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Hall of Fame inductees are evening's biggest stars

June 02, 2001|By TOM RONCO, (Special to this newspaper)

The turnout for Friday night's North/South high school senior all-star football game was impressive, yet you left the game feeling the fans were there as much for the halftime induction ceremony of the Imperial Valley Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame player and coach inductees as to watch the game itself.

"I thought the half-time was very impressive. There were quite a few local players and coaches and it was a great opportunity to bring them out and blow off the cobwebs," said Doug Dahm of Brawley. "I was impressed with the caliber of the coaches and I didn't know some of their accomplishments. … It was nice to give credit where credit is due."

"It's important to recognize there is football history in the Valley," said Suzanne Rutherford, an IVFCA member and football fan. "We had a good response regarding the Hall of Fame from people who felt this was not only positive but long overdue."


The concept of honoring coaches as well as players was there from the beginning.

"Once we decided to have the game, we felt at halftime we'd induct players and everyone agreed to add coaches, too," said the IVFCA's Mike Swearingen. "When you look at the time coaches spend with players, they become a parent figure to a lot of them."

If the fans were excited by the induction ceremony, the coaches were ecstatic.

"I wasn't expecting to be next to coaches I've admired," said Holtville inductee Sam Faulk. "It was truly an honor to come out next to someone like Bob Farrell."

Faulk and co-coach Bob Wynkoop were Holtville's first inductees.

Joining them on the field was fellow co-coach Marv Wood, who was being inducted as a player representing Holtville football from the 1950s.

"To have the three of us out there together was great," said Faulk. "It made it special because we worked well together for a number of years and this is a nice way to end it."

The family of the late Central coach Cal Jones also felt a sense of closure.

"Our family is very pleased with this honor," said his widow, Elaine. "We are glad to see the coaches are getting together as a group and that they honored Cal."

"It is an honor to be here for my Dad and we miss him very much," said his son Emanuel. "It is nice to know that other people respected what he accomplished at Central."

Farrell was honored to be Brawley's first inductee.

"It's been 37 years since I coached, and sometimes you feel like you are living in the past," said Farrell who won three CIF championships. "Brawley's had a lot of great coaches including Art Lehay, who won a CIF title in the 1932 beating Escondido 24-13, so it's an honor to be the first one from Brawley."

For Imperial's John Tyree, who led Imperial to its only Southern Section in 1973, the night was as much a homecoming as an induction.

"It's been a lot of years since I coached here, but it's good to see the old field where I spent a lot of hours," said Tyree, who has won another CIF crown with Muir High of Pasadena. "It was also good to see Larry (Stevens, a player inductee) and Ed Bilderback, who was my assistant coach in '72 and '73."

Tyree also admitted that if his memory of the weather had faded over the years, he still knew his football field.

"It was very hot and sunny when I got here today, but I planted those trees over there in the southwest corner of the stadium when I was coach," said Tyree. "I never thought I'd need them but I headed right over there to the shade today!"

"When you became head coach after John left, the first thing the school gave you was the ‘key' so you could water those trees," added Bilderback with a laugh.

In addition to being honored at their induction, most of the coaches saw the ceremony as part of a bigger picture, that of remembering and preserving the history of football in the Imperial Valley.

While the IVFCA is in its first year, football coaches have been meeting since the sport was first played in the Valley.

"We used to meet as a league but not as a separate coaches' organization," said Farrell of the days before athletic directors. "Once a month the coaches and principals got together with the principals deciding the issues and coaches advising."

"There was an association back when I coached here and our first all-star game took place in Brawley." said Tyree. "It's great that Mike (Swearingen) has kept this all-star game going."

"Mike was coaching at IVC at the time," Tyree continued. "After the first year Jimmy Dale and the Imperial Lions Club got involved and used it as a fund-raiser."

It wasn't just a local game in those days.

"We included players from Yuma and the old Chaparral League teams like Needles, Yucca Valley and 29 Palms," added Bilderback.

"The players stayed at the Navy Base (Seeley) for 10 days in June. It was something."

The association faded in the mid-1970s but has not only resurrected itself as a way for coaches to communicate but also in a broader context.

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