He wasrn“Johnny O.,” a “190-pound package of dynamite,” described the Helms AthleticrnFoundation, which named him CIF Player of the Year in 1948 — the year he ledrnSt. Anthony High School of Long Beach to the first CIF football title ever wonrnby a Catholic high school from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Indeed,rnJohnny Olszewski — who piled up 27 touchdowns, 164 points and 1,613 yards fromrnscrimmage in 11 games — earned an All-Southern California CIF first team berthrnin 1948, as did Saints quarterback Bill Mais and guard Jack Jarvis. Together,rnthey led the Jacques Grenier-coached Long Beach squad to victory over favoredrnSanta Barbara in that Dec. 11, 1948, title contest.
In fact,rnthe game — played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — ended in a 7-7 tie,rnbut St. Anthony earned the title by recording more first downs, 16-12. St.rnAnthony’s lone score was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Mais to Mike Hendren,rnand the Saints — with Olszewski injured and unable to play much of the game —rnkept Santa Barbara at bay.
Last year,rnSt. Anthony earned its first CIF title since that 1948 “Division AAAA”rnchampionship. This year, there are 13 CIF divisional titles at stake, and St.rnAnthony is among 22 Catholic schools that qualified for first round gamesrnplayed Nov. 10.
Coincidentally,rn22 Catholic high schools have won a combined 79 CIF football championships overrnthe past nine decades, although it took some time to get the first (St.rnAnthony’s) once the CIF began holding championship games near the end of WorldrnWar I.
The firstrnlocal Catholic school to play for any CIF title was Cathedral, which reachedrnthe 1930 finals of the Northern Division (one of several “lower” divisions thenrnadministered by the CIF), losing to Del Monte, 12-0. Three years later, St.rnAgnes was defeated by Colton, 21-7, for the Northern Division championship, andrnPomona Catholic met the same fate in 1953, losing 34-12 to Paso Robles.
In 1946,rnLoyola, led by two-time Player of the Year Al Pollard, became the first localrnCatholic school to play for the CIF AAAA title, losing 7-6 to Alhambra. ThernCubs returned to the championship game in 1962, beating Anaheim 14-3 behind thernexploits of running back Steve Grady, the CIF Player of the Year and later arnsuccessful Loyola coach with 269 wins and two more CIF crowns.
In all,rnLoyola has won six CIF titles and finished runner-up six times, among the bestrnrecords among Catholic high schools in Southern California. Only three Catholicrnschools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Diocese of Orange, in fact, havernwon more CIF championships than the Cubs:
> St.rnBonaventure of Ventura, 10 titles,rnincluding an extraordinary
nine winsrn(and only one loss) in 13 championshiprngames from 1996 to
2008, andrnfour straight wins (1999-2002).
> MaterrnDei of Santa Ana, nine titles (andrnseven runner-up finish
es),rnstarting with back-to-back wins in 1956-57,rnand six title game appearances i
seven seasons from 1994 to 1999 (four wins,rntwo losses).
>rnParaclete of Lancaster, eight titles (and fourrnseconds), the first in 1967, the last
nrn2016, and five straight
from 1997rnto 2001.
As 2017rnplayoff action began, Mater Dei and Paraclete were again in the hunt, alongrnwith: Servite of Anaheim and Bishop Amat of La Puente (five titles each); NotrernDame of Sherman Oaks, St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs and Serra of Gardena (fourrneach); and Santa Clara of Oxnard, Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, Santa Margarita ofrnRancho Santa Margarita and St. Genevieve of Panorama City (three each).
In additionrnto St. Anthony, the group of schools that have won two championships apiecerninclude Damien of La Verne, Crespi of Encino and St. John Bosco of Bellflower.rnThose with one title each are Salesian of East Los Angeles, Chaminade of WestrnHills, St. Monica of Santa Monica and Fermin Lasuen of San Pedro, which closedrnin 1971 and is now the site of the Jeanne Jugan Residence Home operated by thernLittle Sisters of the Poor.
Nine otherrnCatholic high schools have reached a CIF divisional title game at least once:rnAlemany of Mission Hills, Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, La Salle of Pasadena,rnMary Star of San Pedro, St. Joseph of Santa Maria and Bishop Diego of SantarnBarbara, in addition to the aforementioned St. Agnes (now closed), Cathedralrnand Pomona Catholic.
Will any ofrnthis year’s Catholic school playoff teams follow in the footsteps of the Saintsrnof 1948? We’ll know in a few weeks.