ALDAMA: HUGE PART OF REDLANDS IN SUMMER OF ’01

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It couldn’t have been a better summer in 2001. At least it was for a local sports editor seeking sports news for a reading public that rejoiced over such information.

Heather Aldama was playing pro soccer for the Boston Breakers.

Landon Donovan was up in San Jose, playing for the Earthquakes.

Donovan, for his part, would eventually become arguably Team USA’s greatest player.

Heather Aldama
Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Santa Clara University).

Aldama had been a stud scorer at Redlands High just as Landon was arriving at Redlands High in 1995-1996. The Lady Terriers, built around Aldama’s goal-scoring and goal-producing passes, won four league championships.

In one season alone, she racked up a phenomenal 38 goals and 22 assists.

Over four seasons at Redlands, Aldama was All-CIF Southern Section each year. Her Lady Terrier teams reached the CIF quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once. The play was usually in the top tier of Division 1.

She was surrounded by terrific talent, plus coach Rolando Uribe who had been a scoring phenom for RHS’ boys side a few years earlier.

Part of a Southern California Blues side that won a state Under-19 title is, most likely, what landed Aldama in the collegiate spotlight; and, evetually, the pros.

That summer of 2001 was great for a small-town daily sports editor.

SUMMER PERKS OF ALDAMA, DONOVAN

The way it works on a small daily is simple. You’re obligated to produce as much local copy as possible.

That routine wasn’t necessarily so simple.

Due to shrinking budgets, the Associated Press wire services were all but unavailable to produce a sports section. Local copy was becoming even more mandatory.

During summer months at a small local daily newspaper, it’s tough to crank out local copy, particularly because schools are shut down between June and September.

You’d have to make up for it with all-star baseball, country club golf results, bowling scores from the local House, maybe some Junior Olympic swimming results courtesy of Redlands Swim Team, while we followed the exploits of that year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic entries throughout their summer seasons.

But when that pair of soccer-playing, midfield scorers put on their professional uniforms, they attracted plenty of attention.

That summer, though, was great. For me. For readers. You rarely read much in the county or regional newspapers about either player. Each time Aldama, or even Donovan, took the field for their respective sides, it was an opportunity for local coverage.

ALdama - Washington Freedom wins FreedomWinSemi
This is an example of a photo that was available to the local sports desk in Redlands during summer play in WUSA. While Redlands’ Heather Aldama walks off the field in disappointment, the Washington Freedom is celebrating a playoff semifinals triumph (photo by Women’s United Soccer Association).

It almost defied the odds when AP would staff many of those matches with a photographer. A handful of photos from their matches would come across the wire on game nights. Both players, Aldama and Donovan, showed up in photos on local sports pages in their hometowns.

In a way, it almost defied the odds. At any point on a soccer pitch, there are 22 players. One photographer. It seemed like every match included a shot of the Redlanders. It’s not hard to really imagine. Aldama and Donovan were playmakers. Photographers like action. Their lenses are usually aimed toward those making plays.

Photos filled at least one-third of the page.

It’s one way to fill a local sports section.

SANTA CLARA WAS COLLEGE CHOICE

Unlike Donovan, who skipped college to play the European pro leagues at age 16, Aldama chose NCAA powerhouse Santa Clara University as her collegiate stop. Four seasons of Varsity play as a Lady Terrier attacker, plus her club-playing roots, had left her as a prime target for most of the top colleges.

There were some highlights for the Lady Bronco.

As a freshman in 1997, Aldama nailed a game-winning goal against West Coast Conference rival Loyola-Marymount.

She played against No. 3 Florida in the 1998 NCAA semifinals, against No. 19 Brigham Young University, playing in virtually every big Santa Clara match during her 1997-2000 collegiate career.

Aldama netted a 16-yarder against third-ranked Nebraska in a 2-1 win over the Lady Huskers on Sept. 19, 1999.

In an NCAA playoff match against UCLA that same season, she scored in the 23rd minute, assisting on another goal in a crucial win.

Against Connecticut in the NCAA quarterfinals one match later, Aldama assisted on a pair of Aly Wagner goals, helping produce a 3-0 triumph.

In other words, Aldama always seemed to find herself in the mix – scoring, setting up goals and other plays, streaking downfield to work her way open.

Once college was over, though, what next?

REPLACING TEAM USA

Aldama was part of a replacement Team USA side at a Jan. 13, 2000 match in Adelaide, Australia. In an event called the Australia Cup, Aldama surfaced as a substitute in the championship match, 3-1, over the Matildas.

Team USA’s main side had boycotted the match.

Sherrill Kester, Danielle Slaton and Wagner, Aldama’s college teammate, scored in front of 3,500 at Hindmarsch Stadium.

Playing against a more experienced Matildas’ squad, the U.S. held a 20-6 shots advantage, plus a 10-5 edge in corner kicks. It was in the 82nd minute that Aldama fed Wagner for Team USA’s final goal.

Mandy Clemens was part of the team, plus Jenn Mascaro (Streiffer), Michelle French and Veronica Zepeda with Lakeyshia Beene in goal.

Team USA, 2-0-1 in the four-nation tournament, had the same record as Sweden (playing to a 0-0 draw), winning on goal differential, holding a plus-nine to Sweden’s plus-four. The Czech Republic and host Australia made up the remaining tournament qualifiers.

It was that 8-1 win over the Czech Republic that did it for Team USA.

Considering that Sydney, Australia would be the host of that year’s 2000 Olympics, it had to occur that Aldama could see action when the Summer Games started.

Team USA’s co-coach Lauren Gregg noted the team’s approach.

She told Associated Press that Team USA achieved its objectives.

“First, we won by playing some exciting, attacking soccer.

“Second, these players invested in their development every minute they were on the field and took every advantage of this opportunity.

“Finally,” she said, “these games gave us a chance to evaluate our young personalities against much more experienced players, which gives us extremely valuable information as we go forward toward the Olympics.”

Team USA, Olympic gold medalists in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, took silver in the 2000 Sydney Games. That team was largely built around the same group of historic women that won World Cup in Pasadena a couple years earlier.

China and Team USA played to a 1-1 draw, but the American women made it to the championship match, won by Sweden, 3-1.

Aldama was not part of the side.

SETTING STAGE FOR WUSA

While USA’s women were forming a global powerhouse at the international stage, Aldama was on the bubble to crack onto a formidable national team that included the likes of Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Carla Overbeck, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Tiffeny Milbrett, Clemens, Tisha Venturini, Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan, Julie Foudy and goalkeeper Brianna Scurry, among other well-known American players.

Brandi_Chastain_ESPN_Weekend_2010
Brandi Chastain, a 1999 World Cup hero, was a Heather Aldama rival during their days in the Women’s United Soccer Association (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In its most famous triumph in 1999 came in a 5-4 shootout win over China after a 0-0 draw through extended time. Chastain’s famous goal-winning shot was celebrated, dropping to her knees, whipping off her jersey and photographed in her sports bra.

That match was played at the Rose Bowl in front of nearly a packed house while shown on live international TV.

It had to affect an up-and-coming player like Aldama, who was still playing at Santa Clara – Chastain’s collegiate stop, incidentally.

The U.S., who knocked off North Korea, Nigeria and Denmark in pool play, had beaten Germany, Brazil and China, all world soccer powers. By contrast, Team USA’s men had never been able to produce a winning equation during international play.

Aldama had a few national team appearances. The timing of her departure from Santa Clara, however, was met with the formation of a new pro women’s soccer league.

SQUARING OFF AGAINST ’99 CUP SQUAD

In 2001, the Women’s United Soccer Association, or WUSA, was created. One of the founding eight teams was the Boston Breakers. The league lasted three seasons.

Aldama was part of a side that included Lilly, plus Kate Sobrero and Tracy Ducar. International players came over from Germany, Maren Meinhart and Bettina Wiegmann, plus Norway’s Dagny Mellgren and Ragnhild Gulbrandsen.

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Kristine Lilly, another of the 1999 USA World Cup heroes, was a Boston Breakers teammate of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Aldama showed up in Boston, courtesy of being the 28th player selected in the 2001 draft, a fourth-round pick by the Breakers. They played her on defense.

It was tough beginnings for Boston, which played to an 8-10-3 mark in its inaugural season, following that up with a 6-8-7 mark in 2002 – but no playoffs.

Matches were played at Nickerson Field in Boston. The team was owned by Amos Hostetter, Jr., who had served as chairman of C-SPAN.

That third and final season, though, under coach Pia Sundhage, former Norwegian scoring playmaker, was a little different. Boston finished 10-4-7 and reached the semifinals before a shootout against the Washington Freedom ended the Breakers’ season.

Aldama, wearing jersey No. 12, missed a shot in the penalty kick phase.

Eventually, when WUSA suspended operations, that was about it for the 25-year-old Aldama.

The Breakers reappeared, however – twice.

In 2007, they showed up as part of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), folding in 2012. After that, the Breakers became part of the Women’s Pro Soccer League Elite.

Who was Aldama playing against in WUSA?

It was that same core group of 1999 World Cup players.

Mia_Hamm_corner
Mia Hamm took her celebrated career into the WUSA ranks, where she competed against the likes of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Instead of watching them or dreaming of being their place, Aldama was attacking the likes of Scurry, plus defending against the all-star talents of Fawcett, MacMillan, Akers, Parlow, Milbrett, Venturini, Foudy, Hamm, Chastain and Clemens, among others – America’s best players.

In a July 3, 2003 match between Aldama’s Breakers and the Washington Freedom, Aldama notched her first professional goal in the 66th minute. There were 8,105 fans at Boston’s Nickerson Field to witness the two sides play to a 1-1 draw.

The shot was a curving, 25-yarder into the upper right hand corner of the net.

That shot might have originated in Redlands.

 

 

K.K. LIMBHASUT GOLFS HIS WAY FROM REDLANDS TO BERKELEY

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

For years, Redlands High’s K.K. Limbhasut worked his way into the Terriers’ golf lineup at the No. 1 position — all four seasons, in fact. When he notched a victory at  the Ka’anapali Classic in Lahaina, Hawaii last November, he shot his way to collegiate golf’s mecca.

He has just capped his junior season at Cal-Berkeley, shooting just over 71. Limbhasut’s collegiate career includes two prominent wins, a dozen top 10 NCAA finishes, plus a 10th place at the 2016 NCAA Championships as a freshman.

The Thai-born Limbhasut (pronounced Lip-ah-SOOD) was one of those athletes that showed up as a Terrier, who averaged 68 shots every time he played 18 holes as a prep.

KK LIMBHASUT
K.K. Limphasaut, a Redlands High School product, is playing his way through UC Berkeley on a golf scholarship. The fifth-year senior has won some collegiate events in his time (photo by Cal Bears).

He goes into a list of Terrier athletes that might’ve been surprises in the school’s traditional Blue Line.

Athletes like future Olympic high jumper Karol Damon, plus Brigham Young University tennis’ Hermahr Kaur, soccer’s Landon Donovan, football and track star Patrick Johnson, among others, who showed up, perhaps unexpectedly, to carve out a niche.

Those athletes could’ve easily shown up on some other campus.

When Limbhasut shot a 67 at the CIF-Southern Section championship at Mission Lakes, he’d outplayed Oregon-bound Aaron Wise (now on the PGA Tour), of Corona Santiago, by a single shot to win the 2014 championship.

Names like Tiger Woods (three times, in fact, for Anaheim Western) are on that same winner’s list. So are PGA Hall of Famers like Dave Stockton (San Bernardino Pacific) and Billy Casper (Chula Vista), plus Vista Murrieta’s Ricky Fowler.

Limbhasut  probably won’t ever forget that eagle on the 16th hole at Mission Lakes which lifted him to his win over Wise and an entire field of gifted prep players.

His grades, not to mention his game, got him a shot, literally, at the academically sound Berkeley campus.

He’s paid his dues at Berkeley. There was that 2014-2015 Aggie Invitational triumph in Texas, plus a tie for first place at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate Tournament in Hawaii one season later.

Limphasut has been a three-time All-West Region. Like most top-flight amateurs, he’s played in plenty of major events. He just finished playing at the Arnold Palmer Cup, held in France, losing in match play while representing the International team.

Let’s not forget that any time, he tees up in a collegiate match — particularly in the super talented Pac 12 — Limbhasut’s taking on top-flight future pros. In Cal’s NCAA Regionals, played in Raleigh, N.C., an 11th place finish failed to land a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Limbhasut’s tie for 32nd place, shooting 212, was middle of the road play.

It’s probably far too premature to pronounce a pro future on Limbhasut, which is the likely conclusion to draw from any golfer with such a growing list. It’s probably too premature to rule it out.

His final round 66 at the Royal Ka’anapali Course included three pars on the final three holes, shooting 12-under par for a 200 total, edging South Carolina’s Scott Stevens by a shot. Limbhasut’s Cal teammate Collin Morkiwaka started the final round in first place.

Limbhasut’s patience and iron play held steady.

“I controlled my ball flight this week,” he told an area magazine, “which helped when the trades (infamous Hawaiian winds) picked up.”

Noting a 25-foot uphill putt he sank for an eagle on the ninth hole, Limbhasut seemed perfectly up to that up-and-down part on the 18th hole to close it out.

Next stop: Limbhasut, a fifth-year senior, will begin play this fall.

‘CUP’ CHAT: DONOVAN SEEMED PREPARED TO MAKE THE CALL

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It’s July 6, 2018. A World Cup quarterfinals day. France had just beaten Uruguay, 2-0. At 11 a.m., Pacific, Belgium took on Brazil for a spot in the Cup semifinals.

American soccer icon Landon Donovan had made a bold prediction a few years earlier. He talked about Belgium in 2014. By 2018, that European nation was bidding for a Cup.

Flashing back, it’s a distant memory in the days when young teenager Landon Donovan flashed up and down high school soccer fields, darting in to take a pass, dribble up the field, set up a teammate, or launch a shot into the mouth of a soccer goal.

In years ahead, he wasn’t worried about playing Rialto Eisenhower, San Gorgonio or Victor Valley from the Citrus Belt League.

What was on his mind that summer of 2014 is Group G – Germany, Ghana and Portugal. Or on just making the Team USA roster. America’s coach at the moment was German legend Jurgen Klinsmann.

Landon Donovan 2
Redlands’ Landon Donovan, who was America’s greatest soccer scoring threat, left America to train in Europe at a young age. Maybe that’s the secret to lifting Team USA to more of an international presence (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

America had been in such a state of disorganization as a soccer side, Team USA went international to hire a coach. Klinsmann, a goal-scoring superstar for the Germans, was brought over to direct the American side.

Donovan would eventually feel the sting.

In reality, his days at Redlands High as a freshman – when he was the ’96 CBL Most Valuable Player – and his half-season at Redlands East Valley, were just soccer matches in miniature.

He was an IMG Academy (Fla.) kid playing for club and national youth teams, plus prepping for a remarkable career that was about to unfold. Leaving REV midway through his sophomore year (1997-98) to play professionally overseas, Donovan’s touch seemed magical.

The magnificent Donovan, an L.A. Galaxy/U.S. World Cup player, has scored an American record 57 international goals – and likely would’ve added to that mark in his fourth Cup appearance in 2014.

“I hope so,” he said at the time.

As of April 22, 2014, Donovan claims he didn’t have a clue if he’d be included on USA’s roster. “We’ll find out in the beginning of June,” he said.

Was he being coy? After all, he’s one of the greatest USA scoring threats ever. Donovan shrugged.

“You never know. I hope so – yes.”

DONOVAN: MESSI, RONALDO BEST IN THE WORLD

It’s amazing that such a remarkable talent as Donovan grew up in the Redlands area. Klinsmann, though, didn’t pick him.

Donovan to USA soccer is what Phil Mickelson is to golf, or LeBron James to basketball – American stars without controversial baggage away from the arena (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, among others).

Asked to identify the world’s best players, Donovan pondered for just a few moments. No American players came from his lips.

Cristiano_Ronaldo_(35480124482)
Cristiano Ronaldo, called by Landon Donovan, one of the top players in the world, was certainly on the field against USA’s best-ever product (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Cristiano (Ronaldo, of Real Madrid) and (Spaniard Lionel) Messi.”

The pondering, perhaps, came just because he was trying to separate the two between No. 1 and No. 2.

It’s impossible. “They’re both good for different reasons,” says Donovan, who may have settled on Messi being best-on-the-planet.

Donovan’s been on the pitch, playing against both players, incidentally.

Messi’s a goal-scoring legend.

Lionel_Messi_Player_of_the_Year_2011
Lionel Messi might get the nod, at least from Redlands’ Landon Donovan, as the world’s greatest soccer player, as of July 2018, that is. Donovan’s played against the great Argentian scoring legend (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Said Donovan: “He gets himself into position better than other people can. He’s more of an individual talent when he gets the ball alone.” Messi might be five or six inches shorter than NBA great LeBron James, “but it’s the same athleticism.”

The 2014 World Cup was wide open. Donovan was hoping to play. It would be one last hurrah.

Germany, he said, “is emerging. A lot of people are talking about Belgium.”

Belgium? Four years later, Belgium was on the threshold of winning the 2018 World Cup. They’d taken down 5-time Cup champion Brazil, 2-1, in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the semifinals, however, France ended Belgium’s run with a 1-0 outcome.

Team USA wasn’t in the 2018 field.

DONOVAN’S GOAL-SCORING WAS PHENOMENAL

Four years before, in 2014, Donovan’s name wasn’t on Team USA’s roster. It might’ve been the first breakdown of the American side. By 2018, Team USA couldn’t even qualify to be among the 32 World Cup teams. Donovan, by then, was gone.

You have to wonder, though: If Klinsmann hadn’t taken him down in 2014, would Donovan, at age 36, have lasted through a 2018 attempt?

Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann, the famed German goal-scoring legend who became Team USA coach, might have slowed up the development of America’s soccer movement after cutting Landon Donovan from America’s team in 2014 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The USA/Donovan side shouldn’t be taken for granted, though. An eventual USA World Cup triumph, though perhaps unexpected, would be a great story.

In 2014, he said, just getting out our group “would be good. Getting out of our group would be success. Anything after that is icing on the cake.”

Soccer fascination’s growing in the USA, he says. “Our young kids now are passionate about it.”

Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, meanwhile, said there’s too much club, too many parents paying for their kids’ involvement. The inference seemed to be that toughness is limited.

“A rich white kid sport,” she called it.

Donovan: Interest level is high. “It takes time (to grow the same fascination between the USA soccer and the European Premiership).”

That’s part of the answer, perhaps: Grow up USA players on European rosters. To gain the toughness. To gain the experience. To gain the international flavor. It’s just the way Donovan pulled it off.

During qualifying, those USA players would reassemble for their national team. Donovan did it. As a teenager who trained for Bayer Leverkusen, a Bundesliga (league) side, he trained — rarely appeared — before being “loaned” to the Earthquakes for 2001-2004.

There were 11 seasons in Galaxy colors. On loan to Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen, Donovan’s cap time started coming to an end.

Donovan, at 32, retired after the World Cup. Perhaps, but only as a Cup player. “We’ll see,” he said at the time.

By 2016, Donovan retired as a Galaxy striker.

Playing for six Major League Soccer Cup championship teams (four in L.A., two in San Jose), the Redlands kid was a goal-scoring dynamo — 160 in MLS matches, plus those 57 international net-finders.

Briefly, he returned to play for Leon, a Mexican team, but Donovan’s contract was terminated in June 2018.

As a U.S. player, he played in more international matches than all but one.

It’s kind of cool, isn’t it, that Donovan sprung his worldwide legend from Redlands?

 

 

 

DARNOLD, DE ROO AND DAMON JUST PART OF “CONNECTIONS”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold was the latest “connection.”

Throw in football’s Jim Weatherwax and Brian DeRoo.

Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright showed up here, with his team, one Saturday morning in 2003.

“Black” Jack Gardner left here in 1928.

Jerry Tarkanian lifted off from here in 1961.

How many Redlands Connections can there be?

It’s the basis for the Blog site, www.redlandsconnection.com. Dedicated to the idea that there’s a connection from Redlands to almost every major sporting event.

The afore-mentioned have already been featured. There have been others. Plenty of others.

Golf. Track & field. Tennis. Baseball and basketball. Softball and soccer. The Olympic Games and the Kentucky Derby. The World Series and the Super Bowl. You name it.

For a city this size, the connections to all of those are remarkable.

Softball’s Savannah Jaquish left Redlands East Valley for Louisiana State.

Bob Karstens was just shooting a few baskets when I saw him at Redlands High. Turned out he was one of three white men ever to play for the usually all-black Harlem Globetrotters.

Brian Billick coached a Hall of Famer. Together, they won a Super Bowl.

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Brian Billick, a key Redlands Connection.

Speaking of Super Bowls, not only was a former Redlands High player involved in the first two NFL championship games, there was a head referee who stood behind QBs Bart Starr and Lenny Dawson.

That referee got his start in Redlands.

One of racing’s fastest Top Fuel dragsters is a Redlands gal, Leah Pritchett.

LEAH PRITCHETT (leahpritchett.com)
Leah Pritchett has punched her Top Fuel dragster over 330 mph many times.

Greg Horton forcefully blocked some of football’s greatest legends for a near-Super Bowl team.

At a high school playoff game at Redlands High in 1996, Alta Loma High showed up to play a quarterfinals match. It was Landon Donovan of Redlands taking on Carlos Bocanegra.

The two eventually played on the same Team USA in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Karol Damon’s high-jumping Olympic dreams weren’t even known to her mother. She wound up in Sydney. 2000.

In the coming days, weeks and months, there will be more connections.

  • A surfing legend.
  • Besides Landon Donovan, there’s another soccer dynamo.
  • When this year’s Indianapolis 500 rolls around, we’ll tell you about a guy named “Lucky Louie.”
  • Fifteen years before he won his first Masters, Tiger Woods played a 9-hole exhibition match at Redlands Country Club.
  • University of Arizona softball, one of the nation’s greatest programs, was home to a speedy outfielder.
  • As for DeRoo, he was present for one of the pro football’s darkest moments on the field.
  • In 1921, an Olympic gold medalist showed up and set five world records in Redlands.
  • The Redlands Bicycle Classic might have carved out of that sport’s most glorious locations – set in motion by a 1986 superstar squad.
  • Distance-running sensation Mary Decker was taken down by a onetime University of Redlands miler.
  • Collegiate volleyball probably never had a greater athlete from this area.

As for Darnold, consider that the one-time University of Redlands blocker is the father of Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback who might be this year’s No. 1 draft selection in pro football’s draft.

Jaquish became the first-ever 4-time All-American at talent-rich LSU.

Jacob Nottingham, drafted a few years ago by the Houston Astros, probably never knew he’d be part of two Moneyball deals.

Gardner, who coached against Bill Russell in the collegiate ranks, tried to recruit Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas State.

Wright, whose team went into the March 31-April 2 weekend hoping to win the NCAA championship for the third time, brought his team to play the Bulldogs as sort of a warm-up test for Hawaii.

Tarkanian? Few might’ve known that the legendary Tark the Shark started chewing on those towels while he was coaching at Redlands High.

Norm Schachter was head referee in three Super Bowls, including Green Bay’s inaugural championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Norm Schachter with Hank Stram
Norm Schacter, wearing No. 60 (not his normal official number), synchronizes with Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram during halftime of the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967.

Speaking of Tarkanian, Weatherwax played hoops for him at Redlands. Eight years later, Weatherwax wore jersey No. 73 for the Green Bay Packers. It makes him the only man to ever play for Tarkanian and Vince Lombardi.

There will be more Redlands connections.

 

NFL DRAFT: THERE WAS A DARNOLD AT REDLANDS A FEW YEARS BACK

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold, as I remember, was a soft-spoken, seemed-to-recall type of player who blended right into his college football team.

An offensive lineman. I want to say he was a right tackle.

In those days, the mid-1980s, the head coach at the University of Redlands was Ken Miller, who has a nice Redlands Connection resume of his own – a Bulldog play-calling specialist when he returned to the Bulldogs as an assistant. That came before a brilliant career in the Canadian Football League in Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan.

As for Mike Darnold, a spot playing offensive line for a small college team in out-of-the-way Redlands was certainly not a pre-signal to raising a son that would turn heads in both college football and the 2018 NFL draft.

That son is Sam Darnold. USC. Heisman Trophy candidate. Possible No. 1 NFL draft choice. A legend, perhaps, in the making.

Mike, Sam Darnold (Photo courtesy of Triton Football).
Former University of Redlands player, Mike Darnold, left, stands next to his son, Sam Darnold, who is holding an award from the Triton Football Club. (Photo courtesy of the Triton Football Club.)

You can never tell. Quarterback John Fouch, a Redlands High School product who took off for Arizona State in 1976, transferred back to his small-town university. He played Bulldog football for two years. A few decades later, his shotgun-throwing son, Ronnie, turned up at Washington and, later, Indiana State.

I always thought John was one of the greatest local athletes I’d ever seen. Track/football’s Patrick Johnson (Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens, soccer’s Landon Donovan (Olympics, World Cup, European and USA pro soccer) and Heather Aldama, football’s Kylie Fitts and Chris Polk, plus softball’s Savannah Jaquish, to name a few, were among some of the others.

Ronnie Fouch tried hard – got into a couple NFL pre-season camps – but he never found that desired roster spot.

Mike Darnold’s kid did, though.

Boy, Sam turned up the heat in playing QB from his Orange County prep spot – San Clemente High School.

Instead of a career playing small-college teams from Whittier, Claremont-Mudd, Azusa-Pacific and La Verne, which were the stops on Mike’s playing career schedule for Redlands, his son was playing the likes of UCLA, Penn State, Notre Dame and teams from Arizona, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

“Some have asked about Mike,” said current Bulldog coach Mike Maynard, “but he was before my time.”

Which is fairly hard to believe since Maynard arrived in 1988 – that’s 30 years!

It was Miller who recruited Mike Darnold to Redlands.

Miller, who assisted Maynard until leaving Redlands in 2000 after a brilliant career as a Bulldog offensive and defensive play-caller, turned the Canadian Football League on its ear. He led the Saskatchewan Rough Riders to 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup championships. Miller distinguished himself in so many ways while also working for Toronto and Montreal.

Mike Darnold, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound blocker, came from Dana Hills High School, another high school from the O.C. These days, he’s a foreman for a gas company. He’s done plumbing.

After Redlands, he went off and got married to Chris, who played volleyball at Long Beach City.

 

Their older daughter, Franki, was good enough to play volleyball at University of Rhode Island.

It’s an athletic family.

A former Bulldog hero, Brian De Roo, who made it to the NFL, said he rented out his Redlands home on nearby Campus St. to Darnold, among others.

“They lived at my home,” he said, “the summer after they had all graduated. They were working on the grounds crew and needed a place to lay their heads.”

De Roo tried to contact Mike Darnold on his son’s good fortune, “and say congrats … he’s pretty private!”

Redlands, during Mike Darnold’s day, was scrambling to rebuild a football empire. Budgets had crumbled on campus. Women’s athletics were crawling into the scene. Instead of acquiring their own budgets – coaches, assistants, all the necessary expenses for various teams – athletic money was split instead of doubled.

Miller had no fulltime assistant coaches. Plus, he was asked to coach the baseball team. Recruiting two major sports? Please.

Miller did land a couple of major college transfers – lineman Tom Gianelli from UCLA and fullback Scott Napier from Nebraska, where he was teammates with future NFL great Roger Craig.

It wasn’t enough.

Mike Darnold played alongside some good players, but Occidental College wore down everyone during the 1980s. While he was never an all-conference player, it’s hard to land players onto those elite post-season teams when your own team finishes, say, 0-9.

Over a decade after Mike Darnold left Redlands, Sam Darnold was born.

 

 

 

 

A REDLANDS MINI-WORLD CUP CONNECTION: DONOVAN V BOCANEGRA

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Landon Donovan on the move. Image Credit: Jason Wojciechowski “USA vs. Algeria World Cup match. Licensed under CC BY (2.0)

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Landon Donovan, an Olympian and World Cup soccer player, not to mention a multiple-winning Honda Player of the Year in Major Soccer League play, was on the field during an unforgettable CIF-Southern Section high school playoff match back in 1996.

Donovan was a freshman midfield sensation who would eventually be named his league’s Most Valuable Player. On this March afternoon, in a match played on the school’s JV football field – corner of Citrus and University – Alta Loma High School was the visiting side.

The place was packed. People everywhere. Spectators lined up around the field six or seven deep. Parking was impossible. Assigned to cover the match, I could barely get a place to view the match myself. I needed a perfect viewing position. Unobstructed. When I did manage to find a spot, it was next to an Alta Loma player’s mother.

Her name was Kelly. Nice lady. Alta Loma had won the CIF Southern Section football championship a few months earlier. Plenty of the kids on the Braves’ soccer team played on that team. In Kelly’s mom, this match against Redlands would be no contest.

Kelly’s son was Carlos Bocanegra.

Imagine that!

Donovan and Bocanegra on the same field. Opposite sides. Two players who would eventually play together on the same U.S. Olympic and World Cup teams. Bocanegra, like Donovan, was a future big-time player in his own right.

That high school match itself was a classic. It was like a mini-World Cup match.

Redlands won, eventually, on penalty kicks. Terrier goalkeeper Jerad Bailey (who had a future great career at Loyola Marymount University) emerged a hero, having stopped some critical shot attempts by the visiting Braves, including during the penalty kick phase of the match.

The following year, Donovan had wound up at Redlands East Valley High School, its first year of existence. Midway through his sophomore season, though, the 16-year-old signed a professional contract to play in Europe.

A pro soccer career was underway.