The best team in Estancia Football History also was the most unlikely. The previous year’s varsity team under first-year head coach, Ed Blanton, had a losing record. With a revamped coaching staff and only 33 players, the 1979 Estancia Eagles football team did not look like a team that would become the first outright league champion in school history. With only a few returning starters, preseason predictions called for Estancia to finish fourth in inaugural Sea View League play.
The team’s improbable run began the previous spring when Coach Blanton and his coaching staff, led by offensive coordinator and veteran coach, John McGee, instilled an attitude of hard work and discipline coupled with smash-mouth power football. This continued into the summer workouts through pre-season two-a-days where the coaches pushed and drove the team to its physical, emotional, and mental limits. With only 33 players, there was no room for injuries. As a result, the team had to be physically and mentally fit.
The season opener was against non-league rival, Edison High School, ranked No. 1 in state, and with a roster was littered with Division 1 college football prospects. Estancia fell to Edison, but never quit and never looked back. Going into league play, Estancia was 3-2 with impressive victories over Brea, Buena Park, and Ocean View. Led by great blocking and tailback Robert Urmson on offense, and a stifling team defense, Estancia had established its brand of smash-mouth defense and disciplined power football.
In league play, the Eagles continued to roll up yards and hold its opponents down with wins over University, Corona del Mar, Irvine and cross-town rival Costa Mesa. In the “Battle for the Bell,” the Eagles defense thumped the previous year’s league champion Mustangs 23-12. The highlight of the game was a 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Guy Olgiun.
The final game of the season was against El Toro High School, also undefeated in league play. With a capacity crowd of 5,000 people at Davidson Field, the game went back and forth. Estancia held the lead at halftime 14-6, but after a touchdown and field goal, El Toro fought back to take the lead 15-14 with less than eight minutes to play in the game.
The Eagles were not to be denied their first outright league championship in school history. In what is referred to as “the drive,” with a balanced attack of runs and passes led by sophomore quarterback, Jim McCahill, Estancia chewed up the clock with a 10-play 70-yard drive culminating in a one-yard fullback plunge by Roberto Cervera. The scoring was capped off by a 2-point conversion on a half back pass from Urmson to Richie Amaral. Final score: Estancia 22, El Toro 15.
The winning drive encapsulated the preparation, commitment, conditioning, and discipline that the team had worked for all season. The Eagles were champions at last! From there, Estancia won its opening CIF playoff game against Miraleste in a defensive battle, 13-7. Estancia’s dream season came to an end the following week against No. 1 ranked and eventual CIF Champion, Esperanza, 33-15. There was no regret, however, as the 1979 team had accomplished its goal by winning the Sea View League Championship outright and establishing a winning formula and tradition for Estancia football that continued for the next six years.
The 1979 Estancia Eagles Football Team had its share of talent, with future Division 1 college football players Tony Camp, Alan Akana, Terry Thompson, and Jim McCahill, along with future Division 1 college baseball player, Bob Larimer, and future Division 1 college and Major League Baseball player, Rich Amaral, on its roster. Regardless of the talent, what defined the team was its never quit attitude. This was epitomized by team leader Jeff Tracy, who at only 5’11″, 175 pounds, was the heart and soul of the team. Tracy started both ways at offensive guard and inside linebacker. He was the team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year for the Sea View League. Other players earning all-league honors included seniors Camp, Amaral, Akana, Larimer, Tracy, Olguin, and Mike Rinehart; juniors Urmson, Thompson, and Floyd Sparks; and sophomores McCahill, Steve Kraiss, and Abel Cachola.
It is noteworthy that the 1979 Estancia Football team has more members in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame (11 players and 2 coaches) than any other Estancia team in any sport. The 1979 team is known for being the first outright league champion in Estancia’s football history. However, for the players, the most important achievement was creating a heritage of teamwork and a determination to be the best.