The Fontana A.B. Miller and Redlands East Valley “Hit”

Written by Bob on November 9th, 2009

By BOB OTTO / Writer & Photographer

YUCAIPA, CA – I didn’t see it, but I heard it. That hard-hitting whack when body crashes into body, shoulder pad slams into shoulder pad, and helmet cracks helmet.

Friday night I covered a high school football game. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past 16 years.

And this game between the Fontana A.B. Miller Rebels and Redlands East Valley Wildcats had a lot at stake: The championship of the Citrus Belt League.

So kids were flying at each other. The intensity was at fever pitch. The hitting reached a ferocious level.

Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers were hunted down by 220-pound linebackers and defensive backs with Gazelle-like speed. And when they caught them, they hurled them to the ground like Siberian Tigers stalking and ripping into wild boar.

Then in the third quarter, I heard the “hit” near the Wildcats sideline. I was across the field, 50-yards away on the Rebels side. It sounded like a reverberating violent fusion of boom, thud, crash.

I cringed. And the crowd exhaled a collective, “ooh.” Then there was silence. Eyes locked on the combatants to see if they’d be able to push themselves up off the turf.

This time they did.

High school players in today’s game are huge and fast. Linemen weigh 260, 285, and in some cases over 300 pounds. Muscled running backs weigh in at 180 to 230 – the weight of big linemen when I played back in the mid-1960s.

Today’s athletes lift weights like it’s an obsession. They’ve got personal trainers. Personal coaches design specialized programs to propel their development. They attend off-season training camps to refine their skills. At 16 and 17, they’re whiskerless boys in a grown man’s body.

At 155, I played defensive end, linebacker and running back. Where would my diminutive body size fit in today’s high school game?

Perhaps as equipment manager, stat boy, charting plays for the coach, or maybe the cheer squad would let me join them. No way could I play in today’s modern era of high school football.

Old timers talk about the way the game used to be played. They boast about the great players of their eras.

But if they had seen Friday night’s game, they’d come to the same conclusion I have.

Today’s athletes are exceptionally gifted. The best – regardless of era.

Seeing and hearing the “hit” would convince them of that.

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