Jerry Murphy was the head coach of one of the most exciting Cougars football teams ever on Cougar Hill. Peninsula sportswriters coined the team, the “Cardiac Kids,” because of the nail biting endings that became synonymous with this team. Seven of the team’s 10 wins came in the final one or two minutes of the game, this from a team that often only had 18 to 24 players at game time. “Where’s the rest of your team?” was always the question posed by opposing players as they sized up the “kids” that got off the Cougars team bus. Before school size became a consideration in league membership, the 1977 Cougars posted a 9-1 overall record before losing a hard-fought Region One playoff game 14-0 to the eventual CCS Champion Saint Francis Lancers. Six games were won by a touchdown or less. Murphy was named the NPL Coach of the Year.
This special group of players began their winning ways with a freshman championship in 1974, under coaches Neil McNevin, Johnny Francis and Ron Stockman (HMB alumnus). When beloved Coach Francis unexpectedly died immediately following the season, these boys solidified into a determined core that would become the “Cardiac Kids.” Coached by McNevin and Scott Yeaman in 1975, they went on to win the NPL Frosh/Soph title.
For a small town, with only one previous football champion in 1972, there was a great sense of anticipation leading up to the 1977 football season. Coaches Jack Coolidge and Tim Oppezzo conditioned the team using four separate conditioning sessions at each practice. This “Four Quarters” of training consisted of sprints and distance training and practice always ended with a “fourth quarter desire run” that prepared the players to be able to push beyond their limits when called upon in the fourth quarter. The Cardiac Kids would never outnumber the opposition on the field, but they were certain to have more desire and endurance. They never considered themselves the underdog.
The highlight of the 1977 season was a game under the lights at rival Terra Nova in Pacifica, a game that would ultimately decide the NPL league championship. Terra Nova had the ball and was down by a touchdown with the last seconds of the game ticking off the clock; there was not enough time for the Tigers to line up for another play. The game should have been over, but an injury timeout granted Terra Nova one more play. Terra Nova’s quarterback dropped back to pass but was unable to find an open receiver. He scrambled toward the end zone and would have scored the winning touchdown except for the heroic tackle made by Cougars defensive back Jim Edwards. Although Edwards was much smaller than the charging ball carrier, he sacrificed his body to drop the Tigers opponent just inches short of the goal line. The Cardiac Kids won again!
Most of the last-minute wins that year came on the last few plays of the games and usually when it appeared the Cougars were worn out. Despite being few in number, the Cougars substitutes played valiantly to help save a number of wins. It was all part of the plan.
National Football Foundation Hall of Fame
San Mateo County Back of the Year
Lineman of the Year
NPL All League
Dave Bradley, DT
John Galvin, LB
Alvin Jepson, LB
Phil Pettingill, DE
Barry Short, CB, MVP
Grant Walters, LB, Captain
NPL Honorable Mention
All County Honorable Mention
NPL Coach of the Year