the Valley: 1978

Dave Randall

Posted on August 21, 2018 11:35

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Sometimes you feel like you're seeing a future Hall of Famer in action. In rare cases, you turn out to be correct.

It's late August, in Southern California, and high school football action is underway, a direct result of the school year starting before Labor Day. Decades ago, the season openers were in the second week of September. As far as the weather goes, it doesn't seem to matter. It's the same in either month: hot. 

September of 1978 felt like July. No matter where you were in metropolitan Los Angeles and it's suburbs, the San Fernando Valley always seemed hotter. Friday the 22nd was particularly arid and stifling when Carson High's Number 1 ranked football team traveled to the valley to open the '78 season vs the green-clad Granada Hills Highlanders. 

I was a college sophomore, buried in general-ed classes, anxious to start studying broadcasting. I would go back to my high school Alma mater, Carson, and do some public address announcing for home games. When they were on the road that season, I sat with the stat crew, cassette recorder in hand, and practiced my play-by-play. I harbored dreams of becoming another Keith Jackson or Curt Gowdy. That's why I was at Bryce Shurr Stadium that evening with tape rolling.

Game time temperature was 80 degrees, Carson's Colts were clad in their road whites, with powder blue helmets and numerals; Granada Hills in green jerseys. With a microphone hanging around my neck, I pored over the game program as the Highlanders took the opening kick off.

The Quarterback was number 11. I recognized him from a last minute drive that had defeated Carson early in the previous season. He'd been a junior. Now he was in the 12th grade, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and said so on tape.

He scurried away from Carson's huge linemen and quick linebackers as if he were Roger Staubach, but that was self preservation. He dropped back like Johnny Unitas, or Jim Plunkett, too. Either way, he started putting points on the board against a Colt team that was supposed to crush everyone in sight. 

"He's a Stanford type quarterback," I heard myself saying into the mike. "This guy's some kind of high school quarterback," I offered, resorting to cliches. A running back named Jim Gianetti was one of his short targets, wide-out Paul Bergman was his long distance receiver.

On a third and long, Number 11 bolted to his right sideline with a Carson linebacker in hot pursuit. As the linebacker dove for his legs, the QB let a 30 yard pass fly to Bergman, who juked the defender, and dashed another 40 yards into the end zone. The first Quarter ended, Granada Hills 21, Carson 0. It were as if this quarterback had transcended high school and was already being scouted by the NFL.

Carson came back for a 40-28 win, but the play of Granada Hill's QB was unforgettable. The tape proved I was right. He did go to Stanford. And I had seen and described a future Hall of Famer: John Elway.

Dave Randall

Posted on August 21, 2018 11:35

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Source: US Magazine
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