WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Dec. 15, 2009— -- Seconds into Friday's championship game between two 13-0 teams, quarterback Montana threw a spiraling, 73-yard Hail Mary down the wet field. It was a touchdown.
Legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana clapped calmly in the bleachers as the crowd around him went wild. His son, Nick Montana of Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., had just started the rainy Northwest Division high school finals off with a bang.
Camera flashes popped around the spitting image of his father.
"I've gotten used to the media attention," said Nick, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior who is headed to the University of Washington on a football scholarship next year.
"I guess it's a little more comforting having Trevor and Trey out there with me. Especially Trey. He gets most of the attention because of the movies and stuff."
The sons of two of the greatest athletes of all time and one of the most recognizable actors of this generation played side-by-side this year on the same high school football team.
Their dads' presence often created a game-time buzz that threatened to overshadow or, at least, distract the sons who have enough trouble navigating their place in a world full of non-celebrity offspring.
"One celebrity kid on one team is one thing," said Julie Albright, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. "A constellation of three celebrity kids on one team means their stars shine pretty bright."
While some people have nicknamed Oaks Christian "Hollywood High" because of the trio of famous football fathers, the boys didn't quite understand what all the hubbub was about, insisting that their families were just like any others in the stands.
"I guess some people are star-struck a little bit but my dad is a normal dad and we're just normal kids," Nick, 17, said of his eight-time Pro Bowler father who won four Super Bowls, three of them as most valuable player.
Oaks Christian School is a private, non-denominational school that's an hour's drive from Hollywood. Tuition is just under $30,000 a year.
Its 10-year-old football team has won six district championships and boasts 120 victories, 12 losses and one tie.
Accolades for Oaks Christian
USA Today had the team ranked as high as No. 5 this year on the Super 25 high school football list. Malcolm Jones, the team's running back-linebacker, was selected last week as Gatorade's national player of the year in football.
But such accolades were not the only reason the Lions' players and parents were hounded by media and fans.
"Keep an eye out for Will Smith," a teen from the opposing school whispered while wandering through the Oaks Christian bleachers at Friday's final.
It was common knowledge that the teens' fathers showed up for nearly every game. "He's only missed one so far," back-up quarterback Trevor Gretzky, a 6-foot-4, 190 pound junior who hopes to play college football and baseball, said of his hockey-legend dad. "And it was a pretty big deal why he missed."
Nick Montana's father was a regular in the bleachers as well. "Sometimes he'll be on the sidelines if I want a couple of tips," he said. "But he's normally there to say go have fun with the guys."
Trey, a 6-foot, 165-pound junior who played his first year as a varsity wide receiver, broke his foot two weeks ago and was out for Friday's game but said his father supported him at almost every single game throughout the season.
"Their parents are fixtures in these stands," an Oaks Christian parent said. "And, boy, do those cameras come after them."
Sociologist Albright said, "Being a kid is hard enough. Growing up in the shadows of a celebrity parent is even more difficult."
Trevor Gretzky agreed with the sentiment. "It probably does make it harder to separate yourself and be your own individual," he said. "But my parents are the most supportive people I know."
Young Gretzky No Hockey Player
When young Gretzky figured out in middle school that hockey wasn't a good fit, his father encouraged him to play other sports.
"My dad knew my heart wasn't in hockey so he pushed me toward football and baseball," he said. "He knew I wanted to play something different. He's really behind me 100 percent."
Nick Montana said his father has tried to encourage him to be his own person, a complicated task because he plays the same sport as his legendary dad.
"He's done a good job of trying to alleviate all the pressure he can," Nick said. "He's a laid-back guy and he wants to let me do my own thing. I think that's helped."
Indeed, his parents hesitated to even let him play football when he was growing up.
"I had to nag them to play tackle football," Nick said. "My mom wanted to keep us out as long as possible, but finally me and my brother asked them enough times that they let us start playing in the fifth-grade."
Nick is far from living in the shadows of his father, Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. "There's, naturally, comparisons but Nick is his own person," Redell said. "His dad and mom go way out of the way to stay out of the limelight and stay out of the picture."
Despite their best efforts, however, that's not entirely possible.
"Celebrities in our country serve the role of American royalty," Albright said. "These boys are our princes and everyone is looking to these kids to see if they'll take over the crown."
The Lions lost their division championship 42-41 to Serra High School. While they won't be moving on to states, the players will be getting a break from the spotlight. At least for a little while.