1946 Illustrated Football Annual

Copyright 1946, Fiction House, Inc., New York

The Coast, by Bill Leiser

There's a helter-skelter season brewing hereabouts. Servicemen grid veterans returning with the shrill of the starting whistle may influence the title race to some extent, yet two facts can be accepted at the outset: (1) Southern California is the team to beat; (2) St. Mary's Herman Wedemeyer will dominate the personal headline news as the area's outstanding football performer.

If our clients are weary of reading paragraph (1) above, year after year, so are nine members of the Pacific Coast Conference who are forever trying to keep Jeff Cravath's Trojans out of the Rose Bowl. As to (2) - this forecast told a year ago that Mr. Wedemeyer would return to the Moraga campus with a new pal, Spike Cordeiro, and that St. Mary's little band of beardless teen-agers might build themselves, on Wedey's greatness, to top Coast position. Which is exactly what they did with a maelstrom of hipper-dipper small muscle football.

Hawaiian-born Herman, so small it's impossible to believe when you see him off the field that he can do what he does on it, takes his place as the greatest Coast-developed player of all time, a distinction previously owned by the big U.C.L.A. back Kenny Washington. Unlike Washington (and unlike any other "great" we've ever watched) Wedemeyer, even in his frosh season, never had a bad day. No matter what game or what opposition, he has always been every sane observer's choice as the best man on the field. Though still at work with a team that lacks both depth and balance, this 172-pound colossal should lead an improved James Phelan-coached organization to the No. 1 slot among our independents, with the University of San Francisco under Maurice J. (Clipper) Smith putting up considerable argument to the contrary. . . .

Our patented Mr. Wedemeyer, good as he is, will not completly overshadow the stars of this realm as he did in '45. There's honest-to-grandpaw competition now. Oregon's do-everything man, Jake Leicht, will out-touchdown Phelan's phenom, many say. . . .

St. Mary's Still Wears Cinderella's Slipper

A Ding-Dang-Dung combination with a fine (though thin) line may boost the Gaels and Herman Wedemeyer to new heights. They got as far as the Sugar Bowl last year, though not exactly over it, and the team coming up is greatly improved in weight, maturity, and experience.

Abraham Dung of St. Louis High in Hawaii will personally provide one-third of the aforementioned combination. Johnny Dang of St. Anthony's in Hawaii will do ditto. This leaves Wedemeyer to supply the ding, of which same he has a very large supply, indeed. Such venerable Hawaiian observers as Friend Loui Leong Hop insist both Dang and Dung were better schoolboy players than Wedey, and even if they miss the Moraga boat it's nice to dream of three such sorcerers in one backfield.

Wedemeyer carried a superbly coached team to almost impossible successes last year simply by flabbergasting more muscular opposition. Today's new deal gives Coach Jim Phelan some bigger and better trumps to back his take-all joker. There's fullback power to tighten the defense for Wedey's splits and sweeps from Ray Ahlstrom, the rugged man, just back from service. There's more of same in J. Dang. And this explains why Harry Van Glieson, who could be one of the rippingest fullbacks in Coast history, will be, instead, one of the best ends. Little Spike Cordeiro, shifty as a shadow, has been replaced at right half by Bob Shippen, a husky freshman and a comer. Jim Ryan from the Fourth Air Force squad backs Dennis the Brain O'Connor, that cool and crafty strategist, at quarter; and the veteran Gonzales Morales plays at quarter, half, or fullback, and plenty good.

Draft-call losses in the line only mean the replacement of good young players with older, better ones. The huge Bill McPartland of '42 fame is back at tackle along with Joe Suarez, a swell workhorse. Ed Ryan and Van Glieson will be two of the West's finest flankmen on both offense and defense. Pete Bellani and Tony Billoti, smoothed up by Coast Guard grid experience, will give the team real class at guards. Vic Cuccia, last year's center, is strongly backed - for a change. The other line positions will be chiefly supported by freshmen, but what of it? The '45 regulars were almost all freshmen and they didn't do bad.

Yes, the Gaels look like a good bet for any bowl but the Rose. For the first time Wedemeyer will be playing with experienced men, and with a starting team that has no apparent flaws. Despite toughened opposition, St. Mary's needs only a fair shake to go through undefeated.

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