By Raul Samaniego
NORWALK -- They weren’t as limber as they were in the old days. Nor were they catching championship touchdown passes. No one was hitting anyone.
Some were now grandfathers; others became coaches, one a city employee. Some died.
But they were special.
Members of the 1977 CIF Central Division high school football championship Norwalk Lancers reunited last Friday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their unduplicated accomplishment.
Team member and Norwalk community worker Anthony Garcia, along with Norwalk High School principal Mike Garcia, organized the gathering.
After leaving Norwalk High, Anthony Garcia played two years at Cerritos College under Frank Mazzotta. He then went to work for the City of Norwalk, returning to Long Beach State University after 10 years, earning his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
Here in the City of Norwalk, Garcia currently works with at-risk youth and their families.
Trying to put things into perspective, 40 years before 1977 was 1937. That was before WWII, Korea, the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam.
Some of today’s Lancers parents may not have even been born in 1977.
Standing under the same goal post from that era, you were reminded those guys were something special.
When asked what made the 1977 team special, former wide receiver Jon Simper said, “We bought into the experiences the coaches were selling.”
Asked to explain, Jon elaborated, “The coaches coached. That is, they coached individuals.”
Now living in Scottsdale, Arizona, he met his wife Susan after high school and has been married for over 30 years. He has three children and is a manufacturer representative.
Doubly special, for in the spring of 1978, several members of the football team played on the CIF 2-A Champion Baseball Team.
One member, linebacker Larry See, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Their quarterback, Phil Davis, received a scholarship to Division 1 Wyoming, leading the Cowboys to an 8-3 record and a Bowl berth his freshman year.
His brother, Mike Davis, joined him two years later after excelling at Cerritos College.
Harry Harrison, a member and California Cadet Corps, continued his JROTC training and became a Marine, attaining the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant.
He was still sporting the same crew cut he wore in 1977. Some good things never change.
Unfortunately, the team lost their fifth member of that championship squad, Ronald Hoehl.
Their head coach, Chuck McAnivich, also has passed away.
Those in attendance at Friday’s game were Wesley Wong, Anthony Garcia, Robert Reyes, Harry Harrison, Greg Anderson, Drew Hefner, Jon Simper, Randy Pena, Mike Davis, Marty Lain, John Verdi, Brett Cook and Dirck Kemnitz.
Deceased: Orlando Botelo, Richard Longoria, Dennis Barnum, Alton Miles and Ron Hoehl.
It was the same field, same stands, and same track as 40 years ago. The pants may have been bigger, the hair a little scarcer, but the smiles, hugs and enthusiasm were as evident Friday night as they were those four decades ago.
Welcome home, Lancers!