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Almost time for Dave White's last call at Edison
HUNTINGTON BEACH – It might happen early in the game.
It might happen late. It might happen more than once.
Edison football coach Dave White is going to look through the reading glasses positioned well down the bridge his nose, examine the clipboard in his left hand and find the right play to call at just the right time Friday when his team plays Fountain Valley in the annual “The Battle for the Bell” game.
Pretty soon, White will call his final play. White announced months ago that this season will be his final season as Edison’s coach.
It is his 31st season as head coach for his alma mater, where he was an outstanding quarterback and pitcher and the school’s athlete of the year as a senior in 1973-74.
White’s youngest of three sons, Garrett, is a freshman at Yale and likely to be a prominent part of the Yale football team starting next fall.
White, 60, wants to attend all of Garrett’s games, which means continuing as Edison’s coach cannot happen. To get to the East Coast, White must board an airplane on a Friday morning and catch a return flight on Sunday, which does not mesh with the demands of being the head coach of a prominent program like Edison’s.
The “Bell” game is one of the better rivalry games in Orange County high school sports. It’s been a centerpiece of White’s coaching career at Edison. That it’s being played again at Orange Coast College is appropriate.
EDISON VS. FOUNTAIN VALLEY
Friday, at Orange Coast College, 7 p.m.
White was the quarterback on the 1975 Orange Coast College team that was crowned national champion. White then accepted a scholarship offer from Oregon State and played quarterback there.
Oregon State coach Craig Fertig asked White to be a Beavers graduate assistant and handle Southern California recruiting duties. White accepted and was ready to do it.
Then he got a call from Edison coach Bill Workman.
“Bill said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a job for you here,’” White recalled last week, during a morning visit in his memorablia-decorated office adjacent to the Edison weight room.
“‘You can be the freshman football head coach,’” Workman told White. “’Are you interested?’”
White was. He returned to Edison in the fall of ’79. He became the school’s junior varsity girls basketball coach, freshman football coach and he had teaching assignments that included physical sciences, world history and health.
“I was in over my head,” White said. “I’d look through the textbooks the night before school and I’d ask some of my old teachers, ‘OK, what am I going to do tomorrow?’”
White grew more involved with the varsity football team as the ’79 season progressed. And it was a heck of a season. The Chargers went undefeated and won the CIF-Southern Section Big Five Conference championship.
White was an assistant coach until Workman stepped aside after winning a third CIF-SS championship, in 1985. White replaced him.
“I think it was my senior year here when I first decided I wanted to be a coach,” White said. “I saw what fun all the coaches here were having.”
White has had fun and success coaching Edison football. His 232 career wins are sixth-most in Orange County football history. He is third among O.C. active coaches, trailing only Mission Viejo’s Bob Johnson and Mater Dei’s Bruce Rollinson.
Rollinson has coached against White in 18 Edison-Mater Dei games including a 2001 CIF-SS semifinal that Edison won, 41-7. White counts that among his most memorable games.
“Dave’s teams were always thoroughly prepared,” Rollinson said. “His teams never quit. And then you add in their schemes and their technique, and you were in for a great challenge.”
White’s Edison teams have won 13 Sunset League championships, including eight over the past 10 seasons. The Chargers advanced to a CIF-SS championship game four times during his tenure. After so many years of getting to finals and semifinals, White won a championship in 2012 when Edison beat Villa Park in the Southwest Division final at Angel Stadium.
White is one of the few coaches who have won CIF-SS championships in more than one sport. His 1986-87 Edison girls basketball team won the CIF-SS 4-A title. White coached Edison’s girls basketball for 13 years, separated into separate six- and seven-year stints, and has assisted with the school’s track and cross country programs.
He has coached three of his sons at Edison, Matt, Hunter and most recently Garrett. All three were multi-sport stars at Edison.
Hunter, who was an All-Orange County linebacker and later was a standout linebacker at Boise State, is Edison’s special teams and linebacker coach. He doubts that his father is done with coaching.
“I think he has some gas left in the tank,” Hunter said. “He will probably still help out some here, but it just won’t be on Friday nights the next three years. Going from being a full-time coach for 31 years to not coaching at all, that’s not realistic.”
Rollinson told White that he will try to convince White to join Mater Dei’s coaching staff once Garrett’s playing days are finished.
“‘If that taste for coaching comes back,’” Rollinson told White. “‘Mater Dei is waiting for you.’”
Would White coach somewhere besides Edison?
“Well, never say ‘never,’” said White, taking a quick glance around his office. “But this would be my first choice. If Garrett was playing anywhere this side of the Mississippi, I would still be coaching, and I’d still be teaching because I love doing that, too.”
Hunter said if his father does return to full-time coaching, it’s going to happen at Edison.
“I don’t think he has anything but green and gold in his blood,” said White, referring to Edison’s colors. “He has too much love for this program. He is Edison football.”
Edison defensive coordinator Rick Justice, who has worked for White for 13 seasons, figured his boss is too emotionally involved to close the book on coaching.
“Dave is passionate about developing kids into young men,” Justice said. “He preaches to them about what it means to be a good brother, to be a good friend and what it means to be a good parent later in their lives. He teaches them that life is more than just being a good football player.”
Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton, whose team lost to Edison, 17-9, in a Sunset League game on Oct. 14, was Fountain Valley’s coach the previous three seasons and went up against White in those seasons’ Bell games. Fenton can’t see White coaching somewhere else.
“His love for that school, his loyalty to that school, his passion for it,” Fenton said. “That’s one of the things I love about him.”
Fenton doesn’t love trying to out-think White.
“I’ve sat with him when we’re both scouting a future opponent,” Fenton said. “He’ll call what that team is going to run on the next play and he’s always right.”
That’s why Workman hired him in ’79. Even back then, White had the knack for figuring out which play to call at the most-advantageous time.
“Dave’s always seen things coming that nobody else could see,” Workman said, “even when he first got back from Oregon State. He would always say, ‘Oh, gosh, look at this, this is the right time to run this play.’”
One of White’s longtime coaching adversaries, former Los Alamitos coach John Barnes, did not always enjoy the results of their matchups but he still appreciated the challenge.
“Dave’s always been a big-play guy,” Barnes said. “His kids played as hard as they could every game, which is the ultimate compliment to a coach. And no matter what happened in the game, Dave was always the classiest gentleman after the game.”
So maybe this is White’s last Bell game, and his last season. Or perhaps in a few years he will be back at Edison.
If White returns to coaching, wherever it is, the people in charge should stay out of his way. Let him scan that clipboard for the right play and watch what happens.
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