The 1970s were a time of turmoil in the United States and around the world. The social revolutions of the 1960s were painted over the backdrop of the war in Vietnam. Yet life in Newport Beach, California, still revolved around the surf, sun and sand. Newport Harbor High School excelled in water polo, tennis, surfing and sailing – not football. Since the school’s founding in 1930, the football team had an overall losing record and managed to win only one league championship in 40 years. That was all about to change when coaching legend Ernie Johnson came to town. By 1970, Ernie Johnson had established himself as one of the best high school football coaches in Southern California. During his 23 years at Pico Rivera’s El Rancho High School, his teams won nine league and four Southern California section championships. In 1966, El Rancho was also voted high school “national champion”.
In moving from Pico Rivera to Newport Beach, Ernie Johnson was moving to “an economic opposite”. The question became, could he find a way to motivate kids who generally had a pretty easy life? As many Newport players say, his affect was immediate. Coach Johnson laid out a dream: with enough dedication and hard work, the team could win Southern California’s Sunset League championship. The last Newport championship was 28 years ago. Coach Johnson later said he always believed Newport had talented athletes. They just never expected to win at football. He knew the most important thing was getting the players to believe in themselves. During the spring and summer of 1970 the team bonded around Coach Johnson and began to believe. <snip>