Every time I see former Warrior Justin Clifton, exciting memories come flooding back.
Justin played both football and basketball while at Del Norte. In his senior year he was an outstanding tight end for the Warriors. His athletic ability and excellent hands made him a great target for quarterback Flynt Pierce.
Flynt is the younger brother of Buck Pierce, who now plays professionally in Canada, and like his brother was an excellent quarterback.
While Justin was good on the gridiron, he was even better on the basketball court. He was part of the 2002 team that won the Humboldt Del Norte League and then went on to win the Warriors first-ever North Coast Section basketball championship.
Those Warrior fans that traveled to Santa Rosa to watch Del Norte play Piner High School will never forget the exciting comeback the Warriors made under the coaching of Kirk Burrows and Dale Thomas to win the championship.
I can still see the Piner player making a basket at the start of the fourth quarter to put Piner up by 18 points. That Piner player ran back down the court with one finger in the air signaling they were No. 1. Little did he know that Del Norte was not ready to agree with him.
What happened during the final 7 minutes of that fourth quarter showed the great character this group of young men possessed. They would not quit. The Warriors kept chipping away at that 18-point lead and with just seven seconds to go and Piner leading by 1 point, Piner knocked the ball out of bounds under the Warrior basket.
The inbounds pass went to Justin Clifton, who stepped around the defender and put the ball in the hoop to give Del Norte a 1-point victory. When Justin scored, the yell I made could probably be heard back in Crescent City.
To overcome an 18-point lead in less than a quarter against a championship team is just unheard of. Then to see Justin, a young man I had become close to, do what he did was special.
The way that group of Warriors pulled together and battled to the end is something I will always remember.
Like many former Warriors, Justin is back living in Crescent City and working at Pelican Bay and can be seen at athletic events supporting the Warriors.
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 football head coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring.