Badger pride was abundant Aug. 12 at the Oakhurst Elks Lodge as one coach and four great Yosemite High football players were inducted into the Yosemite Football Wall of Fame.
Current Badger head football coach JD Burnett served as master of ceremonies at the dinner attended by 130, that honored former players Quint Brown (class of 2003), Danny Smith (1988), Justen Peek (2002), and Aaron Wilkins (2006).
Eric Hansen, YHS science teacher and the first football coach at the school, was honored posthumously. After retiring to Arizona in 2004 with his wife of 46 years, Beverly, he passed away on May 1, 2013 from brain cancer. Accepting the honor on his behalf was Beverly and Hansen’s two sons Ryan and Eydin.
Hansen was the first Badger varsity coach and guided many first time players in 1976 and 77. 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 against Tranquility that second year.
“Eric proved to be the right coach for those times because he had the patience and temperament to coach such green players,” said former JV assistant coach Bob Miller. “As the defeats mounted, Eric maintained his optimism and always got super effort from his players.”
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.
Each player was introduced by their coach - Aaron Eames for Peek and Brown, and Raupp for Smith.
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 and was an Academic First Team All American in both his junior and senior year.
Eames told the gathering that Peek was one of the best leaders he has ever had the privilege to coach.
“Justen is also one of the best student athletes we have had in the history of the school,” Eames said. “He got his engineering degree at Cal Poly and now owns and runs a very successful engineering company in the Bay Area. He was at the forefront of getting our strength and conditioning program going. The legacy Justen left at Yosemite High School was his lead ership and dedication to training. His dedication was contagious to all the other players, and I feel his efforts changed our program, and it was then that Badger football really started to take off.”
Brown was a speedy all league running back that still holds eight school records. He helped the Badgers to the CIF D-III Central Section Championship, beating Coalinga in the 2002-03 season.
In describing Brown, Eames said pound-for-pound (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) he was simply the best player in the history of the school.
“He wasn’t big but he was a tough kid who played hard all time in practice and in games,” Eames said. “He was special because he had the speed to run outside, and he was tough enough to run inside.”
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.
Smith was the Badger 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 called Smith the most versatile quarterback he ever coached, being equally adept at throwing the ball and running the option.
All three former Badgers thanked their families, coaches and the community for the support they received during their careers at YHS.
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 to 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.
Wilkins, now a line coach at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA., was unable to attend the event.
“Saturday’s dinner was well attended, and it was great to relive some exciting times in Badger football history,” said Erik Peterson, president of the YHS Football Boosters.
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 Raupp, a former Yosemite Unified School District Superintendent.
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 over the past 40 years.