When the Early family opened a dry-cleaning business in Crescent City in the late 1940s they brought with them a Warrior athlete that became a fun teammate.
When I put on my first Warrior football uniform at the start of my sophomore year, I joined Ray Early as a junior, and he became a two-year teammate as a Warrior and a one-year teammate as a Humboldt State Lumberjack.
Ray was a big, strong athletic guy with an outgoing personality.
The Warriors were coached by Brick Bralich, a former standout Lumberjack who only stayed one year. The next year, when Ray was a senior, Chuck DeAutremont took over the program and football really became fun.
Coach DeAutremont really took advantage of Ray’s ability, and he never got to leave the field, playing both offense and defense. He was a real standout on defense with his tough, aggressive attitude.
There were not a lot of games won, but we played everybody tough.
When football season ended, Ray took to the basketball court, where his size really helped the Warriors. The team was in contention for a league title, but came up just a little short at the end.
There was one play that Ray made that I always remember. We were playing up at Hoopa and there were only seconds remaining until halftime. Del Norte had the ball out of bounds under the Hoopa basket. Ray took the inbound pass, turned and heaved it the length of the court. It barely got higher than the basket, but the ball hit the square on the backboard and went down the hoop for a long two-pointer. Funny, the things you remember.
When Ray graduated from high school he entered the service during the Korean conflict. When he got out of the service he enrolled at Humboldt State.
It was the same time I was re-entering Humboldt after my tour of Korea, and we became teammates and friends again. While at Humboldt, Ray started dating Jane Wylie, another Warrior graduate, and they ended up getting married.
Warriors like to stick together. Ray’s fun-loving ways made him a real fun teammate and friend.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High sports. He played football for the Warriors and graduated in 1951, later serving as the school’s football coach for a number of years.