It was by no means a lavish production. In fact, as far as awards ceremonies go, it was understated. It was for varsity only. There was no guest speaker. There was no lavish catered dinner. There were only players, coaches and families.
Yet, it was one of the most impressive such gathering I’ve ever attended.
As the coaches and guests honored the Casa Grande football team and the players enjoyed one final gathering, they did so knowing that head coach Denis Brunk would not be back next season. It was an open secret that Brunk had already submitted his resignation after just two seasons as leader of the Casa football program.
There will be discussion over the next several weeks as the rumor machine cranks up and people speculate. There will, of necessity, be talk about the future. There is much to be done. That is for a future time.
Sunday night, there was not one public comment about the coach’s leaving or the fate of his assistants. There may have been a few quiet comments, but on the stage the focus was on the players.
It was as it should be.
It was their night.
Brunk hit all the right notes as he and his assistants talked about the character and accomplishments of the players. There were even comments about the future of many underclassmen and what they will bring to the Casa Grande program in upcoming years — talents that will be directed by other coaches.
At 4-7, it was not a winning year for the Gauchos, but their thrilling, 37-36 comeback win over Petaluma in the Egg Bowl and solid 4-2 third-place finish in the first year of Vine Valley Athletic League football stamped it as a successful season.
So, too, did a 3.17 team grade point average.
It has been a couple of tough years for the Casa Grande football program with the change in coaches, the controversy surrounding that change, the challenge of learning a new system, moving to a new league and adjusting to a different coaching style.
This season’s players, especially the seniors, are to be commended for handling those difficult circumstances and standing as a team. Despite recent hard times, athletes still take a great deal of pride in being a Gaucho, and it showed again Sunday night.
Brunk did a great job in keeping the focus where it belonged, maintaining an upbeat tone as he and his coaches said something special about each player.
The players and families responded in kind, enjoying the moment and the memories.
On a totally different note, I was reminded of just how difficult it is to be a high school coach as I sat in the stands during the Miramonte-Casa Grande girls basketball game earlier this winter season.
A couple of Miramonte fans were not so quietly criticizing the strategy and substitution procedure of coach Kelly Sopak.
Miramonte was leading at the time by the slender margin of 28-2.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)