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A Last Hurrah is a 60-minute documentary work-in-progress that chronicles the golden age of high school football in Southern California in the 1950s, highlighted by the most memorable high school game ever played in the region – the 1956 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section title game between the Anaheim Colonists and the Downey Vikings. This epic contest was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before an estimated crowd of 60,000 fans.
Southern California began to grow rapidly after WWII, but outside of Los Angeles the region was still largely comprised of smaller towns separated by vast orange groves. Each of these towns were often represented by a single high school, so football games pitted town vs. town more than team vs. team. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, and from the beach to the desert, high school football was often the only game in town. The only professional sports team was the Los Angeles Rams, and major college programs such as USC and UCLA were often destination games limited to alumni and fans with means to travel to Los Angeles. So, high school football was king. This would change within a very short time.
In 1956, both Anaheim and Downey were undefeated by the end of the regular seasons. Throughout the CIF playoffs, as the two teams seemed destined to clash for the title, they received an unprecedented amount of media coverage, most of it aimed at two backfield superstars, Anaheim’s Mickey Flynn (CIF Player of the Year in 1955), and Downey’s Randy Meadows (CIF scoring leader in 1956) – two athletes whose lives would be forever changed by this game for the ages. Anaheim vs. Downey was the high water mark for prep football in Southern California. It was a last hurrah.
By the end of the 1950s, smaller towns were becoming cities. The Cold War saw thousands of Americans moving to Southern California each year for jobs in the defense and aerospace industries. Tourism destinations such as Disneyland attracted thousands more. New high schools sprouted overnight to accommodate the thousands of Baby Boomers entering high school. Professional sports teams such as the Dodgers, the Lakers, and the Angels moved into town, and the rapid formation of freeways all over Southern California eroded municipal boundaries.
Civic pride would continue to exist, and high school football would continue to be popular, but it would never again be king. A Last Hurrah tells the story of when it was.