It seems like I spent half my life at Eisenhower High School.
Directions were a no-brainer. Westbound on Interstate 10, heading for Rialto. Riverside Avenue turnoff. Northbound to Base Line. Turn left. There was the campus.
My coverage assignment was mainly Redlands High. Since the Terriers played in the same Citrus Belt League as Ike, there were lots of clashes between Terrier Blue and Eagle Green & Gold.
It could be football or basketball. Boys’ soccer came to life at Ike. The Lady Eagles played fast-break basketball, just like their male counterparts. Baseball was big. So was track & field. Sports were compelling.
Eisenhower, which had always competed in that stacked Citrus Belt League, has been re-routed into another league. They’ve joined the San Andreas League, where San Gorgonio —another former Citrus Belt member — has landed.
No longer playing in Citrus Belt, which dates back to the 1800s, is a big deal. Say it however you want: Larger enrollment. Better coaches. More talent. Bigger budgets. Ike was getting pounded in football and basketball.
Surviving older schools in growing districts, it almost always seems, never have a chance to succeed. Once Rialto and Carter came to life, Ike’s hopes dimmed. Carter, incidentally, will continue in Citrus Belt play.
For years, Ike more than lived up to their image.
• The Jimmerson family comes quickly to mind. Dana, Ray and Horacho. There seemed to a high-level of play whenever one of the brothers would show up on court. Those Jimmerson kids were knocking down long-range jumpers a couple decades ago in back-and-forth hoops duels with Redlands.
• If it seems like Ike had an endless supply of track stars, male or female, I’d have to agree. I think I saw a few dozen of them, starting with shot putter Jacqui Sheffield, who might’ve reached 47 feet way back in 1980.
• Mike Malody, no longer head track coach but still part of Ike’s program, came storming down the steps from the booth to disclaim a pole vault effort. Malody was right, incidentally. Points were crucial in that dual meet.
• When high jumper Arthur Lloyd, an eventual State champion, cleared 7-4 in 1994, no one should’ve been really surprised. But they should have been really excited.
• Those were great hoops wars when Steve Johnson coached Ike basketball.
• Ike won a state title in 2010 while Redlands was unable to survive playoffs in a higher division. Some Terriers squawked, especially since they’d split with Ike in two unbelievable league duels that season.
• A few years before Ike won its State title, Alex Acker took off for Pepperdine, eventually drafted by Detroit. Yes, he killed the Terriers, both in Redlands, Rialto and during pre-season tournaments.
• NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott (1970s) was, still and always will be the Legend of Rialto — and the area. I wasn’t around in those days to cover him. Every time I showed up at Ike, though, someone would re-live those Lott days.
• Not only did future NFL All-Pro lineman Ryan Clady play football at Ike, he was a horse in shot put and discus.
• Three Ike players, David Lang (Cowboys), Lott and Clady each won Super Bowl rings.
• Conine, a .285 hitter with 214 home runs who played with nine MLB teams, played on both Marlins’ teams that won the World Series.
• Redlands’ Michelle Mateljan tried to bring tennis to life at an Ike campus that probably didn’t know that tennis facilities even existed.
• For years, Ike competed well in virtually everything not considered “country club.” Except, of course, that golfer Brandie Burton played Ladies Professional Golf Association.
• Future MLB shortstop Darnell Coles gunning down a Terrier base runner from medium left field on a relay to home plate.
• Ted Chronopoulos, a future MLS player over seven pro seasons, can be remembered hitting plenty of banana-ball shots against Redlands.
• Once Tom Hoak arrived at Ike from a shutdown Pacific campus, few other Citrus Belt teams (Fontana’s Dick Bruich notably excepted) could measure up.
• There was a Saturday afternoon showdown, 1991 I think, between two of SoCal’s top prep football teams, Fontana-at-Ike.
It’s hard to get the year on this, but I remember a Redlands-at-Ike basketball shootout. Sitting in the top row on Ike’s side, one of the Jimmerson brothers had been answering every Terrier attack.
It was Ike’s crowd against Redlands’ crowd. Shot for shot, rebound for rebound, coach against coach, a Terrier-Eagle duel, both entertaining and memorable.
Sitting a few feet away from me in that madhouse gymnasium, a bespectacled African-American student, clad in a white dress shirt, kept shooting glances over at me. Incredulous smiles. Shaking his head in amazement.
Never said a word to each other. He said it with his glances. Unforgettable.
Sorry to see Ike leave the Citrus Belt League. Hope those kids get a chance to compete successfully.