Tigers cement accomplishment with championship rings

Richard DuPertuis
Seven Dunsmuir High School seniors, also seven triumphing football players, pump fists bearing seven championship rings commemorating their seizure of section title for 2102. Head Coach Ray Kellar gave these rings out last, after the coaches and underclassmen received theirs, during a championship ring ceremony in the school auditorium Thursday because, he said, they've been the program for four years and deserved special recognition. From left to right, Dylan Brashear, James Adams, Mason Mekeel, Justin DeClusin, Cody Hagedon, Jeff Rhoades and Jacob Greeno.  Photo by Richard DuPertuis

I’m back in my helmet, cleats and shoulder pads –

Standing in the huddle, listening to the call,

Fans going crazy for the boys of fall.

They didn’t let just anybody in that club.

Took every once of heart and sweat and blood,

To get to wear those game day jerseys down the hall –

Kings of the school man, we’re the boys of fall.

– Kenny Chesney, “The Boys of Fall”

If there was one thing the coaches of Dunsmuir High School wanted their football champions to take home with them Thursday night, it was the knowledge that theirs was an accomplishment that will be forever remembered: these Tigers won the section football championship in the fall of 2012.

The other thing each of the small town heroes took home that night was a ring, handed out in ceremony to all football players and coaches. A carved band of silvery metal, framing an orange stone of topaz, the championship ring is of little intrinsic value, but what it represents to the recipients makes it priceless.

“Winning the championship is something that sticks to the school, and it sticks to the community,” DHS Superintendent Len Foreman told the crowd that filled the school auditorium. “It’s a big deal.” He told of a group of Dunsmuir alumni who meet four times every year in a Redding casino. These are the boys, now men in their retirement years, who won the state championship in 1961, and they’re still talking about it. “Fifty years later, it’s still a big deal,” said Foreman.

Before the ring ceremony, assistant coach Scott Sordahl said that while young, you don’t really know how great an accomplishment it is. A Fall River alumni, he was a member of the basketball team that took the section title in 1983. “This is a great occasion. It’s the first time this has happened in this school,” he said. “These kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.”

“There was no section championship in 1961,” said head coach Ray Kellar, explaining how 2012 was the first such championship won by the school.

Kellar opened the ceremony by reading back to the team its accomplishments. “We were Number One in the Northern Section for interceptions. Number One for punt returns,” said Kellar. “We were Number Two in tackling. Number Two in rushing, with 4,152 yards. This had a lot to do with Mr. (Justin) DeClusin, but there were seven other players contributing to that number.”

“We averaged 36.4 points [per game] in 13 contests,” Kellar continued. “The starters only played half the season. They came out gracefully in the first quarter. That’s how to win championships. It’s a process of learning. It’s a process of development.”

Kellar said the senior Tigers won 41 games and lost only 9 during their four years playing for the school, up from 36 and 6 for last year’s senior players, and 25 and 3 the year before that.

Jan Garrigus, president of the Dunsmuir High School Board of Trustees, stood before the players, coaches, staff and families to say, “I don’t think you know how proud we are of our small school for what you have done.”

She thanked the parents of the players for their support in the background, which made the championship quality of play possible.

The Ceremony of the Ring

Handing out the championship rings one at a time, Kellar first recognized assistant coaches Scott Sordahl, Chris Ballard, Robert Wallace and Jimmy Palmer.

After the ceremony, Kellar said Sordahl and Palmer helped with equipment, first aid, and general team support. He credited Wallace as special teams coach who helped with the offense. Of Ballard, he said, “He developed my offense. He ran my offense.” Kellar said he ran defense himself.

After his coaches stepped forward to accept their rings, Kellar quietly picked up one for himself. He called up, one by one, all the underclass players.

Before long, lining the floor in front of the auditorium stage, stood Thomas Welch, Kris McClendon, Justin Dutra, Andrew Rodriguez, Jacob Mitchell, Shawn Adams, Adam Camphouse, Chase Sordahl, Tommy Stibi, Hunter Kirch, Brian Taylor, Dayton Pepperdine, CJ Palmer, Randy Hix, Trent Johnson and Andrew Connor. Junior Tiger Joey Campbell was unable to attend.

Recognized as a separate body, the senior players were called to add to the line, already wrapping around behind the food station. Jacob Greeno, Dylan Brashear, James Adams, Mason Mekeel, Cody Hagedon, Justin DeClusin, and Jeff Rhoades finished the line.

Afterward, Kellar said he gave special consideration to the seniors because, “They’ve been the program for four years. They deserve the recognition.”

He described the accomplishment as a pinnacle in life. “It's a once in a lifetime situation for most. I hope some of these players experience this again,” Kellar said. “They are going to put these rings away, and some day they will tell their grandchildren what this is all about.”

For sophomore Hunter Kirch, it’s now a memory of a game against Redding Christian coming to the end one day in November. Kirch was on the sidelines, “Watching the last few seconds of the clock running down. Screaming and yelling came from our side of the field. There was excitement from every football player. It was a mosh pit.”

On the field, junior CJ Palmer knew they had it, leading those final seconds 34-15. “It was the greatest feeling in my life,” he said, looking back at the championship win. “We knew we were the team to beat this year.”

He said it was a comeback for the team, after losing to the Lions earlier in the season 24-16. “Everybody was running toward each other, tears running down our cheeks,” he said. “To be honest, Kenny Chesney’s ‘Boys of Fall’ fit our description.”