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Playing with the big boys

June 10, 2003

One can always find interest and amusement talking with a football

player from a prep level 60 to 70 years ago, especially when the

spokesman has also served as a scholarly university professor for

years.

One who qualifies in that light is a one-time running guard for

the 1941 Harbor High grid team and who later became a highly regarded

dean of communications at Syracuse University known as Edward C.

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Stephens.

Although he retired in recent years, Stephens, who has written six

books, still writes occasional articles for the New York Times.

A critical lack of varsity gridders in spring of 1941 prompted a

desperate coach named Wendell Pickens to pay a vital visit to the

middleweight team (called Bees), since the varsity could only field

13 players. That would only allow 11 on the field and two on the

bench.

Pickens may have figured Newport would not last the season unless

there was sufficient strength on the bench. He finally came across

four outstanding Bees and accepted the challenge of fielding an

outfit with 17 players.

Reflecting back during the season, county coaches and

sportswriters were impressed to find three of the four Bees playing

first string on the varsity.

Stephens, who became a running guard for a powerful 215-pound

fullback named Harold Sheflin, did not have big size, but he had

speed and determination.

Stephens said, " I had always been a little mystified about how I

ended up playing on the varsity team. I had been a Bee team player,

which I enjoyed, but one day was invited to try out for the varsity

team, which featured genuine heroes like the Sheflins [Harold and

Bill] and others.

"I told myself then that Coach Pickens must have seen some talent

penetrating discernment."

In time, after reading some Pilot articles, "I realized the great

motivation for his close look at the Bee players was his shortage of

varsity players, because of the war. Anyway, he made me and, no

doubt, others, feel sufficient to the challenge and it was an

exhilarating experience for me to play with those who were so much

better than I was, but who were so inspirational as teammates that I

was able finally to play at their level enough to earn my place on

the team."

The team finished the season with a 4-2-2 record and Sheflin was

named third-tem All-CIF for Southern California.

Stephens said, " I remember the long bus rides to away games and

the spirit of camaraderie among the players. I remember climbing on

the bus after a really awful game when I had played only a short time

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