Goal-Line Stand

At the finish of a 28-year career that includes 248 victories and four state titles, Sumner Bulldogs coach Larry Walls takes some parting shots at deseg -- which he claims has decimated the city's once-mighty Public High League

In a postgame meeting at midfield, Walls was asked by two reporters about the game, and he gave the usual bromides about how his team was going for touchdowns instead of first downs, that they hadn't played well and he didn't know why but he might know "after I look at the game film." After he looks at the game film? Maybe the comment was made out of habit, or maybe it hadn't sunk in that the season was over, that his coaching career was over. Just minutes later he would be met on the field by his wife, Barbara, and he would walk off the field for the last time, arm-in-arm with her.

Walls plans to keep busy with his five grandchildren, one of whom plays basketball at Berkeley High School. He also wants to do more with the Sumner Football Alumni Association, which essentially at this point is a group of two -- Walls and a fellow teammate from the '50s, his friend Joseph McKinley. The two organize raffles and fundraisers to get money for new uniforms for the team. Walls wants to make a greater effort to contact former players for Sumner and involve them in the support of the school's football team. Two of those alumni are San Francisco 49ers defensive back Darnell Walker and Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Hollis Thomas.

This type of support, both financial and participatory, is what Walls believes Sumner and the PHL need to fight a holding action until the desegregation program is phased out or becomes a less attractive option for city kids. So even as Walls retires, he will do what he can to bolster Sumner's football program, trying to build on the past to make the best of an uncertain future.

"Deseg has killed the city's athletic programs," Walls says. "If deseg ever ends, it'll be just like it used to be. The PHL will be the toughest league around. I just hate that I'm going out before it happens, because it's going to happen.

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