Sports

Football Wall of Fame dinner Saturday

YHS 1988 graduate and quarterback, Danny Smith, was selected to play on the Cal-Hi Sports All-State team on defense his senior year.
YHS 1988 graduate and quarterback, Danny Smith, was selected to play on the Cal-Hi Sports All-State team on defense his senior year. Submitted Photo

The first football coach at Yosemite High School and four former standout players will be recognized for their contributions to the school’s football program Saturday night during the YHS Football Boosters Wall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Elk’s Lodge.

This year’s dinner will honor Danny Smith (class of 1988), Justen Peek (2002), Quint Brown (2003) and Aaron Wilkins (2006). Eric Hansen, YHS science teacher and the first football coach at the school, will be honored posthumously.

Last year was the inaugural Wall of Fame dinner that honored Chris Mullins (class of 1984), Bonner Cunnings (1991), Roosevelt Cooks (2001), Cole Popovich (2003), and retired coach (1979-1989) and former Yosemite Unified School District Superintendent Steve Raupp in front of a sold-out crowd at the Masonic Lodge.

Eric Hansen: Hansen was the first Badger varsity coach for two years, 1976 and 77. He was assisted by Art Lopez and Bob Larkins was the JV coach assisted by Barry Bartlett. Prior to Yosemite he was a successful coach at Chowchilla High School.

In those early days YHS had no feeder program (the youth program came a couple years later) or football tradition in Oakhurst, and a lot of time was spent coaching the fundamentals of the game to players who had never put on a football uniform.

“All our opponents were schools with a long football tradition and with more experienced players,” said former JV assistant coach Bob Miller. “Eric proved to be the right coach for those times because he had the patience and temperament to coach such green players. As the defeats mounted, Eric maintained his optimism and always got super effort from his players.”

The Badgers only had one win in those first two years, but Hansen will always be remembered as the coach that got the first football win in the history of the school - 6-0 over Tranquility in 1977.

Hansen served as an assistant football coach under Steve Raupp from 1984 to 1989 and was part of two league championship teams in 1984 and 1987.

Hansen was also the school’s first wrestling coach, with practices held on the football field because the school gym had yet to be built at the time. He also coached golf and tennis for many years.

Ellen Peterson, 40-year teacher and coach at YHS before retiring after the 2016 school year, remembers Hansen as a mentor to students and other teachers and was responsible for her Christian-based coaching foundation.

“Every student adored him ... his kindness ... his gentleness,” Peterson said. “He taught me his teaching philosophy which I have lived by for 40 years - relationships before curriculum.”

Peterson remembers the time the track team was in Chowchilla early for a meet that Hanson would be at as the official starter.

“Eric flew over the field in his plane, and as a way of recognizing our team, he dipped his wings,” Peterson said. “Then he landed and drove to the meet.”

Peterson called Hansen “the essence of a man who adored his family, his friends, and his life.”

After retiring to Arizona in 2004 with his wife of 46 years, Beverly, he passed away on May 1, 2013 from brain cancer.

His sons Ryan, Eydin and Beverly will represent Eric at the dinner.

Danny Smith (1988): Smith was the Badger’s starting quarterback and linebacker for three seasons (1985-87), was selected to play in the City-County All Star game, and was selected to Cal-Hi Sports All-State team on defense his senior year. That same year he led the Badgers to a small school No. 3 state ranking by Cal-Hi Sports.

Smith led the Badgers to three playoff appearances, set school single game and season passing records, and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player on the 1987 championship team.

Raupp, who was inducted to the Wall of Fame last year, said Smith was the most versatile quarterback he ever coached and was equally adept at throwing the ball and running the option.

Justen Peek (2002): Peek was a three-year starting varsity quarterback for the Badgers who also played safety his sophomore and junior year, and linebacker his senior year.

Peek went on to be a four-year starting linebacker at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (2004-07), being named to the All Great West Conference in his junior and senior year.

He was also named Cal Poly’s Male Athlete of the Year his senior year. In addition, Peek was being named an Academic First Team All American in both his junior and senior year.

“Being selected to the YHS Wall of Fame is a huge honor,” Peek said. “I remember looking up at the wall in the gym when I was a freshman and saw the name Caleb Roop, who was the state CIF high school Scholar Athlete of the Year ... and thinking how I wanted to have my name up there. My name is not up there but I will have a nice plaque with my name on it at Badger Stadium. I’m pretty excited to be part of the second group of inductees into the YHS football Wall of Fame.”

Quint Brown (2003): Brown was a speedy all league running back that still holds eight school records - most career touchdowns (31), career points (192), career rushing yards (3,011), season rushing yards (1,935), career 100 yard games (16), season 100 yard games (11), most career carries (447), and most season carries (290).

Playing for Aaron Eames, he helped lead the Badgers to the CIF D-III Central Section Championship, beating Colinga in the 2002-03 season.

At 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, Brown wasn’t one of the biggest running backs to play at YHS, but he certainly was one of the fastest, who could cut on a dime and change direction in a blink of an eye.

He credited Badger running backs before him, Bonner Cunnings and Phil Brandstetter, for teaching him the fundamentals of being a running back and how to stay composed mentally during games.

After Yosemite, Brown played one year as the staring running back at Monterey Peninsula Junior College where he ran for 900 yards, with 400 receiving yards for the Lobos, who went 11-1 and appeared in a bowl game in 2004.

Now a bartender at the Daily Grill in Fresno, he is also a member of the California National Guard based in San Luis Obispo, and is looking forward to Saturday’s dinner.

“This is great - I’m excited to receive this awesome honor,” Brown said.

Aaron Wilkins (2006): Wilkins was an outstanding safety and running back for the Badgers, named all league in his junior and senior year and league MVP at the end of the 2005 season, after rushing for 1,200 yards and making 160 tackles from his outside linebacker position.

He went on the play two years at Reedley College, where he was named the Central Conference Player of the Year and a JC All American. Wilkins then played two years at the University of San Diego, before getting into coaching.

After three years as an assistant, Wilkins has been named the defensive line coach for the Liberty University Eagles in Lynchburg, VA., a member of the Big South Conference.

“It’s very humbling to be selected for the Yosemite High Wall of Fame,” Wilkins said. “I’m looking forward to being at the dinner.”

YHS Football Booster Club President Erik Peterson said the decision was made a year ago to have a Wall of Fame for YHS football due to the long list of talented athletes that have been a part of Badger football history.

Details: Wall of Fame Induction Dinner, Elks Lodge, 42484 Highway 41 - Tickets $40 - Erik Peterson, (559) 760-3331.

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