The 2022 high school football season marks the 80th anniversary of the first college sports league championship in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa history.
At a time when teenagers probably only had their sights set on WWII service or support after graduating from high school, Newport Harbor High’s legendary football team won the Sunset League title and played its first CIF-Southern Section Championship game in 1942. .
The Tars were sparked by All-CIF halfback Harold “Hal” Sheflin, voted Newport Harbor’s No. 1 player in the Sailors’ more than 90 years of gridiron competition, according to an online poll on the website. team in 2018.
Sheflin, also a heavyweight boxer and champion wrestler, was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom played football in Harbor in the 1930s.
Wendell Pickens, a legendary mid-20th century coaching figure in the Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine area, was at the helm of the Sailors’ first championship, starting with a dramatic positional change for the 210-pound Sheflin . Pickens moved him to fullback after Sheflin was an All-Sunset League lineman as a sophomore.
“He ran like Larry Czonka,” Sheflin’s third-oldest brother Billy said, referring to the former All-Pro running back for the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s. Bob and Frank Sheflin were older brothers to family.
Hal Sheflin had strength and speed, and dragged three or four defenders with him as he continued to gain ground. Time Magazine once asked 1946 Heisman Trophy-winning Army dipsy-doo racer Glenn “Mr. On The Outside” Davis to name just the greatest football player he ever faced. , and the West Point All-American, which had faced the best collegiate in the country, singled out Sheflin.
In 1942, Newport Harbor lost to Bonita, 39-6, in the CIF Small Schools Final, when Davis dominated the field for the Bonita Bearcats. A battle between Sheflin and Davis ensued throughout the first half, and the Mariners scored first on Sheflin’s touchdown for a 6-0 lead. On defense, Sheflin was a constant and sometimes painful obstruction as Bonita threw final sweeps by Davis.
Sheflin re-injured his heel in a previous contest on a concrete track, having tackled Davis seconds before halftime when Sheflin chased Davis out of bounds in midfield and jumped over the future fallen winner of Heisman. With Sheflin out of the game in the second half, Davis capitalized on his usual rampage and Bonita picked up a lopsided victory.
Sheflin, who entered the Newport record books with 2,231 career rushing yards in three seasons (averaging 6.2 yards per carry), racked up 231 rushing yards in a 54- 0 over the three-time defending Sunset League champion. Anaheim in Week 5. In Week 4 against Orange, Sheflin rushed for 218 yards in a 42-0 win.
Many of his 1942 teammates believed that had Sheflin not been injured late in the first half of the CIF title game against Bonita, the Sailors could have defeated the Davis Bearcats.
“A lot of us got hurt,” Sheflin said. “Manuel Muniz went off injured three minutes from the end of the half.”
Always a mainstay of the defensive force, Sheflin blocked nine punts in a nine-game season as a rookie. In the 1942 CIF title game, Sheflin kept Davis in check throughout the first half as the Sailors held Davis to a long gain of just 8 yards in the first 24 minutes.
In 1942 Newport Harbor had a school enrollment of around 500, half or even a third the size of its league opponents. Pickens had no assistant trainers, no scouts and no weight room. None of the 1940s players wore face protective gear, and with a small squad Pickens often had to tone down scrums for fear of injury. Many players have never been off the pitch, playing in attacking, defensive and special teams.
They were the gladiators of their time, posting a 9-0 regular season in which the Tars racked up 41 or more points in six games.
Newport did not win another league title until 1970. Its 1942 league championship was the first of 13 in school history (with three CIF titles).
Richard Dunn, a long-time sports journalist, regularly writes the Dunn Deal column for The Orange County Register weekly, The Coastal Current North.