Players are in position for the kickoff at the new Dick Haines Stadium in Vista, where the storied Panthers seek a return to glory.
His booming voice still seems to echo in the stadium that bears his name.
One night before the bulk of the county kicks off the high school football season, Vista High on Thursday rededicated Dick Haines Stadium to the man who changed the face of prep football in San Diego.
Haines, who came to Vista from Ohio in 1970, led the Panthers to three county titles with all three of those teams going 13-0.
Crowds of 10,000-plus were common.
The reconfigured stadium lost some seats, but Vista supporters filled the new home side on Thursday.
Enthusiam wasn’t enough, though, as San Marcos quarterback Bryson Bolin completed his first eight passes and threw for 357 yards and receiver Kyle Philips caught eight passes for 123 yards as the Knights beat the Panthers 37-13.
Under Haines, Vista won with players who were bigger, stronger and faster because he helped establish football PE, spring football, summer passing leagues and offseason weight training.
“I hate Dick Haines,” said Valley Center coach Rob Gilster, who has five county titles of his own. “Before Dick came to Vista, we all took the summer off.
“After he got here, you either worked all summer or got your head handed to you.”
Haines’ last season was 1994. He passed away in 2002, but “Big Red” football didn’t miss a beat.
There were San Diego Section championships in 1996, ’97, ’98, 2001, ’04 and ’10.
But the once-proud Panthers have fallen on hard times, going 14-29 the last four seasons.
It’s up to new coach Dave Bottom to bring back the glory in a stadium Haines might not recognize.
The old home side on the east end is now the visitor’s side with the setting sun in the players’ eyes.
The cement bleachers, which towered 24 rows, are now 10 rows, but still run goal line to goal line.
The west side is the home side and rises 16 rows and goes goal to goal.
There are three rows in front of that for band members and guests.
The playing surface was replaced a year ago, so it stayed, but there is a new track.
The two-year, $3.7 million project includes a new entrance and ticket booths, restrooms, snack bars, pressbox and storage facilities.
“There is no more pressure to win here than any other school,” said Bottom, who turned around a downtrodden program at Everett Alvarez High in Salinas with a wing-T offense before coming to Vista.
“But there is an excitement, an air of anticipation you don’t get many places.
“It’s an honor to meet Coach Haines’ wife (Martha) and the great players who won championships here.”
Martha Haines was one of Thursday night’s featured guests. But she almost didn’t attend.
“When they first invited me, I wasn’t going to come,” Martha Haines said.
“Then Dave called, we talked, and I decided to come. I’m so glad I did.”
Bottom has the luxury of playing for a principal who emphasizes athletics.
Anthony Barela coached high school football and knows the fire a winning program lights under a school’s students.
“We certainly don’t know what the end will be, but I’m awfully pleased with the start,” Barela said.
“The passion for Vista football, for Big Red football, runs deep.
“The new stadium is a great, a tremendous community asset.
“We think we have the facilities and the coaching staff to turn this thing around.
“One thing is for certain, though. We’ll win with class, and we’ll lose with class because that’s what Dick Haines was all about.”