WATCH: Ken Caminiti high school football game video
The footage represents a rare glimpse of Ken on the gridiron playing his favorite childhood sport.
I recently received a video of Ken Caminiti's high school football team, the Leigh Longhorns, playing against rival Westmont on November 16, 1979.
It was the last game of Ken's junior year. Leigh lost the game 22-20.
The video was sent to me by Ken's teammate and friend Vito Cangemi, who received it from Jeff McDonald, who played for Westmont (No. 79), who got the video from his teammate Terry Nocera, No. 85. The videos have been digitized in recent years.
"It was my sophomore year. The game was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, but Westmont made the playoffs, so they moved the game up," McDonald told me over email.
The video is grainy and choppy. And since the game was held at Westmont High School, which didn't have lights at the time, it was near darkness by the end of the game.
Ken Caminiti's favorite sport to play wasn't baseball. It was football.
But the video represents a rare glimpse of Ken on the gridiron playing his favorite childhood sport.
I’ve included quotes and insights below that provide more context to the video. I've also written more about Ken's high school football days here.
Leigh is wearing white jerseys with yellow pants and helmets; Westmont is in red.
Ken, a wideout and defensive back, was No. 21 on Leigh (his birthdate is April 21). He would wear the same number for the San Diego Padres.
Leigh’s play calling was very basic, especially compared to today’s game — three yards and a cloud of dust. “We didn't throw the ball that much. At all," said Cangemi, who kicked for Leigh and currently coaches at California football powerhouse Milpitas High School.
Running back Kevin Kevorkian (No. 34 in the video) got the bulk of the carries, while Pat Esposito was under center.
Ken could have played many skill positions due to his all-around athletic talent. His powerful arm could have carved up defenses. Instead, he played wideout for a run-first team.
"Kenny had the best hands. But a lot of people thought he should have played quarterback instead of receiver," Cangemi said. Which would have been interesting but would have presented a new problem: If Ken played quarterback, who would he throw it to?
Ken’s great hands meant he was the holder for Cangemi on field goals and extra points. A special teams error (seen about 10:30 into the video) proved costly for the Longhorns.
"That was the only bad snap John Livacich had all year. It hit short and kind of skipped to Kenny, and he rolled right and did a ‘fire,’ and I think it was an incomplete pass.
"We didn't line up to go for two. We always kicked the PAT, because we had someone reliable to hold,” Cangemi said.
When Ken’s friend looks back on their high school football days, he can’t help but think about the close losses. A couple bounces, a couple calls, a few more points, and Leigh could have reached the playoffs.
“We lost to Awalt by seven, Camden by one, and then Campbell by four. And they were the other league representative for us that year. Kenny had a touchdown catch in that game that they called back. To this day, I'm still miffed about it. They called him for offensive pass interference. Both guys are going up for the ball and just bumped each other in mid-air and he's the offensive guy.
“And they called him for OPI. To this day, that's one of the worst calls I've ever seen in my life. We were up 17-7 on them, too, and then we ended up losing 21-17.
“Then we lost to Los Gatos by six, and we lost to Westmont by two.
“We just couldn't score that year.”
Second by second
00:00 to 00:30 - Leigh is on defense. Westmont turns the ball over. Ken is visible at the end of some plays.
00:35 - Leigh gives the ball right back.
00:40 to 01:30 - Westmont drives the ball before having to punt.
01:30 to 03:07 - Leigh marches down the field with a series of run plays, scoring a touchdown to cap a methodical drive.
03:10 - Ken holds on the extra point for Cangemi. Good!
03:30 - Westmont starts its next drive.
03:40 - A pass in Ken's vicinity goes incomplete.
04:00 - On a long run, Ken gets the chance to lower a shoulder and get in on the tackle.
04:15 - On a run to the outside, Ken goes low to ensure that the runner isn't getting any further.
04:30 - After Westmont's drive stalls, they settle for a field goal.
04:45 to 05:10 - Leigh runs the ball before punting.
05:15 to 06:20 - Westmont marches down the field and scores a touchdown.
06:10 - Ken makes a nice tackle near the goal line.
06:20 to 07:00 - Leigh finally decides to test the passing game but doesn't get anywhere, but a roughing the kicker penalty gives the Longhorns the ball back. Even so, they fail to capitalize and give the ball right back.
07:10 - Ken almost comes up with an interception, but the ball is just out of reach.
07:30 - You would run out of bounds instead of getting hit by Ken, too. Smart move by the Westmont receiver to avoid contact.
07:45 - Kevin Kevorkian breaks free, slicing through the Westmont defense for a long touchdown.
08:25 - Westmont's quarterback decided to pass to a wide receiver in Ken's vicinity. Big mistake. Ken flattened the poor kid, leveling him and causing the ball to pop out. Leigh recovered the fumble.
08:30 to 09:00 - After a series of quick cuts in the footage, Westmont winds up scoring a long touchdown. The PAT is no good.
09:05 to 10:25 - Another long drive for Leigh; Kevorkian reaches the end zone.
10:30 - After a bad snap on the extra point, Ken rolls out and tries to complete the two-point try, but it's incomplete (the video cuts out before the throw).
10:30 to 12:00 - Westmont drives, with some throws to Ken's side; the drive ends in a touchdown.
12:15 to 12:50 - Leigh struggles to drive the ball and punts it away. But a Westmont fumble gives the Longhorns another chance.
13:00 - Leigh, down two with a few minutes left, has a chance -- but they give the ball right back.
With darkness falling, Westmont drains the clock. Final: Westmont 22, Leigh 20.