It took until 1990 for the Chieftains to win their first CIF Central Coast Section title, but all that did was get them going on the most successful non-De La Salle decade in state history. Current teams have to point toward the CCS Open Division, but remain among the section’s best. The school now has all of its football scores in one archive provided by Cal-Hi Sports.
Up next in this series: Marin Catholic (Kentfield). For more on the Cal-Hi Sports football archives project and on how we can help your school, CLICK HERE.
If any longtime Palma of Salinas football fans have satellite radio, odds are they are listening to hits of the 1990s. They also probably enjoy a good Seinfeld re-run once in awhile.
Although the Chieftains have been among the most consistently strong programs in Northern California for many years, what they did in the 1990s was off the charts. An unbeaten and untied season in 1990 that resulted in the school’s first CIF Central Coast Section championship was quickly followed by two more.
When the decade ended, Palma (which started playing football in 1954) had amassed a 114-7-0 record, including the final 36 games of a 47-0-1 unbeaten streak. The 114-7 record, which computes to a 94.2 winning percentage, is superior to any other for a single decade in California history with the exception of Concord De La Salle going 125-1 for the 1990s during its national record 151-game win streak.
To put it in even more perspective, Palma’s 114-7 is better than De La Salle’s state-best 105-10-1 for the 1980s or Ventura St. Bonaventure’s state-best 130-9 for the 2000s (not including forfeits) or even Cordova of Rancho Cordova’s state-best 102-6-1 for the 1970s.
The architect of Palma’s great decade was former head coach Norm Costa. He took over the program in 1977, but it was still not until the middle of the 1980s when things went from mostly mediocrity to championship contention.
In those days, Palma was in the Mission Trail Athletic League and in the CIF Central Coast Section Division II-South playoffs. It was still a few years down the road until the Chieftains were competing and winning titles in the top division of the CCS.
In 1986, Palma dropped a 7-3 contest to San Benito of Hollister in the title game despite having beaten the Haybalers 17-0 two weeks earlier. The Chieftains also battled to a 14-14 tie with North Monterey County in the 1989 section final.
The breakthrough in 1990 came due to an 8-0 win over Watsonville in the title game and capped an 11-0 season. Neither team scored a touchdown in that game but Palma’s defense recorded a safety and James Camp converted a pair of field goals.
A 31-28 loss to Milpitas in the opening game of 1993 is all that prevented the Chieftains from having a 58-game winning streak and 69-game unbeaten streak. They also won CCS titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
In 1995, Palma stepped up in the playoffs for the first time and lost 26-10 to Bellarmine of San Jose. There were two more divisional titles in 1997 and 1998 but by 1999 it was time to regularly match up against the section’s best in Division I and then later on in the current Open Division.
Costa retired after the 1999 season and Jeff Carnazzo (who played at the school from 1981 to 1985) was selected as his replacement. Carnazzo enjoyed immediate success and faced a dilemma in the final game of his first season.
That Palma team wasn’t dominant like some of the others but forged its way into the CCS Division I final after edging first Bellarmine 7-6 and then Valley Christian of San Jose 14-10. With less than one minute to go in the title matchup with Oak Grove of San Jose, Palma quarterback Luis Amaral found the end zone on a five-yard run to bring the team to within 14-13 of the Eagles. The rookie coach wasn’t interested in a tie at that point, decided to go for a two-point conversion and was rewarded when Amaral threw a pass to Justin Cambier. Palma held on for the 15-14 triumph.
Carnazzo’s team repeated as the CCS D1 champ in 2001. Amaral returned at quarterback and was outstanding in a 26-7 title game win over previously unbeaten Mitty of San Jose. The defense also was dominant as it intercepted six passes.
Since Carnazzo’s first two seasons, Palma has won additional section titles in 2003 and 2011. The title in 2011 was in Division IV.
Including his seasons and those of Costa’s, Palma also enters the 2015 season having been in the CCS playoffs a remarkable 30 straight years.
Perhaps the school’s most well-known alum, former San Francisco 49ers’ lineman Chris Dalman, currently serves on Carnazzo’s staff as an assistant coach. David Fales, the Chicago Bears’ No. 3 quarterback and a standout when he was at San Jose State, is another significant alum.
REPORTED ALL-TIME RECORD HEADING INTO 2015 SEASON:
431 WINS, 181 LOSSES, 17 TIES*
*Note: Forfeit win from 1957 not included. Including that result, 1950s record would be 16-25-3 and all-time would 432-181-17.
69.9 ALL-TIME WINNING PERCENTAGE
(Based on half-win, half-loss for tie)
(This winning percentage also puts the school into the state record book)
Best Records For Single Season
13-0 – 1990
13-0 – 1998
12-0 – 1991
11-0 – 1990
11-0-1 – 1989
Worst Records For Single Season
0-8 – 1956
1-7 – 1967
1-7 – 1968
Most Points Scored (Single Game)
73 – VS. Gilroy, 2012
65 – VS. Gilroy, 2011
64 – VS. Riordan (San Francisco), 1993
64 – VS. Stevenson (Pebble Beach), 1997
62 – VS. Alisal (Salinas), 1999
59 – VS. North Salinas (Salinas), 2004
57 – VS. San Benito (Hollister), 1998
Most Lopsided Wins
62-0 – VS. Alisal (Salinas), 1999
64-6 – VS. Stevenson (Pebble Beach), 1997
56-0 – VS. Turlock, 2006
64-8 – VS. Riordan (San Francisco), 1993
55-0 – VS. North Salinas (Salinas), 2014
54-0 – VS. Alisal (Salinas), 1990
52-0 – VS. Morro Bay, 1961
50-0 – VS. Pacific Grove, 1993
59-9 – VS. North Salinas (Salinas), 2004
Most Points Allowed (Single Game)
55 – VS. De La Salle (Concord), 2007
51 – VS. Bellarmine JV (San Jose), 1958
49 – VS. Gonzales, 1974
45 – VS. St. Francis (Mountain View), 2009
44 – VS. Bellarmine JV (San Jose), 1956
Most Lopsided Losses
55-0 – VS. De La Salle (Concord), 2007
51-0 – VS. Bellarmine JV (San Jose), 1958
49-0 – VS. Gonzales, 1974
40-0 – VS. St. Francis (Mountain View), 1958
38-0 – VS. Junipero (Monterey), 1957
45-7 – VS. St. Francis (Mountain View), 2009
Records Against Notable Opponents
28-9-2 VS. North Salinas (Salinas)*
24-9 VS. Salinas
25-10-1 VS. Carmel
25-17-1 VS. San Benito (Hollister)
*Currently has a 24-game head-to-head winning streak
Longest Winning Streaks
36 – 1990-92 (11-0, 12-0, 13-0)*
26 – 1997-99 (won final 12, 13-0, won first game)
21 – 1993-94 (won last 11, then first 10)
*All 36 wins also part of 47-0-1 unbeaten streak that included 11-0-1 record for 1989. It is still tied for fourth on among longest unbeaten streaks in state history.
Longest Losing Streaks
9 – 1956-57 (lost last eight, then first one)
9 – 1967-68 (lost last five, then first four)
Remember, any school in the state can have this research finished in a customized fashion in return for a reasonable fee. For details, CLICK HERE.
Thanks to Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens for contributing to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports