Inaugural YHS football ‘Wall of Fame’

Bonner Cunnings
Bonner Cunnings

Four of the best players to ever strap on a Yosemite High School football helmet in the past 40 years, and a retired coach, will be inducted in to the inaugural class of the school’s football Wall of Fame next month.

The Yosemite Football Booster Club has announced a Wall of Fame Induction Dinner - 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Oakhurst Masonic Lodge.

Booster Club President Erik Peterson said the decision was made to have a Wall of Fame for Yosemite football due to the long list of talented athletes that have been a part of Badger football history over the school’s first 40 years.

“Everyone involved expressed how difficult it was to rank the nominees, since there has been so many great players at Yosemite High,” Peterson said.

Five Badgers to be honored

Chris Mullins (1984): Mullins was a three year starter playing quarterback, running back and outside linebacker, and was a key player in the Badger’s first two league championships. In both of those seasons (’83 and ‘84), the team captain led the team to wins over the top ranked team in the small school division in California, Dos Palos.

In ‘84, Mullins lead the team in rushing (12 TDs on 1,231 yards on 242 caries for a 5.1 yards per carry average), and was the second leading tackler on the team (155 tackles) that has seven shut-outs on the season.

For all his outstanding stats at quarterback, it was his play at linebacker that year that earned him North Sequoia League Defensive Player of the Year honors, Fresno Bee’s All Valley Team at linebacker, first team All-Northern California Team - and the biggest honor of them all - Cal-hi Sports California Small School Player of the Year.

Although all his records have been rewritten over the past 32 years, he at one time held nine Badger records.

Mullins played for Coach Steve Raupp.

“I am honored to be selected to the Yosemite High School Football Wall of Fame alongside my coach Steve Raupp,” Mullins said. “I was fortunate enough to have played in an era of great times for the YHS football program. I feel that the entire 1983 varsity team should be on this wall for knocking off the undefeated (29-0 at the time) State Champions Dos Polos Broncos.”

Bonner Cunnings (1991): In his first varsity game as a 165-pound sophomore against Kerman, Cunnings carried the ball nine time for 135 yards and two TDs in the Badger’s 19-0 win. His junior year (’89) he had 158 carries for 762 yards, seven TDs and was named the NSL Offensive Player of the Year.

In his senior year, he rushed for 1,388 yards on 176 carries, had an additional 600 yards receiving with 16 TDs. He was selected NSL Player of the Year for the second time, and played in both the City-County and North-South All Star games. He was honored by being named to the Cal-hi Sports All State Small School team. He was selected for the Fresno Bee All Valley team, and was a finalist for the CIF State Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

Cunnings was an all-round player who could run the ball, catch passes and block. During his senior year, he scored a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage of the first three games of the season.

Cunnings played St. Mary’s College in Moraga for four years ending his career as the fourth all time leading rusher at the school with 1,689 yards on 387 carries. In his senior year he scored four TDs against Columbia University, New York.

Coach Matt Mohulski remembers the 190-pound running back having the intangibles that are more important than any of his physical characteristics - integrity and character.

After college, Cunnings coached running backs at St Mary’s College for a year and then came back to coach at Yosemite for nine years as an assistant. Then he coached at Madera South two years before taking the head coaching job at Fresno Christian High School. That year, 2009, he was named the North Sequoia League coach of the year. He also coached at Lemoore High, and Madera High for three years (including a trip to the section title).

He is currently the O line and special teams coach at Merced College.

Roosevelt Cooks (2001): Cooks was a 5-foot-10, 190 pound tail back and middle linebacker for the Badgers and was named first team All-League at both positions his senior year, as well as being named the league’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year after running for 1,580 yards and 21 TDs.

He was selected to play in both the City-County and North-South All Star football Games.

Cooks, 33, is still the holder of five records at YHS: Most TDs in a single game (5), most TDs in a season (21), most points scored in a game (30) and in a season (126), and longest interception returned for a TD (68 yards).

One of cook’s teammates at YHS his senior year, was fellow Wall of Fame inductee Cole Popovich, who was a sophomore, under coach Aaron Eames.

After graduation, Cooks played two years at Fresno City College (18-4 record), and lead the team in tackles (111) and sacks (10) his sophomore year. That year he was named to the All State Junior College team.

Cooks then played two years at the University of Nevada as a 5-foot-10, 230 pound starting middle linebacker, and was co-captain of the team his senior year when he lead the team in tackles (98) and was named WAC second team All-Conference.

A game he remembers well was against Fresno State (ranked NO. 16 in the nation at the time) in 2005, when he lined up across from Popovich, in a game won by Nevada 38-34. It was the game after Fresno State’s one point loss to No. 1 ranked USC, and the win propelled Nevada (9-3) to the WAC championship that season.

“That was a real fun game for me to play against Cole and Fresno State, and even more fun to whip their butts,” Cooks said.

“I’m honored to be selected for the Yosemite Wall of Fame, especially to be in the first group of guys being inducted,” Cooks said. “I’m looking forward to attending the event and I hope the community supports Badger football by coming out to the dinner.”

Cole Popovich (2003): Popovich is arguably the most dominating lineman in the history of Yosemite High.

First-team selection on the Fresno Bee’s All-Star team as a offensive lineman, the three-year starter was a two-time All-Central Sequoia League selection, and guided Yosemite to the Sequoia Division Large School championship with a 12-1 record in 2003.

Recruited by Nebraska and UCLA, he decided to play close to home at Fresno State. He was the first player Yosemite history to receive a D- I scholarship, and was the first true freshman to start under Coach Pat Hill.

Popovich played offensive guard at Fresno State and the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder, who battled injuries throughout his college career, helped the Bulldogs to a 40-28 victory over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl in 2007.

He was a member of a Bulldog line that set a school record for fewest quarterback sacks (12), and opened holes for Dwayne Wright, the No. 6 rusher in the NCAA. In 2005, he was a unanimous selection for first-team Freshman All-American after starting 12 of 13 games at left guard.

Popovich, who played for Coach Aaron Eames at YHS, was instrumental in Fresno State’s offensive prowess all season, which produced a 1,000-yard rusher, a 3,000-yard passer and averaged just under 40 points per game.

He still holds three weight lifting records at YHS - bench press (365 pounds), clean lift (320), and total combined of four lifts (1,750).

Popovich began his coaching career at Valley College in 2010 as the strength and conditioning and offensive line coach. He moved on and joined Tony Caviglia’s Fresno City staff from 2011-13. In 2013, he joined Utah State as the football team’s offensive graduate assistant. He stayed with the Aggies for two seasons and helped the team to a Mountain Division championship and a Poinsettia Bowl victory.

Minot State hired Popovich in 2014 as the team’s offensive line coach. He was promoted to run game coordinator in 2015.

Popovich headed to Foxborough, Massachusetts, before the NFL regular season concluded last season and joined the New England Patriots as an offensive line assistant under Head Coach Bill Belichick.

Steve Raupp: During his 11 year tenure as varsity head football coach (1979 to 1989), Raupp compiled a 64-48-4 record, and won three league championships, two second place finishes and three CIF Central Section semi-final appearances.

In his first year as head coach the Badgers posted the school’s first winning season (4-3-2). In 1980, in its first year in the North Sequoia League, the team tied for second with an upset win over undefeated Chowchilla in the final game of the season.

In 1983, the Badgers opened the season with a 23-12 victory over Sierra to win the first ever Mountain Bowl game. The team went on to claim its first league championship with an upset win over two-time defending CIF Champion Dos Palos. At the time, the Broncos were the top ranked small school team in California, and the Badger’s 10-6 victory ended the Bronco’s 29-game winning streak, the longest in the state at the time.

In 1984 the Badgers repeated as league champs (9-2-1), again defeating Dos Palos and ending the Bronco’s 67 game home win streak. The Badgers were ranked the No. 1 defensive team in the state with seven shutouts and only 53 points scored against them while holding their opponents to a total of 815 offensive yards during the 12-game season.

He was named NSL coach of the Year three times, and was selected to coach in the 1985 North-South All-Star game in 1985, and the city-County All-Star game in 1989.

Raupp started as a teacher / football coach, two years after the school opened. During the years he advanced to athletic director, assistant principal, and principal before being named acting superintendent in 2008 and district superintendent in 2009.

On Sept. 21, 2012, surrounded by family, colleagues and the district board of trustees, the retired Yosemite Unified School District Superintendent was honored during a half time ceremony during the Yosemite-Mendota football game, with the unavailing of the “Raupp Field” sign above the scoreboard behind the south end zone.

In 2008, Raupp was named Madera County Administrator of the Year through the Excellence in Education program sponsored by the Madera County Office of Education and the Educational Employees Credit Union. He retired in June 2012, and is currently the north area supervisor for the CIF Central Section.

JD Burnett, current Badger head coach, will serve as master of ceremonies for the dinner.

Details: YHS Football Wall of Fame induction dinner, Saturday, Aug. 13, 6 p.m., Oakhurst Masonic Lodge, 40216 Highway 49. Tickets $40 are available at the Sierra Star on Crane Valley Road (426), from any YHS football coach, or by calling Erik Peterson, (559) 760-3331.