Team for the ages

By Ted Sillanpaa

The Times-Standard

They run through our imaginations on our football field of dreams.
download pdf of The Times-Standard All-Century Football Team

Quarterback Rich Mayo, a Eureka High legend who led the Air Force Academy to a Cotton Bowl victory in 1960, confers with head coach Len Casanova, who left Ferndale to coach three NCAA Division I powers. Mayo then lines up behind Arcata High and Humboldt State University center Chris Butterfield -- currently a star in the Arena Football League. Behind Mayo stands Eureka running back Rob Harrison, who played for the Oakland Oakland Raiders.

Flanked gracefully is Ferndale High and CR star receiver Dave Mogni who starred at Cal.

These offensive standouts were unanimous selections for The Times-Standard All-Century Football Team.

The defensive unit of the century is anchored by 5-foot-7 defensive tackle Greg Sarvinski who dominated men twice his size at Fortuna High, College of the Redwoods and HSU.

Former Ferndale High linebacker Rob Nairne, who starred at Oregon State and then in the National Football League, is flanked by Eureka High star David Harper -- who played for the Dallas Cowboys and in the Canadian Football League.

The All-Century Team includes 85 players.

The list of voters appears on B1 with player profiles.

Casanova would've moved his players around to get the best out of them. So did The Times-Standard:

Because the passing game has changed, the tight ends and wide receivers were merged on the final list.

Some of the nominees were moved to other positions from the nominees list.

Finally, Arcata and HSU star Hank Fischer earned a spot on the final list as a write-in candidate.


Rich Mayo, Eureka High/Air Force Academy: Mayo was a student-athlete in the truest sense, going from Eureka to Air Force and, eventually, into the NCAA Academic Hall of Fame. He started for an undefeated Eureka team in 1954. Mayo went to the Air Force Academy and started at quarterback for three years, leading the Falcons to a victory in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day, 1960. Mayo was a unanimous selection.

Running back

Rob Harrison, Eureka High/Sacramento State/NFL: Harrison was a 6-foot-2, 175-pound sensation in high school. He rushed for 1,785 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior in 1980.

"Harrison was like a man among boys," wrote former Fortuna High and HSU All-Century nominee Mike Rigby.

He went on to college stardom and to the NFL Raiders.

Don Durden, Eureka High/Oregon State: He ranks as one of the best overall talents here. Durden was brilliant for Eureka High's 1935 "Wonder Team," as a sophomore. He eventually led Oregon State to the 1942 Rose Bowl where he scored a 15-yard touchdown in a 20-16 win over Duke.


Dave Mogni, Ferndale/CR/Cal: Harrison and Mogni were, arguably, among the greatest all-around athletes of the century.

Mogni, a unanimous pick, caught passes for well over 1,000 yards at Ferndale. He went on to spark two CR championship squads with tremendous size and speed, then started at Cal in 1979.

Don DeSomery, South Fork/Stanford: This 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was All-Northern California in 1962, after being an All-Northern Section choice in 1961. DeSomery went on to Stanford on scholarship before a bout with cancer. He played one season at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Offensive line

Chris Butterfield, Arcata High/HSU/Arena League: There was nothing soft about "Butter." At 6 feet, 200-plus pounds coming out of Arcata High, he was one of the hardest workers in the history of area football. He became a giant of a man at center for Humboldt State, spending countless hours on strength and conditioning to get up to near 280 pounds of muscle.

This unanimous choice is an Arena League star.

Defensive line

Greg Sarvinski, Fortuna High/CR/HSU: This 5-foot-7 former nose tackle was the kind of overachiever who could come only from an area built around the rugged logging and fishing industries in the 1970s.

Sarvinski played on championship teams at Fortuna against linemen twice his size. Then he played against even bigger men for title teams at CR in 1975-76 -- again dominating at barely over 200 pounds. He earned all-conference honors throughout and went to HSU where, once again, he was playing against even bigger men. All-Century voters remembered him for it as a unanimous selection.


Rob Nairne, Ferndale/Oregon State/NFL: After Nairne starred at Oregon State, he went on to a long pro career with the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints enjoying the most pro success of any area player and is a unanimous All-Century choice.

David Harper, Eureka/CR/HSU/NFL: Another unanimous choice for the All-Century Team, Harper was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of HSU in 1990, after an appearance in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game.

Defensive backs

Gary Thompson, Eureka/CR/San Jose State/NFL: Starred at CR and San Jose State, then became this area's greatest defensive back of the modern era in many NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

"Thompson is the one guy who would definitely be on an All-Century team at this position," said former CR head coach Bob Seaman.

Head Coach

Len Casanova, Ferndale: He was a legend as football coach and athletic director at the University of Oregon. He took Santa Clara teams to major bowl victories, and coached at the University of Pittsburgh.

1999 Times-Standard
Sun, Nov 28, 1999 ; A1