The green frog sat proudly on the end of the bench watching over the 1953 Del Norte Warrior varsity basketball team.
The 1953 Warriors were a very talented group of athletes. The team won the Humboldt-Del Norte conference basketball championship for the first time in about 20 years. The Warriors only lost one game during the entire season. Arcata defeated the Warriors the first time they played in a close game, but the Warriors came back and defeated Arcata soundly the second time they played.
The Del Norte starting five featured names that old Warrior fans remember well. Lee Templeton and Larry Taylor both broke the league single season scoring record. They were joined by Nick Perry, Lawrence Kohlmeier and Rod Griffin. Rod was a 2011 inductee into the Warrior Athletic Hall of Fame for his outstanding play in football, basketball and baseball. Lee Templeton went on to St. Mary’s University, where he played basketball and baseball for one year before signing a professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees.
Larry Taylor went on to Humboldt State and led it to a conference title as its top scorer. The team also had a strong bench that included Carroll Zozzel, Melvin Drews, Earl Forsythe, Tom Howard, Allen Drews, Gordon Williams and Dean Williams.The team was coached by Tex Gatlin, an outstanding longtime Warrior favorite.
I had the pleasure of watching this team play a number of times and I always noticed that sitting on the end of the bench was a stuffed green frog. I asked Lee Templeton what the significance of the green frog was. He said “that is our mascot, he holds this team together.”
Rod Griffin brought the frog in at the start of the season, sat it on the end of the bench, and while it was there the team just kept winning, so at all the home or away games you would see Mr. Frog sitting on his special place. I was at the last game of the season when Del Norte was playing Fortuna in a game the Warriors had to win to clinch the championship. After the game I was complimenting Lee on a great year. He pointed and said, “it’s the frog.”
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors and graduated in 1951, had an illustrious career on the gridiron at Humboldt State University. Trone was head football coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring.