Coaching great to be honored

Above, the 1973 Gavilan football championship team that will be honored is pictured. Below, the legendary Bobby Garcia is featured on a South Valley Newspapers football preview cover for the 1990 season. South Valley Newspapers file photo

The coaching legend of Bobby Garcia will live on forever in the
annals of the junior college history books. The gridiron guru of
Gavilan College has groomed championship teams and future NFL
players in his hay day.
But Saturday night at San Benito High will be another proud
moment for the father of 49ers’ Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia as
his 1973 national championship team will come together along with
some of his other former players in a special half-time
tribute.
The coaching legend of Bobby Garcia will live on forever in the annals of the junior college history books. The gridiron guru of Gavilan College has groomed championship teams and future NFL players in his hay day.

But Saturday night at San Benito High will be another proud moment for the father of 49ers’ Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia as his 1973 national championship team will come together along with some of his other former players in a special half-time tribute.

“We’re not getting any younger,” said Garcia, who is filled with fond memories of coaching at Gavilan College from 1972-1978, a one-year stint in 1982 and a finale from 1984-1990. “Not only the 1973 team but all the players, I like to think they learned something from us. That their experience was very positive.”

“We as coaches learned a lot from the guys, too,” the coach added. “I’m so proud, even the teams that weren’t successful I have so much pride for the kids who played for me and believed in the program, believed in themselves and the coaches.”

This year’s Gavilan football team – headed up by Coach John Lango – will suit up for a Coast Conference clash against long-time rival Hartnell at 7 p.m.

The Gavilan football alumni will first have a banquet at the Forest Park Inn on Friday night with Juaquin Puente, who fell through the roof at Gilroy Foods and lost his arm, as a special guest, and then a tailgate party at 6 p.m. prior to kick-off inside the stadium.

“It’s so hard (to get the players together) because everyone is scattered throughout the nation,” Garcia said. “I look back a lot of these guys and some have become really successful in everyday life things. It’s going to be an unbelievable feeling to get all the guys in a room telling stories and reminiscing.”

There are more than 100 of Garcia’s former players expected to show up for the weekend events. Off the undefeated 1973 championship team will be nose guard Marshall Sanchez, a Gilroyan now settled in Arizona; defensive end Ray Sanchez, of Hollister, whose nephew Roy Sims is a freshman on this year’s Rams; defensive tackle Ron Cherkas, who went on to Utah and then the Canadian Football League for 10 years; defensive end Al Cleveland, of Sacramento, who went on to the University of the Pacific; and defensive tackle Mike Drier, of Santa Cruz.

“This team had some talent to begin with. The other thing was they were all tremendous workers,” Garcia said. “That team, they used to get together and have a good time after the game. They were always together. They believed in one another and believed in the coaches.”

Members of Garcia’s coaching staff who will be present are Coach Ed Johnson, a former Gilroy High football coach who is at Fresno now; offensive line coach Paul Latzke; Coach Jerry Valenzuela, of Morgan Hill; and manager Julian Torres, a Gilroyan who lives in Sacramento.

“Football was my life. I was really fortunate that I had some great assistant coaches. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Garcia said. “The whole staff that I had always had a great relationship with the guys.”

Other 1973 championship players listed to come are: defensive back Jerry Filice, who earned a full ride to Fresno State; running back Hector Flores, who went on to play at Long Beach State; defensive end/kicker John Flores, a teacher in San Jose; kicker Wayne Fox, who went on to Sacramento State; fullback Tom Heard, who lives in Colorado Springs; tight end Steve Lira; and defensive back Dennis Martinez.

In addition, offensive tackle Ken Peer, whose son Clay plays at Gavilan; linebacker Mike Powell, of Gilroy; receiver/kicker Randy Ragon, who went on to the UC-Riverside; tight end/running back Jim Smith; quarterback Dick Stoddard, who went on to Fresno State; and defensive back Greg Zazueta.

The famed list also includes safety Mike Mavromatis, an All-American who set the national record with 22 interceptions and went on to Long Beach State, and defensive back Butch Henry, who was confined to a wheel chair after breaking his neck in a game against Hartnell. Henry teaches at Chabot College in Concord.

Two former Rams who then played at University of California, Red Hall and Ryan Peery, will also be welcomed. Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz is also played for Garcia at Gavilan College.

Sixteen full scholarships to four-year universities were achieved by Coach Garcia’s boys whether to go on and play football or for a continued education.

“That’s unbelievable,” said Garcia, who looks forward to seeing all of his former players through the years.

The 1973 championship team went 11-0 that historic season. Garcia only fielded a 37-man roster. The Rams trailed in six of their nine regular-season games at halftime.

“I was going crazy (in the locker room) and the kids would come to me and say, ‘it’s in the bag,'” Garcia said. “It was an unbelievable experience.”

In their first playoff game, the Rams trounced Sierra College by a 62-12 spread. Then in the championship game, Gavilan took it all with a 20-0 shutout of Mira Costa College in San Diego.

Garcia’s way worked out for the best and his players respected him for that. After games, Garcia would have his players over to his house for pizza, barn dancing, and watching the film on the game.

“When I got out of coaching, my wife said, ‘what are we going to do now,'” said Garcia, whose players sent him and his wife to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl one year in gratitude. “They were my extended family. The last five years after every home game kids would say, ‘Coach can we come to your house after game?'”

The answer was always yes.

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