By Griffith Jennings and Ben Ramirez
In December of 1987 at East Los Angeles College, led by head coaches Darryl Stroh and Tom Harp, Granada Hills High School upset the number two team in the nation, Carson High School, 27-14 to win the 4-A Los Angeles City Section Championship.
Granada finished that season with a 9-3 record and were on a seven game win streak to close out their season. Their three losses were against Alemany High School, Carson High School, and Thousand Oaks High School, who at the time was the defending California Interscholastic Federation Coastal Conference champion.
Carson entered the 1987 season undefeated and had been ranked number two in the nation by U.S.A Today. To make the victory even sweeter, earlier that season Carson had beaten Granada 42-14. In that game, Granada did not have an answer for their steamrolling offense and ferocious pass rush.
Stroh and Harp had to come up with a plan to beat Carson. They looked to their quarterback, Jeremy Leach.
Leach had thrown for 2,493 yards and 32 touchdowns during the 1987 regular season and was considered an elite quarterback for Granada. His 32 touchdowns were 7 more than National Football League Hall of Famer and Granada alumnus John Elway had in 1977.
However, during Granada and Carson’s first meeting, Leach was overwhelmed. Pressured on every play, he struggled to get the ball off. In their second matchup, Leach delivered.
Leach completed 15 of 26 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Kyle Jan, Darryl Stephenson and Kevin Carmichael all scored on passes or interceptions. Stellar defense held the Carson offense to just 14 points, intercepting three of quarterback George Malauulu’s passes, and one off of backup Fred Gatlin.
Under the lights, in the cool fall air, being cheered on by the fans in the stadium and the cheerleaders on sidelines, Granada did what was thought to be impossible.
Granada pulled off one of the biggest upsets in California high school football history and became the first team from the San Fernando Valley to win the 4-A title since 1975.
30 years later, many of the football players and cheerleaders, including our mothers, have moved on from cheering or playing, but still hold a special connection with their triumphant team.
After senior year, cheerleader Janae Earley went on to compete as a diver at Arizona State University and the University of California, Los Angeles while pursuing a nursing degree. She is now a registered nurse in Orange County.
“I remember that it was super cold that night and we decided to wear our cheer sweats instead of our skirts. It was strange to cheer in those but we were warm! Not sure if we actually believed we won at first. I just remember everyone running out onto the field,” Earley said.
Former strong safety Kevin Carmichael, who scored a touchdown during the game is now a Farmers Insurance agent and the defensive coordinator for Calabasas High School.
“It meant everything to me as such a huge underdog who apparently had zero chance, to actually win. I don’t know if the Carson players ever forget it as much we don’t forget it,” Carmichael said.
Quarterback Jeremy Leach played four years of college football at the University of New Mexico. He now owns two companies in the entertainment industry.
“The win was an all around team effort, lead by the amazing play of our defense. Because we were the City Champions, I was voted the LA City Player of the Year,” Leach said.