More than 100 turned out Aug. 13 for the fun and at times emotional inaugural Yosemite High Football ‘Wall of Fame’ Induction Dinner at the Masonic Hall.
Roosevelt Shultz-Cooks (2001), Bonner Cunnings (1991), Chris Mullins (1984), Cole Popovich (2003) and Coach Steve Raupp (1979-1989) were honored as the first inductees in Yosemite High’s 40-year history.
All but Popovich were in attendance, as he is now the assistant offensive line coach for the New England Patriots who have started the season.
Sponsored by the YHS Football Boosters, current head coach JD Burnett served as master of ceremonies for the evening, and after the tri-tip dinner, the crowd was treated to a passionate rendition of the Badger fight song by retired YHS teacher Consuelo Mercier.
Former head coach Aaron Eames introduced both Popovich and Cooks. Burnett read a statement from Popovich:
“I am honored, humbled and blessed to be selected to this group,” Popovich wrote. “Rosy (cooks) was a senior I looked up to during my sophomore year. He had a large effect on me. Bonner was my frosh coach, but more than that he was a life coach.”
Popovich reserved his highest praise for his mom Linda who was in attendance.
“I want to thank my mom,” said Popovich. “She worked so hard every day and taught me a great work ethic. Life wasn’t easy and I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Popovich, who went on to star at Fresno State, was the most dominant lineman in YHS history and holds four of the seven weight room records. He was a major reason YHS won their first Central Section title in 2002.
“We just ran behind Cole and won,” Eames said. “Cole dominated both the offensive and defensive lines. He was incredible.”
Eames introduced Roosevelt Shultz-Cooks, and spoke highly of the intense and physical play of the former running back and linebacker.
“Because of Roosevelt we grew into a physical team,” Eames said. “His presence alone changed us. He was also such a smart player. He started off as a guard, and we moved him to running back and the rest is history.”
Perhaps the most dominating running back in YHS history, Cooks owns records that are not only 15 years old, but may never be broken. Cooks owns records for touchdowns in a game (5), touchdowns in a season (21), points in a game (30) and points in a season (126). On defense Cooks has the longest interception return for a touchdown (67). All were set in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Cooks, who resides in Reno, was also humbled by his selection. He cited the positive influence of former coaches Kent Lincoln, Bob Miller, Erik Peterson, and especially Cunnings.
“Coach Cunnings and my coaches really pushed me. Coach Cunnings got me on the track team and I added muscle and quickness. It was game-changing for me. Thank you coaches for pushing me to be my best.”
Cunnings was introduced by former head coach Matt Mohulski.
“What I appreciated most about Bonner was his character and leadership,” Mohulski said. “He worked hard every day and was strong spiritually. He is what I would want a son to look like.”
Character was a common theme from all attendees when speaking about Cunnings.
Cunnings went on to star at St. Mary’s College as a running back, ending his career as the fourth all-time rusher at the school with 1,689 yards. He coached as an assistant at YHS before guiding three separate Central Section high school teams to the playoffs. Cunnings has now moved up to the JC level as the offensive line and special teams coach at Merced College.
For Cunnings being at YHS was being part of a family. “This community is a family,” Cunnings said. “To me, it’s not an individual thing its being part of a great community. I was blessed to be part of a special place with people having a lot of love for each other.”
Mullins, was introduced by former head coach Raupp who called him the player who “had the most impact on this program.”
“Chris helped take this school to another level,” Raupp said. “He was the biggest reason we were so successful in the 1983 and 84 seasons.”
Mullins and teammates arguably had the greatest victory in YHS history when they defeated mighty Dos Palos, then the No. 1 ranked small school in the state with a 29-game winning streak. Mullins was a key in securing the first league championships in YHS history. The defenses Mullins anchored were the most dominant in school history. On top of that, Mullins was named Small School Player of the Year by Cal Hi Sports.
“For me football was a great outlet that created structure, respect and discipline - I cannot thank my coaches, pastors and community supporters that gave me the encouragement to excel in an area I did not know that I could,” Mullins said.
For Mullins, who upon graduation was drafted by the Atlanta Braves and played for two seasons for the Bradenton Braves, the induction was humbling and emotional.
“Being part of Yosemite High was so special,” Mullins said. “I loved my coaches and the community. I am so proud to be here along with some of my teammates. It’s amazing.”
He was later hired an assistant coach at Yosemite and served as the Badgers quarterback coach for two years.
“Coach Burnett is doing an outstanding job rebuilding this team,” Mullins said. “This banquet shows how much the program means to the community. I would encourage all of you to continue supporting the team.”
Mullins introduced Raupp, a pillar of the Oakhurst community. A former teacher, administrator, and coach, Raupp was the automatic first choice for the Wall of Fame.
“Steve is about excellence,” Mullins said. “He is about excellence in his career and life. He has mentored so many of us. He is a true example of what a mentor should be.”
“I owe so much to Steve,” said former head coach Aaron Eames. “He took a chance on me. He gave me tools to be successful. He built the foundation of our program. Steve also hired and mentored a lot of great coaches and teachers.”
“I enjoyed my 11 years as a head coach,” Raupp said. “It was my dream job. But my first acknowledgment is to my wife Janie. She was my high school sweetheart and we have been married 43 years. Being a wife to a football coach is never easy but Janie was always there for me. I had a great staff throughout the years - Dave Dooman, Roger Mercier, Bob Miller, Larry Pesetski and Jerry Robinson.”
Raupp put a new school on the Central Section football map. He was NSL coach of the year three times, and was selected to coach in two Valley all-star games.
His 1984 defense was the greatest in school history, allowing just 33 points in 10 games, the oldest football record at Yosemite High.
From football, Raupp moved on to become athletic director, principal, and district superintendent. On the way he was selected as Madera County administrator of the year and is currently the north area supervisor for the CIF Central Section.
“We wanted to instill a belief that our players could be successful, not just with football,” Raupp said. “We wanted to make a difference in their lives. I am so proud to see our alumni be successful in life. That really is most rewarding.”
Plaques will be displayed
Each inductee will have a bronze plaque affixed to the upper concession stand at Badger stadium. The plaques will be up for the Badger season opener Aug. 26.
“It was exciting to honor these great players that had such big roles in the success of Badger football,” said Booster President Erik Peterson. “This group is the first of what we plan to be an annual induction dinner.”