By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim almost made it to the World Series and Western High grad Tiger Woods made it to top of pro golf and tabloid disgrace, but the sports story of the year in the Garden Grove-Stanton-Westminster area involved neither of them.
Instead it was the year that tragedy inspired triumph for the Garden Grove High School football team. In their season opener against Westminster, 17-year-old Kevin Telles collapsed on the field in the fourth quarter and died soon after.
His death, still unexplained, led not to an emotional collapse of the team, but a flowering of its resolve to dedicate the season to their fallen comrade. Garden Grove was expected to have a good season after tying for the Garden Grove League title in 2008, but never underestimate the importance of emotion in sport.
The Argonauts finished their regular season as GGL champs with a 10-0 record, the best since 1991. Additionally, the Argonauts were ranked first in the CIF/SS Southern Division. The red-and-white won three more in the playoffs – including a stirring come-from-behind loss to Norwalk in the semifinals – before losing in the finals to La Mirada 49-27 after leading 21-7.
If Telles was the heart of the Argo team, quarterback Sean Young was its arms and legs. The elusive runner (and accurate passer) was the key man in the Grove squad, and it was his injury in the CIF title game that may have cost GGHS its first sectional football crown.
The brain of the team was first-year head coach Joe Hay, who led the Argos to a 13-1 record and a first-ever trip to the CIF finals. (Grove did earn runner-up status in 1945 when the playoffs were shortened because of wartime travel restrictions, but the two don’t compare.)
Hay was named Southern California Coach of the Year by the NFL and Channel 7, and Orange County Coach of the Year by The Orange County Register.
That drama overshadowed the seasons played by area professional teams. The Angels easily won the AL West crown, swept the feared Boston Red Sox in the AL Division Series, and took the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees to six games in the League Championship Series.
The Anaheim Ducks started slowly, then went on a tear and made the Stanley Cup playoffs on the last day of the season. From there, they upset the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in the first round and took the Detroit Red Wings to seven games in the next.
Other than Grove’s football run, none of the local teams did especially well in the playoffs. Garden Grove won the boys’ basketball title in the GGL, but lost its opener. Pacifica took the Empire League boys crown and Rancho Alamitos the girls hoops GGL title, but all were swept out of the playoffs after the first week.
La Quinta (again!) won the Garden Grove League baseball title, while Rancho Alamitos grabbed the GGL softball trophy, led by Gabbie Aragon and Kari Gutierrez (left).
Pacifica’s softball team had the best spring of all the local teams, winning the Empire League championship and advancing to the CIF/SS Division I quarterfinals, losing a heartbreaker 1-0 to Santiago High School of Corona.
The Sharks made it to the Division I finals, losing to Norco. 5-1.