El Rancho Football History Highlights

The football team at El Rancho of Pico Rivera runs out of an inflatable helmet prior to game in 2013. The Dons went 6-5 that season. Photo: elranchofootball.com.

Yes, there was a magical time in the 1960s when a public school representing a single town could have the best high school football teams in Southern California. El Rancho of Pico Rivera was that school and not only did the Dons have the most wins of any school in the state in the 1960s but their unbeaten 1966 team is still regarded as one of the greatest in state history. Go inside for a snapshot look at the program’s history in this latest school to get its all-time scores archives completed.

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While it only took one year for El Rancho of Pico Rivera to have a winning season after the school began in the Whittier Unified School District in 1952, the football team took awhile for it to begin to dominate.

Even when the coaching era began under Ernie Johnson in 1956, there was no indication of future success. Johnson’s first team, in fact, suffered through a 1-8 season.

But once the yearly calender hit 1960, the Dons were off to the races. Johnson began building teams that were almost impossible to score against. The 1965 team had seven shutouts and had only given up three touchdowns all season heading into the CIF Southern Section playoffs, but got stunned 21-19 by Compton Centennial and finished 10-1.

El Rancho coach Ernie Johnson and players collected a lot of hardware after final game in 1966. Photo: El Rancho Unified School District.

That loss seemed to only serve as motivation for 1966. El Rancho never trailed all season and behind All-CIFSS quarterback Rick Pope won the section’s top divisional title with a 35-14 victory against Anaheim. The Dons also ended with a 516-68 scoring advantage and were named mythical national champion by the National Sports News Service.

Anaheim got some revenge the following season in 1967 with a 28-14 playoff win that snapped a 23-game winning streak. Still, combined with what the team did in 1965 and the rest of the decade, El Rancho’s 96 wins (97 counting a forfeit) was the most of any high school in California.

“Football was just such a big motivating factor in the town in those years,” said Class of 1967 grad Armie Briones, who started doing public address announcing at the school when he was a student and who has been doing that ever since, including last year (his 50th). “At home games, people used to have to get in line at 5:30 for an 8 o’clock start. The lines stretched a long way. Everybody wanted to get in.”

In 1962, the El Rancho Unified School District was formed by splitting off from Whittier, but the Dons have remained rivals of the other schools in Whittier.

While the 1960s remains the glory years at The Ranch, the 1980s were more than solid with just one losing season (5-6) plus one 11-win season and a 10-win season. Combined with all of the decades, El Rancho still has a 58.8 all-time winning percentage and has gone past 400 all-time wins before hitting 300 losses.

Last year’s team won a CIFSS Division 9 playoff game and ended 5-7 in the first year under new head coach Adrian Medrano, a Class of 2002 grad who had previous success at Bonita (La Verne). Medrano will have to replace graduated quarterback Adam Chandler and a number of other productive seniors. The team’s top returnee is running back Jason Vela, who rushed for nearly 400 yards as a junior and caught 33 passes.

The school’s most well-known football alum probably is punter Rich Camarillo, who was in one Super Bowl and was named to the Pro Bowl team five teams. He kicked in the NFL for 16 seasons. Quarterback Bill Nelsen also went from El Rancho to the NFL for a couple of seasons in the 1960s before injuries ended his career.

Here are some other El Rancho football records that the school now has in its possession courtesy of this archive initiative:


1950s: 36-34-1

1960s: 96-17-5 (not including one win by forfeit)

1970s: 59-41-1

1980s: 74-39-1

1990s: 54-56-0 (not including one win by forfeit)

2000s: 51-58-0

2010s: 36-39-0


Adrian Medrano was in his first season as head coach at El Rancho in 2016. Photo: elranchofootball.com.

406 WINS, 284 LOSSES, 11 TIES*

*Note: Does not include one win by forfeit in 1960s and one win by forfeit in 1990s. Counting those results, records would be 97-16-5 for 1960s, 55-55 for 1990s and 408-282-11 for overall. El Rancho had the most wins in the 1960s among all California high schools that played football in those years.

(Based on half-win, half-loss for tie)

Best Records For Single Season
13-0 – 1966
11-1 – 1970
11-1 – 1977
10-1 – 1965
10-1 – 1967
11-1-1 – 1961

Worst Records For Single Season
0-10 – 2006
1-9 – 1999*
1-9 – 2015
1-8 – 1956
1-8 – 1972
*One loss later became forfeit win.

Records Against Notable Opponents
40-16-1 VS. Whittier
30-9-0 VS. Pioneer (Whittier)
31-16-1 VS. California (Whittier)
18-17 VS. La Serna (Whittier)
23-22 VS. Santa Fe (Santa Fe Springs)

Most Points Scored (Single Game)
67 VS. Bell Gardens 2016
62 VS. Pioneer (Whittier) 2013
60 VS. El Monte 1966
57 VS. Montebello 2012
55 VS. Santa Fe (Santa Fe Springs) 1988
54 VS. Duarte 2000
54 VS. Pioneer (Whittier) 2001
53 VS. Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 1966
52 VS. Monrovia 1967
52 VS. Bell Gardens 2012
51 VS, La Mirada 1966
51 VS. Pioneer (Whittier) 1987
51 VS. Pioneer (Whittier) 2016
Note: There are no scores with 50. This is all of them at 50 or above.
We also are not going with a 77-0 score for 1965 against Santa Fe. We have that score reported as 7-0.

Most Lopsided Wins
55-0 VS. Santa Fe (Santa Fe Springs) 1988
67-12 VS. Bell Gardens 2016
60-6 VS. El Monte 1966
53-0 VS. Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 1966
49-0 VS. Jordan (Long Beach) 1970
48-0 VS. Whittier 1966
47-0 VS. Whittier 1988

Most Points Allowed (Single Game)
67 VS. La Serna (Whittier) 2012
59 VS. Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) 2016
56 VS. Diamond Ranch (Pomona) 2012
54 VS. Ramona (Riverside) 1986
49 VS. Covina 1956
49 VS. Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) 2011
49 VS. La Serna (Whittier) 2016

Most Lopsided Losses
59-7 VS. Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) 2016
49-0 VS. Covina 1956
47-0 VS. Santa Fe (Santa Fe Springs) 1998
46-0 VS. Crespi (Encino) 1986
46-0 VS. La Mirada 1998

Longest Winning Streaks
23 – 1966 to 1967 (after 13-0 season, won first 10 following season)
11 – 1970 (won first 11 games, then lost in playoffs)
11 – 1977 (won first 11 games, then lost in playoffs)
Note: El Rancho also had 16-0-1 unbeaten streak from 1960 to 1961. Streak included last five wins in 1960, first three wins in 1961, then a tie, then eight more wins before playoff loss.

Longest Losing Streaks
13 – 2005 to 2006 (lost last three, then 0-10 season, then won first game in 2007)
9 – 1972 to 1973 (lost last seven, then lost first two)*
9 – 2014 to 2015 (lost last game in 2014, then 0-9 in 2015 before winning final game of season)
*Note: Losing streak was broken with a tie. It was followed with another loss before a win for an 0-10-1 winless streak.

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 markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. Irene Briones
    Posted July 20, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I looked up the Santa Fe vs ER football score 1965. The score listed in our yearbook is 77-0.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted July 21, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Players on the team told Armie they thought it was 7-0. We would need newspaper article confirmation to go with 77. Yearbooks not known for accuracy.

      • Geno Ortia
        Posted January 6, 2022 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        The 1965 Santa Fe game (grad class of 1966) WAS 7-0. I was on Santa Fe’s team. Playing football at Rio Hondo College, the “Ranch” players and I became great friends. They talked regular what a battle that game was. They said that Coach Johnson feared our 1-2 punch running backs, Al King and Craig Anderson. My graduation year, 1967, I was teammates with Rick Pope, Dave Patterson, Jim Collings, and Brad Fielder from “The Ranch” in the very first “605 All Star Football Game”. I still have the 605 program. Coach Johnson and Santa Fe’s Coach Mitchell were coaches of our North team. IN THE 605 PROGRAM, Coach Johnson gives reference to that classic 1965 7-0 game. I will gladly e mail a photo of Coach Johnson’s quote if you like. Great rivals, and a lot of great players from both schools.

        • Geno Ortiz
          Posted January 6, 2022 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Shoots, my correct name is Geno Ortiz.., NOT Ortia. MY SPELLING SKILLS IS PROOF THAT I WENT TO SANTA FE!!!

    • Ray Ota
      Posted October 29, 2021 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Class of 64….. The score was absolutely 77-0 I was there. Anyone else that has a different score is just a guesser pure and simple.

      • Geno Ortiz
        Posted January 6, 2022 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Shoots, my correct name is Geno Ortiz.., NOT Ortia. MY SPELLING SKILLS IS PROOF THAT I WENT TO SANTA FE!!!

  2. Joe Parra
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    The high score vs Santa Fe was in 1986-87, and i believe it was 56-0.

    • Ronnie D
      Posted February 22, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Joey Parra, the class of 89 season of 88 was definitely 55-0

  3. Mike Preston
    Posted May 30, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Bill Nelsen, Class of 1958 Played 3 years at USC, played in A College All-Star Game and played 10 years in the NFL. He played 2 years for Pittsburgh and the final 8 years for the Cleveland Browns. Nelsen was a starter most of his time in the NFL and one year finished 2nd in the MVP voting. Bill Nelsen had the most notable NFL career of all El Rancho Alums – IMHO.

    • Marv Ruddell
      Posted February 3, 2021 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      The 1960 Team that Mike Preston and I played for Coach Ernie Johnson was the very first CIF Champion Team for El Rancho. It started a very illustrious “Winning” High School carrier for Mr Johnson. He coached at El Rancho from 1956-1968, compiling a record of 108-31-5. He Guided his Don’s teams to 3 CIF Championships and I belive two runner ups. His 1966 team was recognized as a national champion.

  4. Paul Duron ‘75
    Posted August 8, 2021 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I am very proud of my high school and it’s rich football tradition. I am equally proud of it’s academic tradition. I am a product of the El Rancho School District from Kindergarten through High School. I retired from the US Army Reserve after 26 years. Paul A. Duron Col. MC USA (Ret)

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