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Football deep in Del Norte County's history

By Michelle Radison

Special to the Triplicate

Football has long been a world sport, beginning in the 2nd and 3rd century B.C. in China. There was also the Romans' form of the game, and a version in medieval Europe. The game as we know it stems from a combination of the English sports of rugby and soccer. After the Civil War in 1865, schools began to participate in the game.

In Del Norte, the game of football is a part of our history back to 1928, with players such as quarterback Maurice Enright, tackle Frank Endert and half back Dee Spann. For the last 79 years, Warrior fans have braved the chilly night air dressed in stocking caps, long underwear, and scarves, and faced the driving rain and strong winds to root on and support our teams. Others huddle close to the radio to hear the play-by-play in the warmth of their cars and homes.

The school newspaper the "POW WOW" reported weekly on the events of the football teams. One of the memorable events in Del Norte Football is the 1957 game when the Warriors traveled away to take on the opposing team. The game was played on a mud-soaked field with rain falling steadily in Arcata. In the final moments of the fourth quarter, a play by Drew Roberts won the game, sending the fans into an uproar.

An unfortunate event in 1950 happened when a large portion of the players were pulled from a game in South Fork due to "Lime Burns." The burns were caused by the chalk lines marking the field when a mistake was made and un-processed lime was used. The Warriors were unhappy with the circumstance of the loss.

Coach Tex Gatlin touched many lives on the team for many years, retiring in 1965. Tex is a legacy in Del Norte football history. The Triplicate reported that the dedicated coach "ate, slept, and breathed football. Opposing teams knew when the Warriors and Tex played; it was time to strap on their helmets tight and work hard. Coach Tex took the team to the coveted conference championship in 1963—tying Arcata—with players such as Terry DeGress, Bill Sullivan and Dan Sousa.

In 1969, Del Norte High School dedicated Whalen Field in honor of principal Mike Whalen. Sports enthusiasts were thrilled with the new snack shack and bleachers to hold a crowd of 4,500. The field was said to be "one of he brightest lit fields in the state" which can be beneficial on a foggy night when spectators squint to see the game only feet in front of them.


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