The only time a St. Monica football team won a CIF football championship, Norm Lacy was the coach and he wasn’t surprised.
The Mariners prevailed in 1998. The school was 60 years old and had never previously finished first among all schools in its football division.
“I wasn’t surprised because we had a good run of players coming through the school throughout the ’90s and we made it to the division championship game in 1997,’’ said Lacy.
St. Monica lost that game to Moorpark. In 1996 St. Monica lost in the playoff quarterfinals to Nordhoff.
But in 1998 St. Monica went up to Santa Barbara and won the big one from Carpenteria High at Santa Barbara City College, 28-24.
Quarterback Chris Griffin threw for 2,500 yards and had 24 touchdown passes that season. Receiver James Dunn caught 99 passes for 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensive end Davion Doby, a part-time running back all season, became a workhouse runner in the playoffs, gaining 709 yards.
“He carried us,’’ said Lacy.
Other standouts were fullback Mike Murray, who became a decathlete at USC, and Joey Irwin.
“Everything fell into place,’’ said Lacy. “We had a great coaching staff and dedicated players who had some unfinished business from the finals defeat of the previous year. We didn’t have a large number of players, which is consistent of St. Monica teams, but we didn’t have many injuries.’’
The team was rewarded with a gala banquet at the Miramar-Sheraton Hotel in downtown Santa Monica.
“St. Monica is excellent at developing community pride when it excels at anything,’’ said Lacy. “The school paid for the majority of the banquet and the Santa Monica busses had messages of congratulations on the side as they rolled through town.’’
Lacy had arrived at St. Monica in 1991 and credits players of his early teams with establishing a foundation.
He praises Oscar Casillas, his first quarterback, and Steve Pully, who followed.
“As one class was leaving another good one came in and the system was in place,’’ he said.
St. Monica doesn’t have a football field, a tremendous handicap, but that was part of the challenge Lacy faced and current coach Jason Strouse still faces.
“We had 17 players my first year and 30 would be a high number at St. Monica,’’ said Lacy. “At Santa Monica High it’s more like 50.
“We didn’t have the numbers to scrimmage 11 on 11. We practiced all over town, most often at Memorial Park. Instead of walking out of the locker room and going on the field we got on the bus in order to practice.’’
Lacy also won a CIF championship at Samohi but talks fondly of the one at St. Monica.“I was a high school football coach for 25 years and was in five championship games,’’ he said. “I’ve reflected on that one a lot.’’