Friday, October 31, 2008

Rio Mesa Freshmen Improve to 7-1

Rio Mesa (6-1, 2-0 PVL)
at Oxnard (4-3, 1-1 PVL)

This game shaped up as our toughest game since the loss to St. Francis in Week #4 and it lived up to its billing!

The game was a very hard-hitting, defensive struggle that revolved around big plays and a crucial Special Teams play by the Spartans.

Tanner Wrout " Truckin' " His Way Towards the End Zone

Picking a Player-of-the-Game was VERY easy for once. Tanner had a truly memorable day as his simple statistics bear out:

131 yards rushing on 16 carries
1 for 1 passing for 15 yards
1 pass reception for 6 yards
5 tackles
1 fumble recovery that he returned 45 yards for a TD
1 interception that he returned 71 yards for the winning TD with 3 minutes left in the game


Wrout Can Block Too!

Here is a shot of Tanner at fullback exploding on the Yellowjacket's defensive end on a sweep run by Roderick White.

As good as Tanner's blocking was, Zach Saldana's blocking at fullback when Tanner went to tailback was just downright devastating!

Our offensive stats were down because of Oxnard's tenacious defense. We had 43 snaps that resulted in a modest Total Offense figure of 211 yards and 1 rushing TD by our QB Trenton Thornton. Turning the ball over three times was of great concern.

Defensive End Ben Dixon

Ben was in on 6 tackles including two for losses totaling -6 yards.

Our defense played well also, it HAD to on this overcast afternoon if we were to win and keep our PVL championship hopes alive. We held Oxnard to 42 plays, 208 yards and earned 4 turnovers in the game. Besides Tanner Wrout's two big turnovers, Darren Gales and Ben Quantock each had a fumble recovery.

#15 CB Roderick White on the Tackle

#52 MLB Nick Gutierrez, in hot pursuit here, had a very solid outing. His team high 11 tackles were supplemented by forcing two fumbles and recording a -9 yards QB Sack.

Defensive Swarm

Final Score
Rio Mesa 19 - Oxnard 14

It was a very hard fought, emotional win for us. We trailed much of the second half 13-14 until Wrout's electrifying 71 yards interception made the score

Key to our victory was the ensuing kickoff by Alex Torres. We went with a cross field pooch kick and Alex hit it PERFECTLY! It took a crazy bounce near the sideline and Nathaniel Garay was able to recover it at the Oxnard 37 yard line. From there we were able to run out the clock aided by a key 4th and short run by Roderick White. The game ended with the Spartans at the Yellowjacket 3 yard line taking a knee on the last two snaps of the game rather than trying to score an unnecessary TD.

With the win, Rio Mesa improves to 7-1 overall and
3-0 in Pacific View League play while Oxnard drops to
4-4, 1-2 PVL.

Next up for the Spartans is a 4:00 p.m. PVL game at the home of the Hueneme Vikings (0-8, 0-3). We enter the week still tied for first place in the PVL with crosstown rival Camarillo who is also 7-1, 3-0 PVL. If we both take care of business this week, it would set up a very big final game of the season in two weeks at Rio Mesa.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson and George Contreras
New Orleans, Louisiana
2004 Sugar Bowl
BCS National Championship Game
LSU 21 - Oklahoma 14

Mark Johnson and George Contreras
Shishoe Bay, Seattle, Washington
Ray's Boathouse Restaurant
Johnson/Contreras 1 - Halibut 0

Although I knew of Mark "Mad Dog" Johnson since his freshman year at the University of Washington in the Fall of 1966, I didn't become one of his friends until we had a chance meeting in 1968 when we both answered an ad in the UW's Daily newspaper about the Intramural Department needing officials to work Intramural Football Games. They paid $5 per game which was a LOT of money for a college kid back then, so I went to a training meeting and saw Mark sitting near the front. His moniker of "Mad Dog" had been richly deserved and I frankly was hoping to sneak out quickly from the back of the room when the meeting was over and pray that the other 25 applicants in attendance would shield me from Mark's view.

Suddenly I heard a yell "George" and knew that I had been found out. I courteously turned and said hello. We chatted for a few minutes and he asked me to go with him to get something to eat. He would not take "No" for an answer so I reluctantly made what turned into one of the best decisions of my life and went with him.

We would become the two top rated officials in the system and worked the games with the rowdiest dorm and/or frat teams involved. Eventually we were picked to be the refs for the Intramural Championship game, a BIG honor at the time. Mark would go on to continue his refereeing career after graduation but in wrestling not football. Eventually he became world class official and was picked by the U.S. Wrestling Federation to work tournaments in every corner of the wrestling globe.

Now 40 years later he is still one of my dearest friends in the world and a man my entire family can count on in any difficult situation. We have been together for all the UW Rose Bowls since 1978, three BCS Championship Games and even Super Bowl XL in Detroit when Pittsburgh beat Seattle's Seahawks. 

Mark is just now finishing a 3 month battle with tongue cancer that has seen him fight through radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He has lost his sense of taste, gets his nutrients through a feeding tube and has lost 30 pounds.

I asked him what would be the first solid food he would eat again once his taste buds reactivated and he could keep food down. His answer? Be in Aci Castello, Sicily for pizza on the outdoor piazza served by Jonica's Pizzeria. I'm glad he enjoyed the food in Sicily when he and Susie visited me last summer. 

Still, he is so very strong of spirit and thank God appears to be winning his battle. In typical Mark fashion, he knew that our friends Debi and Tim Murphy, who had come to Seattle with us and were tailgating in his home, had lost their husband/father Dan to cancer a little over two years ago. In the middle of all his own struggle, he pulled me aside to make sure that Debi and Tim were O.K. with him and that he was not upsetting them in any way by dredging up old, unpleasant memories.

Mark long ago lost any claim to the nickname "Mad Dog" as he matured and mellowed. I'm sure that his wife, Susie, and their two kids, Sophie and Mallory, played key parts in this transformation into a model parent.

In life, one makes many acquaintances but really very few friends. I am so fortunate to that I have been able to count Mark as a true friend all these years.

Anyone care for
"One Cruel Prawn"?

"City, State or Federal?"

Seattle Sunday

We all awoke hale and hearty Sunday morning none the worse for wear after digesting the 12 egg omelet at Beth's Cafe. Laurie and Tim are both New Orleans Saints fans and wanted to watch their game against the San Diego Chargers live from London at 10:00 a.m. I am not a big NFL fan (pro teams move, colleges do not) but I do watch the Saints because our godson, Scott Fujita, plays linebacker for them.

On a side note, Scott got tickets for a bunch of our Sicilian based Catania Elephant teammates to attend he game. From the initial reports I have gotten, they had a GREAT time, met Scott and some of the other Saints and, most importantly, London is still standing!

I spent the first half of the game making a run for coffee and tea at a local Starbucks and touring some of my old college day haunts for photo ops.


Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church

This fine, old church is near the UW and it was our parish home in the late 1960s. My wife Laurie was baptized here and also received her First Communion in this building.

Fraternity Row

Although I was not in a fraternity, many of my friends were. A lot of crazy things happened here and I suspect they still do!

Debi Murphy, our roadmate on this excursion, asked me why I decided to go to the UW since I was born and bred in Southern California. The answer was simple enough, it involved food.

In 1958, as a 6th grader, I was playing my first season ever of football in a flag football league sponsored by the Catholic Youth Organization for my school in Pasadena, St. Philip the Apostle School. I was excited to watch the 1959 Rose Bowl game between Iowa and California on New Year's Day but fate stepped in as Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution officially defeated the reigning Batista regime that day. The result? My dad, a big Castro booster at the time, hauled the family down to a pro-Castro/anti Batista rally in downtown Los Angeles. So much for my first Rose Bowl viewing experience.

The 1959 season rolls around and the University of Washington Huskies are going to play the Wisconsin Badgers in the New Year's Day 1960 Rose Bowl game. Every day of the week, my path from St. Philip the Apostle School took me by the Huntington Sheraton Hotel, the traditional accommodations for the Big 10 representatives each year. One day my friends John Walsh and Craig Sweeney suggested that we should enter the hotel and see if we could bump into some of the Badger players. In the lobby there was a large, slide top refrigerator with a sign on it that read "Welcome to the Rose Bowl Badgers, Enjoy an Apple Courtesy of the University of Washington".

We weren't Badgers but what the hell, free food is not fattening. Naturally, we slowly slid the top open as we looked around to see if we were being watched by members of the Wisconsin State Patrol. No one stopped us as we committed the "Crime of the Century" and each pilfered a crisp, cold, delicious, bright red apple. They were so addictive that we came back every day after school for another shot at spending the rest of our natural lives in Wisconsin's Sheboygan State Prison.

The Big 10 vs. West Coast Rose Bowl contract was signed in 1947. Since that time the West Coast teams had only won one Rose Bowl Game, a 7-0 USC victory over Wisconsin in 1953, in the first 13 meetings. Thus West Coast football was not considered to be anywhere near the quality of the mid-West brand of the game. On New Year's Day 1960 I was glued to my TV set as no major political upheavals occurred anywhere in the Western Hemisphere this time!

The apple giving University of Washington Huskies were magnificent that day completely thrashing the University of Wisconsin Badgers 44-8 behind the offensive fireworks of one-eyed QB Bob Schloredt and RB George Fleming. Coach Jim Owens team was just amazing to watch as they physically dominated the highly favored Badgers. I was young and impressionable but I knew that very day that I wanted to be a Husky some day because of the football team in part but probably more because of the apples.

The Dawgs came back to the Rose Bowl the next season in 1961 and further cemented my decision by beating the Big 10 champion Minnesota Golden Gophers 17-7 with Bob Schloredt winning the MVP honors a second year in a row. A 17-7 loss to the Dick Butkus led University of Illinois Fighting Illini in the 1964 Rose Bowl did nothing to change my decision.

One of the best days of my life was the Saturday morning after our Alemany H.S. game my senior year in high school when my high school coach, Jack Friedman, informed me that the UW was going to offer me a football scholarship...WHERE DO I SIGN!

Dick's was always great spot to get something cheap to eat at 2:00 a.m.

Seattle's Lincoln H.S.
Home of the Lincoln Lynx

I did my student teaching for Bing Nixon at Lincoln H.S. in the Fall of 1969 just before graduating in December.

Lincoln H.S. no longer exists but it is still in use by the Seattle School District as a temporary school. As our friend Mark Johnson explained it to me, as the school district renovates a high school or junior high school during a 1 to 2 year construction project, they bus the students from that school to the old L.H.S. campus while the work is underway.

So I guess, in some odd way, Lincoln spirit never really dies.

The steps leading up to one of Lincoln's entryways.

Lincoln H.S. had very cool gates!

The Blue Moon Tavern

Often the scene, along with Dante's Tavern, of the activities that would lead up to Dick's Drive-In or the Hasty Tasty.

Clyde and Connie Werner

I really love these two people and look forward to seeing them when we visit Seattle. Connie is definitely Clyde's better 4/5's!

Clyde was a GREAT Husky linebacker when I was there and played several years for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Unassuming and quiet, he just played the game the way Amos Alonzo Stagg intended it to be played. The first time I saw him I thought he was Paul Bunyon!

Did I ever mention that Laurie loves Tweety Bird?

Back at Villa Johnson, Sophie and Mallory were busy decorating for Halloween when they brought out this Tweety head that Laurie is proudly wearing. 

The Hiram Chittenden Locks

After the Saints game ended, a 37-32 New Orleans win, we loaded up the rent-a-car to drive out to the Hiram Chittenden Locks and English Gardens in Seattle's Ballard district.

Very Cool Metal Artwork at the Locks...

... or a Jungle-Gym set for Sophie and Mallory?

The locks helps boats go between the fresh water Seattle lakes and the lower elevation salt water Puget Sound.

These fishing boats are headed out to sea today.

It WAS a little windy and crisp at the Locks on Sunday.

The edge of the English Gardens to the north of the Locks.

A Late Lunch at Ray's Boathouse

Ray's Boathouse is located on Shilshoe Bay very near the Chittenden Locks

It has excellent food, fun fish related artwork and a magnificent view of the Puget Sound to match.

The Johnson, Murphy and Contreras delegations
at Ray's Boathouse for the
2008 World Seafood Eating Championships

Thus this meal brought a close to a fantastic weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

A BIG THANKS, as always, to our very special friends, Mark and Susie Johnson, for their fantastic hospitality!

Monday, October 27, 2008

GAME DAY: Notre Dame at Washington

We woke up to another perfect Fall day and prepared ourselves for the game. Our first stop would be University Avenue to have some breakfast, buy souvenirs and tour the University of Washington campus. 


After a good night's sleep and finally calming down about the Rio Mesa freshman football team, I saw this sign on a church near the UW Bookstore's parking lot. I took it as an omen for our staff's approach to this week's football practices.

A little tea, a little latte and life becomes good again at a small, independent, off campus coffee bar!

Entering the UW campus

The campus is just so wonderful a place to go for a walk on another crisp October day.

I stayed up in Seattle for Summer Session in 1968 and took a Speech class in this building.

The Henry Suzzalo Library

Easily the most beautiful building at the UW.

The Study Room

This was my favorite place inside Suzzalo to study when I went to school here...

O.K., I didn't study all that often but when I did, this was THE place!

Ornate Woodwork in the Study Room

EVERY bookshelf along the walls of the Study Room has AWESOME woodwork like this.


That's Latin for "Let There Be Light" and it is the motto of the UW. This lamp is just outside the library with the old Administration Building in the background. 

The Quad

The center of the original campus, the Miller Building, that houses the Education Department, is on the right. Laurie worked as a secretary in this building and I took several classes in it.

"Educational Foundations, how may I help you?"

More of the Quad's Fall Colors

I wonder how old all those walkway bricks on the Quad are?

Denny Hall

The oldest building on campus, I took a psychology class here as a Sophomore.

My Road-mates pause to reflect by Denny Hall 


Mallory Johnson in her "Witches of Eastwick" hat

Sophie Johnson
Tour Guide and Halloween Decorator Par Excellence!

Susie Johnson in front of Villa Johnson

The Johnsons live about a 5 minute stroll from Husky Stadium, so we tailgated at their home before walking to see all the pre-game activities surrounding the game.

Tailgate Husky Style

Husky Vespa

As the new Head Coach of the Catania Elephants, should I be demanding something like this in Catania colors in my contract?

Tailgating ALWAYS equals great food.

The Murphy's meet an ally in Cathy

Cathy lives in South Bend, Indiana, the home of the Fighting Irish.

Besides the usual tailgating, the Huskies also do sailgating as dozens of very large boats tie up to the docks on the Lake Washington side of Husky Stadium. We met Cathy as we walked on the docks to take a close up look at this unique UW tradition. She was very funny and outgoing so naturally we took an instant liking to her. Because of his bonding, I decided not to torpedo her boat as I originally planned.

Another ND fan but this time on a UW fan's boat

Unlike European soccer (calcio in Italy), one of the best things about college football is mixing with the fans of your opponent's team before, during and after the game in friendly, non-violent, non-life threatening banter. 

Commodore Tim Murphy and Debi next to a very cool boat
flying both ND and UW colors.

For some, "Leatherheads", was not just a movie

A die-hard, literally, Irish fan being wheeled into the stadium.

Approaching Husky Stadium from the north side through the Irish crowd

The Husky IS a noble dog INDEED!!!

The view from our seats

Note that the game is still tied granted the game has not started yet but we still had hope!

Our son, Andy, and his fiancee, Jenn

They flew up from Las Vegas this morning and we had a GREAT time with them!

A patriotic moment before the opening kickoff

We are still tied 0-0 at this point!

One of the Huskies NINE punts on the day

The Irish did not punt even once in the game.

Dueling Ear Rings

Laurie's "UW DAWG PAW" ear ring on the left, countered by Debi's traditional interlocking ND on the right. I called this contest a draw.

The Start of the Fourth Quarter???

In former days of glory, nobody left Husky Stadium until the final gun sounded. Now as we entered the game's final stanza down 27-0, the stands were empty. The impending loss was too much to bear for many UW fans as it would drop us to 0-7 on the season and meant that for the fourth straight season the Huskies would have a losing season. The final outcome was a 33-7 Notre Dame victory.

How bad was it? The UW had a grand total of 55 yards in offense in the first 54 minutes of the game before we were able to move the ball against DEEP ND back-up players (I think Rudy actually got a few snaps at the end). A dismal first half saw the Huskies gain a grand total of 38 yards, three first downs and go 1 for 9 passing for five yards.

In a nutshell, we just aren't very good this decade.

"Hail to the Victors..."?

Tim and Debi were gracious winners thank goodness!

Post Game Irish Bonding with a nattily dressed, complete stranger

With Mark Johnson back at his home to dissect the Huskies' problems and how we would fix them magically

As usual, the kids mistook me for Santa Claus and thought it would be a GREAT time to give me their Christmas Wish List!

The current and future Contreras Clan looking good in purple!

11:00 p.m., Post Game, Hungry...
Beth's Cafe is just the answer you're looking for!

The World Famous Beth's Cafe 12 Egg, Cheese, Ham and Mushroom Omelet served on a mountain of Hash Brown Potatoes

Would this be enough for the four of us?

Beth Cafe's walls are covered with customer's artwork

The also have some great "Thought of the Day" material on display.


We came close but we just couldn't finish this really delicious "snack".

All in all, we had a fantastic Saturday seeing the beauty of college football up close, being with friends and eating lots of great food. If the game had just been a little more competitive it would have been perfect.

We are already working on the four of us flying to Notre Dame for the October 3rd rematch in 2009... it should be another great weekend!!!