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Former Mount Shasta coach Cliff Blakely to take over Yreka High boys hoops program

Bill Choy
Cliff Blakely. File photo

A person familiar to Siskiyou County basketball fans has been named the new head varsity boys basketball coach at Yreka High School.

Former Mount Shasta Bears head coach Cliff Blakely replaces Louie Sanchez, who stepped down at the end of April.

Blakely retired as head coach with the Bears in 2019 after seven years and had an amazing run with the Division 5 program, which included taking them to the CIF D5 State Championship game for the first time since 1929 in his final year as coach.

Cliff said he missed coaching high school basketball and when the opening at Yreka High School came up he applied.

“I have a passion for basketball,” said Blakely.

“I’ve been doing this pretty much my whole life.” he added, “I’m very excited and am ready to start.”

YHS athletic director Ken Dysert said they interviewed a number of quality candidates for the position, but Blakely stood out.

“Cliff has been successful in any coaching setting he has been in,” said Dysert. “It is a great opportunity for our school and our athletes to have a coach with Cliff’s experience accept the job.”

Sanchez had coached at his alma mater for more than 15 years, including the past three years as head coach. The Miners went 12-16 overall last season and earned a Northern Section Division 4 playoff berth. Yreka made the playoffs all three years under Sanchez.

Blakely retired as head coach at MSHS with a number of accomplishments under his belt.

Cliff compiled a 163-41 overall record – a .799 winning percentage. The Bears won five Shasta Cascade League championships, reached the semi-final round of the section playoffs, and won back-to-back Northern Section D5 Championships in 2018 and 2019.

The 2018-2019 Bears dominated and went 33-2 and won the CIF Northern California regional championship and made it to the D5 State Championship in Sacramento.

The Bears lost to Foothill – a school in Bakersfield of more than 2,000 students – by a score of 78-66. The loss snapped a 28-game win streak.

“It was awesome to watch our team achieve this,” Blakely recalled about all his team accomplished in his final year with the Bears. He said he was proud of the players he coached and enjoyed watching as all their hard work and dedication paid off in a big way.

This past season, Blakely was the head coach for Golden Eagle Charter School’s middle school boys basketball team

Blakely said he loves to coach and teach his players. He said that he always expects them to work and practice hard and be dedicated.

For Cliff, his goal as a coach is to have his team trust and respect each other, be dedicated, and make sacrifices for each other, understand their role, execute, and try to win games.

He said each team he has coached is different and that he tries to adjust to the talents of each individual team.

“I try to play to the team’s strengths depending on personnel,” Cliff said.

Blakely is excited to meet his new players and hopefully be able to conduct summer workouts once things are deemed safe enough due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that high school summer leagues have already been called off in Redding. He said he understands the pandemic could potentially cause delays in the hoops season this winter and is taking a wait and see approach.

Cliff was born and raised in McCloud and graduated from McCloud High School before playing basketball for two years at College of the Siskiyous in Weed. He was also an assistant coach with the 1986 McCloud Loggers basketball team that won a section title and was one game away from a state championship game before losing in the semifinals. Blakely also was the head boys coach at McCloud for a number of years. He is retired from the U.S. Forest Service and is a Mount Shasta resident.

Dysert said he was impressed with Blakely’s track record of success, along with how he demands hard work and dedication from his players.

“My hopes for our athletes are to learn how to be successful, realize that it takes hard work and dedication to be successful,” Dysert said. “I would love to see the team be competitive in all aspects of the game, and be respectful young men. I want to see our programs play good defense and be competitive.”