It is not news that the year that has reached the 2-minute warning was not the best in Petaluma sports history. From firings to just fire, it was a weird year. Even the good news had a strange twist.
There are many ways to do these year-end reviews. I have decided on the traditional Top-10 sports stories of the year.
In an ordinary year, the return of the Egg Bowl would be an obvious list topper, but 2017 was far from an ordinary year. Understand that the list is totally arbitrary. It was chosen by our sports department’s executive board consisting of Me, Myself and I.
1. Herzog leaving
There is probably nothing that would have shocked the Petaluma sports world more than to find out in January that popular Casa Grande football coach Trent Herzog would not be re-hired for the 2017-2018 season.
Officially, Herzog left by mutual agreement with the school. What it amounted to was a firing.
The exact reason for the coach’s exit was never explained, according to Herzog, not even to him.
Since being promoted to the head coaching position in 2009 from his longtime assistant role, Herzog’s teams compiled a 66-34 record. His Gauchos won two league titles, went undefeated in league twice and advanced to the playoffs every year.
Twelve former Gauchos have won major-college scholarships, including nine full-ride scholarships to Division I schools. A total of 26 former players under Herzog went on to play in college.
In early March, Denis Bunk, the Santa Rosa High School varsity head coach, was hired to replace Herzog. Brunk had taken the downtrodden Panthers to the North Coast Section playoffs in just two seasons at Santa Rosa.
Despite the furor created by Herzog’s departure, Brunk’s first season went fairly smooth. His Gauchos lost their first six games under Brunk’s guidance, then won four in a row, finishing 4-7, and not only making the North Coast Section playoffs, but beating Montgomery for a playoff win.
2. Fire season
The fires that ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties in October spared Petaluma, but their impact was still felt in the community, including the sports community. For almost two weeks, sporting events were canceled because of the fires and the unhealthy air they left hovering over Petaluma and every other Sonoma County community.
During the crisis, Petaluma athletes pitched in to help with services for evacuees. The Casa Grande High School campus was turned into an emergency shelter where athletes from both Petaluma and Casa Grande high schools helped in providing emergency food, shelter, clothing and more for fire victims from all over the county.
Petaluma school districts lost class days and sporting events because of poor air quality with both Petaluma and Casa Grande losing football games. Petaluma’s scheduled game against Healdsburg was not made up. Casa’s game against Montgomery was also canceled but, ironically, the Gauchos met, and defeated, the Vikings in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs.
3. Egg Bowl returns
After a six-year suspension following a contentious 2012 game, the Egg Bowl, the annual football rivalry between Petaluma and Casa Grande resumed.
The game was billed as a community game with an emphasis on uniting the two schools. The game plan was precisely followed, with players from both teams joining in community projects prior to the game.