As the high school football season opens across America, every running back is chasing Ken Hall. Every quarterback is aiming for J.R. House. Every coach has his eyes set on John McKissick. Every team is chasing Concord De La Salle.
In the more than 125 years that high school football has been played in the United States -- a span in which two Connecticut schools, New London and Norwich Free Academy have played every year since 1875 -- no one has run for as many yards as Hall. Or thrown for as many yards as House. Or won as many games as McKissick. Or won as many games in a row as De La Salle.
All are included in the most extensive national record book ever compiled, one that is a fascinating cross-section of the known and the not-so-well known, the seemingly impossible and the highly improbable, the overwhelming -- and, too, the underachieving.
It includes records that might never be broken, such as John Giannantonio's 739-yard rushing game in 1950 for a small New Jersey high school, and others that seem to be broken every year (yards passing in a game, for one). It is a list populated by big schools and little towns, tall receivers and tiny running backs.
And a guy named Roger Maris.
His major league baseball record of 61 homers was broken three years ago, but Maris still holds the national record of four kickoff-return touchdowns in a game for Shanley High in Fargo, N.D., in 1951.
Other names that show up among the record-holders or career leaders in the National High School Football Record Book: Tim Couch, Don Gullett (72 points in a single game by the ex-Reds pitcher), Billy Sims, Emmitt Smith, Herschel Walker, Ty and Koy Detmer, Josh Booty, Todd Marinovich.
For many, the only common thread is that for one night, one season or one moment they threw the ball longer, ran it farther or carried it across the goal line more often than the millions of players who have ever strapped on a helmet at high schools in all 50 states.
''Were some of the records against inferior competition? Were some setups by coaches who intentionally wanted a player to set a record? Sure, they were,'' said editor Doug Huff, who first began compiling the records while a student at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville, W.Va., more than 40 years ago.
''But they're numbers -- they're in black and white, they're not emotional. If it happens, you record it, no ands, ifs or buts. If a player throws for 500 yards in a game, even if it is against inferior competition, you document it.''
Among the more remarkable records:
n De La Salle, coached by Bob Ladoucuer in Concord, Calif., has not lost a game since 1991. (One note: California does not have statewide playoffs, so De La Salle hasn't always played the best teams in the state.)
n A 10-season, 82-game losing streak by Glascock County High in Gibson, Ga., that ended two years ago.
n A 256-point game by Haven, Kan., in 1927 -- and a 71-point game in a 74-71 loss by Gentry High of Indianola, Miss., against Ruleville last year.
n Harrisburg (Pa.) Tech's shutout season in 1919 in which it outscored its opposition 701-0.
n Jersey Shore (Pa.) High's 75.1 scoring average in 1922.
n A pair of 14-touchdown games, by John Cook of Beatrice, Neb., in 1912 and Leroy ''Boney'' Matthews of Roff, Okla., in 1927.
n Dominic Gutierrez's nine field goals in a 1990 game for Menaul School of Albuquerque, N.M.
n Tyler Ebell's 4,484 yards rushing last season for Ventura, Calif.
n Arthur Smith's 15 touchdown passes -- in one game -- for Cozad, Nev., in 1921.
n A punt that traveled 132 yards, 6 inches by Bruno Konopka for Manual High of Denver in 1937, 77 yards in the air. It is the longest ever documented on the high school, college or pro level. Because the measurement includes distance covered by the ball when it left the playing field, no official kick could ever measure that long. Despite his long kick, Konopka's team lost 7-6 -- on his missed extra point.
n Jabo Leonard's 8-for-8 game for Barbers Hill, Texas, in 1971 -- 8 passes attempted, 8 completed, 8 for touchdowns, in a 99-0 victory.
n David Koral's 764-yard passing game last season for Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The undisputed kings of the record book are Hall, the so-called ''Sugar Land Express'' from Sugar Land, Texas, who rushed for 11,232 yards from 1950-53, and House, who played briefly for Seabreeze High in Daytona Beach, Fla., before piling up more passing yardage than any high school quarterback ever at Nitro (W.Va.) High.
Hall, a 210-pound runner in an era when many high school backs weighed 160 pounds, still holds a nearly 1,800-yard career lead over any other high school runner. In college, he was a backup to Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow at Texas A&M, but later played for the AFL's Houston Oilers.
House dropped back to pass on nearly every play of his high school career, enabling him to complete a record 1,077 of a record 1,682 passes for a record 14,457 yards and 145 touchdowns from 1995-98.
House also owns a share of the modern-era record of 10 touchdown passes in a game -- and it wasn't against inferior opposition, either. It came during a 594-yard effort in West Virginia's Triple-A championship game in 1998.
''We called it showtime,'' said House, now a highly regarded Double-A catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. ''In practice, we would throw the ball around and catch it and score some touchdowns and have some fun, and it would be the same way when we played.
''We played a lot of good teams, too, but we were able to take them down pretty easily. Even in the 1990s, when a lot of teams were throwing the ball, nobody threw for the kind of yards we did. It was special.''
House's records indicate the biggest change Huff has seen since he began compiling records.
''Because of the influence of the college and pro game, and all the summer passing camps and the coaches who think they can turn it around immediately by throwing the ball, the passing records are going off the charts,'' Huff said. ''Some of these numbers are out of sight.''
These are, too: Bedford County (Tenn.) Training's 52 consecutive shutouts from 1942-49. The 16 blocked punts by Carlton Wagner of Pennsboro (W.Va.) High in 1929. The nearly 500 career wins by McKissick, who became the head coach at Summerville (S.C.) High in 1952 and still is there today. The 16 state titles won by J.T. Curtis at John T. Curtis High (yes, that's him) in River Ridge, La.
''Some records probably have been lost to the ages, and there never will be a complete, perfect record book,'' said Huff, a retired sports editor in Wheeling, W.Va. ''But we've been able to bring to the light of day some things that really happened.
''A lot of great players aren't in there, but a lot of great players are.''
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