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Remember the 1970 Sailors

From The Sports Desk

April 22, 2011|By Steve Virgen, steve.virgen@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Ernie Johnson used many motivational speeches when he coached the Newport Harbor High football team in 1970. Motivation was sorely needed. There hadn't been anything to really cheer about for 28 years.

One of the speeches that seemed to stick out for many during that season was when he reminded the Sailors how the opponent felt about Newport Harbor.

To paraphrase, Johnson said the other players were thinking they weren't about to be beat by some "beach (expletive)."

The nickname fired up the Sailors during their championship season. They won their first league title since 1942 that year.

The derogatory, yet playful name also seemed apt for a project created by Randy Hamilton and Tony Horvath.

The two former Newport Harbor players are a part of B.P. Films, which they created to produce a documentary about the 1970 Sailors football team.

For the past three years, Hamilton and Horvath have been digging through newspaper archives and interviewing former players from that team, as well as putting the spotlight on Johnson, regarded as a great coach in his time.

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B.P. Films is nearly done with the film, which should run about an hour and has a budget of around $150,000. There are some interviews left and they are still deciding on a title. Their goal is to have the documentary ready to appear at next year's Newport Beach Film Festival.

There's a problem, however. Hamilton and Johnson still need more game film from that season, as well as home movies from the stands and photos. They're asking the community for help.

What they've already acquired is rather impressive and should help produce an entertaining documentary.

Truth be told, the 1970 team is not the greatest squad in Newport's proud history, as these Sailors finished 8-2 after losing in the first round of the playoffs. But Hamilton and Horvath contend it was an important team. Johnson, in his only season at Newport Harbor, helped produce a winning mentality for the once-downtrodden program.

The 1970 team also started a tradition with the Newport Harbor helmet, Horvath said. Before 1970, teams had a cartoon cutout of Popeye the Sailor Man on the helmet. But players replaced Popeye with a sticker of the American flag, which remains on the helmet today. One of the reasons the American flag was used was because of Johnson's patriotism, Horvath said.

Johnson had a strong influence on the players and made a huge impact on their lives, Hamilton and Horvath said.

Johnson also enjoyed coaching the team.

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