By Dick Trone
During my long career I have experienced a lot of very exciting contests. It is funny to think that the game that I rate as my most emotional and most exciting was not a game where I was a coach or a player.
It was the 2002 Northcoast Section C.I.F. championship basketball game. Del Norte High School was coached by two outstanding Warrior coaches, Kirk Burrows head coach assisted by Dale Thomas, a former outstanding Warrior head coach. My involvement in the team is kind of a strange story that involved my old friend Ray Mattz who had passed away and a young man I learned to love¬óJustin Clifton.
Ray's involvement went back to when I was still the head football coach for the Warriors. One of our players had sustained an ankle sprain and I was doing some rehab work on him in the training room. In walked Ray with a bag of something in his hand. He said "Dick I have something that will speed up this young mans' recovery." He said "I have wormwood which really will help the healing." Ray, who was a man I really loved and respected told me wormwood was an old Indian remedy.
I said "OK, as long as he doesn't have to eat it you can't hurt him." He performed his magic and I saw immediate results. I later learned that wormwood for century's had been recognized for it's medical properties. I used it regularly until my retirement.
Fast foward to the start of the 2001-2002 basketball season. I was in attendance at an early game and noticied one of the Warrior standouts, Justin Clifton on crutches. In talking to Justin I found he had a bad ankle injury. He said he was not expected to play for about six weeks. I talked to Kirk and Justin's dad and received permission to see if we could speed up his rehab.
Back to the wormwood, I didn't have any and didn't know where to get any. Enter Floyd Clausen, another of our great Warrior supporters who showed up with a supply.
With some intensive rehab work Justin was back to limited practice in a week and playing in two weeks. Everyday for practice I taped his ankle and did the same for every game home and away.
The Warriors went on to win the league championship with Justin being a very important part of that effort. The Warriors made their way through the playoffs and were to play Piner High in Santa Rosa. With six minutes to go in the forth quarter the Warriors were down by 18 points. The team did not know how to quit. They started the most exciting comeback I have ever witnessed. With 7 seconds left in the game Piner still had a one point lead. Piner knocked the ball out of bounds under the Warrior basket. The inbounds pass went in to Justin who stepped around the defender and put the ball in to give the Warriors the one point lead.
I am sure the scream I let out could be heard all the way back to Crescent City. When Levi Pulley intercepted the inbound pass securing the Warriors first section basketball championship all I could do was sit on the end of the bench and cry.
I had just watched the most couragous comeback I had ever had the privelege to watch. Thank you Kirk, Dale and 2002 Warriors. This was an experience I will always treasure.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors, 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. Currently, he is head coach of the South Coast Storm semi-pro football team, formerly called the Siskiyou Savages.