Taken from official Servite High School website
It was cold... Santa Ynez was always cold in December.
The town of Santa Ynez had shut down for its local high school
football game, and this game wasn't much different. It was the
CIF Championship of 1960. The boys of Servite came to
Santa Ynez that afternoon with their coaches, their gear and
their desire to win. And make no mistake, they were boys!
That squad started eight juniors and three sophomores. Servite
didn't have a senior class.
Newspapers tell the story of that team...After the season opener,
the Santa Ana Register described Servite's Varsity team as
"inexperienced" following the 34-0 loss at Mt. Carmel, the
perennial Catholic league champions.
Servite then won its next two ball games before stumbling again at Valencia. The Garden Grove Daily News allowed that the Friars were "small and lacking depth."
Small? Yes! The offensive front averaged 160 lbs. and the backfield a cool 150 lbs. And yes, there were some depth problems.
Servite initially fielded 26 players, but that number was later cut to just 22 when injuries sidelined Dennis Russon, Dale Bartoletti, Jim Osborn and Jim Amentrout.
"There were days when we couldn't practice," recalls Chuck Rees ('63) a co-captain. "If we had injuries or if someone was sick, we had no real practice. Basically we had eleven players who went both ways!! We took the field for the opening kickoff and came off when the game was over."
But "small" and still lacking depth, the Friars overcame a 0-14 deficit to tie Gardena, then routed Brown Military Academy and Bosco Tech. Going into the Bolsa Grande game, Servite needed a win for the play-off berth. The Register perceived Servite as "upset-minded."
"It was tough week," said John Ganahl ('62). "Bolsa was a 3A team and we were a small school division team. Coach Bill Miller (head varsity coach) told us we had to win to be considered for a playoff invitation. He told us we could win and we believed him. He was an amazing motivator."
Servite recorded its first "must win" at Bolsa. Al Carr of the Register now termed the Friars a "scrappy and surprising bunch of salty dogs." And instead of "small," Servite was "rock-like and tough."
One victory later, Servite was in the playoffs.
On Friday, November 25, 1960, Servite traveled to Needles for its first post-season playoff appearance. Needles High School, undefeated in four years of regular season play, was averaging more than 40 points per game. The scribes again grew cautious. Servite was dubbed "young but spirited" by the Register on Friday. On Saturday in a special to the Register, it was reported that "Coach Miller's young charges dealt a stirring upset to heavily favored Needles."
"There wasn't a doubt in our minds," said Rees. "Sure it was a first, but we had lots of firsts. We had Servite's first football team, its first camp (where we got up at 4:00am to run laps) and its first victories! We were motivated to be first, and it never occurred to us that we wouldn't be first in the end."
County writers now warily reminded readers of Servite's "shocking upsets," and called the team" surprising" as the semi-final game with Tehachapi approached. Tehachapi, averaging 30 points per game, had shut out five opponents. County newspapers concluded "the Friars, in over their heads all season," would lose by six.
Ganahl remembers that Friday in December. "The game was at the old Fullerton Stadium, and the fans seemed to be sitting right on top of the field. We didn't have many players, but we had grown up playing together and had unspoken confidence in one another. We knew we would give up some points, but we also knew we could score at any time. We had the big play."
The final score… Friars-31 – Tehachapi-20.
With Servite now in the championship game, it was clear to county newspapers what would happen. Servite had to travel 183 miles north, play a Santa Ynez team which had a weight advantage of 30 lbs. per man and play the game in sub-freezing weather. Santa Ynez averaged 478 yards per playoff game, featuring a running back with an 18.7 yards-per carry average.
The Register announced that Servite didn't "have the maturity to meet the opponent on an equal term (sic) basis." Further it declared that the Servite practices had not been productive. It concluded, "we are of the opinion that Servite will go down in defeat to Santa Ynez by 13."
Chuck Rees recalled that "we, all 25 of us, got on the bus that day. Only 21 of us could play. Pete Ganahl ('63) our starting defensive halfback and a sophomore, was declared ineligible by the CIF that morning because he was too young." Pete was 14 years old!
"We rode the bus several hours. Somewhere outside of Santa Barbara, the bus pulled over, we got off and ran for five miles!!"
"That night when we took the field, the turf was frozen. Every hit was bone shattering. As the game wore on, they ground us down. We would score in three or four plays, and they would take 15 and score. Finally, with five minutes to go in the game, they went ahead 26-20. We returned the kickoff to mid-field (45 yard line) and nine plays later we were on their ten."
Rees carried the ball that final ten, but insisted the run was just one more total team effort.
"Len Klikunas ('62). Tom Dehart ('62) Mike Tietge ('62), John and Pete Ganahl ('62 & '63), myself and the rest were just a team. We didn't have great players, but we were Servite's first great team."
That Saturday edition of the Anaheim Bulletin recorded the final chapter. Writer Len Handel's story began, "Servite's Friars are the Co-Champions of the California Interscholastic Federation Small Schools Playoff Division!!"
Forty-five years later, that stills rings nicely in the ears.
Men of '60 GODSPEED.