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
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
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 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