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Last Update: 06/03/15
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1974 - 40 Years Later ... 2014
Feature article in 2014 All Star Program|
by Dick Sparrer
It all started, like so many things do, as just an idea. The concept sounded simple enough—bring together the Santa Clara Valley's finest high school football players from the 1973 fall season to play in an all-star game the following summer.
Through the combined efforts of the Almaden Valley Rotary Club and the San Jose Police Athletic League, the all-star game that year was a blockbuster event, complete with a celebrity flag football game, a soccer demonstration by the San Jose Earthquakes and the normal pageantry typically associated with high school football.
They did it right, and the inaugural game was certainly a success. But to call it at the time the "first an¬nual" game of its kind was certainly very optimistic on their part. Still, they did it again in the summer of 1975. And now, some four decades later, the Santa Clara County All-Star Bowl—now the Silicon Valley Youth Classic—is still going strong.
When the stars of the 2013 fall season kick off on July 23 at San Jose City College, it will mark the 40th anniversary of the game born in the spring of 1974 in the PAL office on Park Avenue in San Jose. "They came down to see me at the PAL office and said they had an idea for honoring the outstanding graduating high school football players," said game chairman Jim Guido, then the PAL president and now an Almaden Rotary member himself "Our board OK'd it, and we had a marriage."
And this summer marks the 40th anniversary of that wedded bliss. "I've seen so many wonderful athletes come through," added Guido, who joins Jane Tolentino and Paul Consentino as those who have been involved in all 40 all-star games. "Some have gone on to the pros and others to do other great things in their lives. It makes it all worthwhile." They went on to play in the National Football League and in Rose Bowls; to play professional baseball and win Olympic gold medals. And that was just in the first year!
The inaugural game, in addition to being the grand¬dad of them all, featured a star-studded list of play¬ers. Doug Cosbie of St. Francis and Don Schwartz of Archbishop Mitty would each go on to play in the NFL - Cosbie an All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys and Schwartz a defensive back for the St. Louis Cardinals and New Orleans Saints.
Otis Page of Saratoga, Pete Pele of Mitty and Steve Bauer of Los Gatos went on to play for Pac-10 teams in the Rose Bowl—Page at USC, Pele at UCLA and Bauer at the University of Washington.
Millard Hampton of Silver Creek starred in the 1974 summer game, but later turned his attention to track, winning gold and silver medals as a sprinter in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. And Ric Foley of Leigh continued his football career at Santa Clara University, but it was on the diamond where he truly excelled. He starred for the Broncos before going on to play professional baseball. One of them—Rob Becker of Pioneer even went on to become a stand-up comedian.
But that was only the beginning. Since that first game, nearly two dozen all-stars have gone on to play in the NFL. Others have become Major League base¬ball players and many more have starred at the colle¬giate level. Still, while the summer classic is a game of talented all-stars, it's also a game of memories. And one of the most lasting occurred in that first one back in 1974.
The South won that one 48-36, but it was an elec¬trifying 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Hampton that arguably ranks as the most memorable event of the 39 games already played. "The one thing I told them is, do not kick the ball to Hampton," said leg¬endary Saratoga coach Benny Pierce, who along with Tom Burt of Los Altos directed that first North team. But the kick did go to Hampton, and the sprinter ran it right back at the North on his way to a touchdown.
"I remember Millard Hampton running back that kickoff for a touchdown to win the game," said Guido, "and Al [Cementina] beat Benny Pierce."
Cementina, another local coaching legend at James Lick and Independence High Schools, joined Leland's Kent Miller to lead that first South team to victory. Of course, it didn't hurt that Stanford-bound Gary Lynn of Los Gatos was in the backfield for the South. "I was so wound up, I was about ready to explode," said Lynn. And he did—four times to get into the end zone to score South TDs.
"It was so exciting, and I was lucky enough to be right there at the beginning," added Lynn. "We only found out about the game in the spring. This was an opportunity that just appeared." Becker would agree.
"I remember they came to the school and interviewed us," Becker recalled in a 2007 interview. "It was an honor just to be interviewed, but to be selected to play in the game ... I was in heaven."
Cosbie reminisced about the experience back in a 1995 interview. "It was the first one," he said of the game. "The only all-star game I knew of was the Shrine Game that they played every summer." "On paper, we had a better team," he added, "but I think we got killed."
Pierce agrees that the North team was solid. "I the thught we had some very good players," he said of his 1974 squad. "It was a high-scoring game—there wasn't a lot of defense—so it was a great game for the spectators."
It was also a great game for the South. "We had a lot of camaraderie on that team," said Becker, "and it was great to be with a bunch of guys who just loved the game."
There's little doubt that participating in the game was a memorable experience, even for a guy who would go on to stardom in the NFL.
"The two high school games I really remember are the CCS championship game and that all-star game," said Cosbie. And "that all-star game" was how it all began.
"It was a good start," said Pierce of the inaugural game. "We knew we were starting something." Some¬thing that turned out to be a pretty good idea.