I have wanted to tell this story for a long time.
I was cleaning out a box of memorabilia. I don’t have much. Now I have less: about a 4-inch stack of magazines.
I came across a publication the size of a magazine, Southern California Football 1958. It covered high schools mostly, with a few pages devoted to junior colleges, colleges, and the ever-hopeful L. A. Rams.
I glanced through it. I remembered bits and pieces. It was my senior year in high school. I followed high school football. Our team was expected to be a powerhouse. It lost most of its games. I was the school’s student sports photographer. I had a close up view of the losses, one by one.
The region was split between high schools inside the city of Los Angeles (the City region) and all the rest of southern California. I followed both regions that year.
I turned to the entry on Banning High School — the one in the City. I was in the stands to see Banning defeat what was considered an unbeatable Fremont team, the inner-city favorite, in the City finals. I had asked my father to go to the game with me. He took my word that it would be worth it. This was the only high school football game we ever went to. He talked about that game for years thereafter.
Here is what struck me as I read the pre-season insert on Banning. Banning had come in second in the City the year before. But it had lost 20 of those players. The writer picked Banning to come in second in its league, and therefore not make the playoffs.
The blurb said this: “Coach Paul Huebner has two fine veterans returning in All-League Finis Irvin, and Bob Hernandez, who is an exceptional pin-point long passer.” In the list of the expected line-up of starters, Irvin was picked as the starting tailback. Hernandez was 5′ 8″ and weighed 150 lbs.
Banning played the single-wing formation, long forgotten today. A few high schools still use it, but it has not been used by major colleges in half a century. It is sometimes called the wildcat formation. There is no quarterback. There is a tailback. The formation emphasizes running, not passing.
In the finals, Fremont was heavily favored. It had an All-League junior, Anthony Lorick, who made it into the NFL. He was the City’s leading long jumper at 24′ 6″. He ran the 100 yard dash in under 10 seconds. One of the other starters in the Fremont backfield did the same. They were lightning fast.
Banning went into the game undefeated. Hernandez had tied the City’s passing touchdown record at 15.
In that game, he passed for seven touchdowns. He increased the City’s one-season record by 47% in one game. His team won by 59 to 19 — a rout.
In one play, Banning was on its own 3-yard line after receiving a kickoff, as I recall. The runner ran around right end for 97 yards. The play was called back because of a penalty. Now Banning was on the one-and-a-half yard line. Hernandez called the same play, and the same running back scored a touchdown. No penalty this time.
That scene has been in my mind ever since as the consummate example of the sports rule: “If a play works, do it again until it stops working.”
Hernandez was voted onto the All-City first team.
I never heard of him again. If he went to college, I never heard. I can find no trace of him on the Web after 1959.
(for the rest of my article, click the link.)