The score was 14-16 with 12 seconds remaining in the first round of California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 11 Playoff Game between the Yucca Valley Trojans and the Salesian Mustangs. On their own 12 yard line, the Trojans got possession of the ball. The mantras of 'Any Time, Any Place! You Gotta Believe', and '14' could be heard echoing the cold night air. Quarterback Kevin Lesko took the snap and kept the option, rushing for 35 yards before running out of bounds with 2 seconds remaining in the game. While the Salesian sidelines celebrated and the defense played 40 yards off the ball, the BFS-trained Trojans believed that every play was designed to score and their tough pre-season and year-round Upper Limit training gave them the ability to make that touchdown: Any Time, Any Place. Counting on the ability of the total team, Lesko pitched the ball to Senior tailback, James Cunningham. With no time left on the clock, Cunningham slashed and wove his way through the Mustang defense for over fifty yards, breaking eight tackles before being caught from behind on the three yard line. Releasing the ball as he fell, Cunningham watched junior Jason Hernandez vault over him and the tackler, scoop up the ball and run over the goal line, scoring the winning touchdown with no time left!
At that precise moment, in the celebration of the incredible, unbelievable victory, all the 6 a.m. weight training, the year round off-season commitments, the flexibility, speed, plyomatric and weights were all rewarded! The Heart of a Champion emerged and with the true belief in 'Any Time, Any Place' and 'If they can't score, they can't win!', the Trojans marched forward with no doubt of victory and became the 1996 CIF Champions for the first time ever in the history of the school. The final game for the then 7-6 Trojans was played at home on Trojan Field against the top-ranked, 13-0 Cathedral Phantoms in front of a record 4,000 fans. Being behind at half-time, 19-14, the Trojans believed that their superior BFS strength and conditioning training would pay off in the second half. Although behind at the half, the Trojans had dominated statistically and believed they would prevail. They were right! The Trojans did dominate in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. It was evident to all present that the Trojans were physically superior and obviously more conditioned. The Phantoms were held to 2 rushing yards in the second half and the Trojans retained possession of the ball for 18 minutes of the 24 minute half. The final score was 22-19.
When Coach Mark Beckham came to Yucca Valley High School in the Spring of 1990, he knew the Trojans were in desperate need of a formula for success. He invited Bigger Faster Stronger Vice-President, John Rowbotham, to hold a school-wide clinic for Yucca Valley High School. After a highly successful clinic, football was the only sport committed to the year-round training of an athlete. With only a single-wide, 8x30 foot trailer, and a personal investment by Coach Beckham for 3 squat racks, 3 benches, 3 clean bars, 3 trap bars, some belts and the appropriate weights, the Trojans began the quest for excellence in the form of playing '14', the number of games needed to win a championship. With no practice field in this desert concerned with water, the Trojans committed to 6 a.m. weights, year-round, practicing in the dirt and raising funds for their much needed equipment. Outside, on the hot asphalt, were painted 15 Dot Drills and the players jumped rope, did the plyo boxes, flexibility and stretching exercises and religiously filled in weight books after each work out. Coach Rowbotham returned yearly to train the new players and retrain, encourage and inspire the returning players.
Coach Beckham knew that the foundation had to be laid before any true measure of success would be realized. Every year, more players excelled. Each year the program grew and received more recognition. The weight room equipment increased as did the need for more space. The weight room is currently over 1600 sq. Ft. with 12 squat racks, 12 benches, 12 trap bars, 12 clean bars and a multitude of weight belts. Over 90 players lift before school from 6 a.m.-7:15 a.m. during all seasons.
After the first year, the next six years saw consecutive playoff appearances. In 1993, the first BFS Trojan senior class made it to the semi-finals only to lose in overtime. The 1996 team saw no stars, just a cohesive group of athletes who believed in their training, their coaches and themselves. There was a time when the players were mocked and taunted with the word, '14'; now the whole school, community and town finally understood the importance of a verbalized vision. BFS -- we couldn't have done it without you! Any Time, Any Place: and pigs really do fly in Yucca Valley!
A Special congratulations to my good friend Mark Beckham in his miraculous 1996 C.I.F. Championship. There is no coach in America who cares more for his athletes or works harder than Mark. I would also like to thank Mark and the Yucca Valley Football team for inviting me to their celebration dinner at Mark's house. I feel truly honored to have been able to speak in front of this exceptional group of young athletes.
Yucca Valley's BFS Clinician