Little did Del Norte Warrior football fans realize when the Warriors played their first interscholastic football game in 1924 how long it was going to be before the football team would win its first league championship.
The 1924 team was coached by Charles Thunen, and it is interesting to note that 35 years later, when the Warriors won their first championship in 1959, Thunen was still an administrator in the district.
During this time, Del Norte had six head football coaches before getting to Tex Gatlin, who took over in 1953.
Tex came to Del Norte in the fall of 1950 as an assistant to Chuck DeAutremont. Tex led Warrior athletic teams for many exciting years, but few could be more exciting than the 1959 football team.
This group posted a 7-2 season and ended the year as league champions. Unfortunately, back then there was no playoff system. The team split its games with Eureka, losing the first time 15-14, then turning around and beating the Loggers in the second game, 13-12.
It also split against Fortuna, losing the first game 26-13. Del Norte met the Huskies in the last game of the season, needing a win to secure its first-ever league championship. The Warriors turned up the heat and downed Fortuna 35-0, which was a fitting way to end an exciting season.
I have had the pleasure of writing about several members of that team, and I look forward to writing about several more in the future. Dan Sousa, Charles Mathews and Larry Baker are three that went on to outstanding college and coaching careers.
Owen Westbrook, an end on the team, had a great career at San Francisco State, earning varsity letters in three sports. Jim Barneburg ended up devoting a lot of time coaching as a Warrior assistant. Gary Bramon and Ron Hintz were recognized by coach Gatlin on his Dream Team of the ’50s. Frank Sperry, Dan Sousa, Gary Bramon, Charles Mathews, Jim Tomasini and Kenny Mattz were all selected to the All League Team.
After the 1959 team we had another long wait, as the next league championship was 23 years later. The 1982 Warriors were the second to win the league and the first to go to the section playoffs.
Fortunately, now we look forward every year to a possible championship, and the Warriors are almost always in the race.
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.