Truckee puts on its first helmet sticker. It was only used for one season: TNT. Numbers were down in the late 60’s but the Tahoe Truckee area is growing. There are 91 total football players suited up in Truckee’s program in 1970 and there is 634 kids enrolled at the High School. The split of the schools is drawing near. The large numbers allowed Truckee to field its first freshman team coached by Math teacher Hal Fandl. The freshman team went 2-2-3. In their first game they tied Quincy 0-0. The freshman team would then lose to South Tahoe 0-14 and again to the Douglas JV team 6-28. Then the Frosh would get their first win vs Quincy 22-0. The next two weeks they would have two ties. The first tie was against Incline’s JV team 14-14 then to Carson 14-14. In their last
game of the year the youngsters would beat Stewart 28-6. The JV team was lead by first year coach Nick Santamaria. Coach Santamaria lead his team to a 8-1-1 record losing only to Colusa in a tight battle 0-6. Their tie came to an always tough Lincoln team. This JV team was very strong only allowing 30 points in the 10 games they played. They had 5 shutouts on the year no team scored more than 6 points on them. They also scored 202 points. The future was looking bright heading into the 70’s. Coach Santamaria would spend the next 13 years as the JV head coach and should be regarded as one of Truckee’s greatest coaches. I’m not certain why he never tried his hand at the Varsity level but he won many league Titles for the JV program and got his athletes ready to compete at the Varsity level.
The Varsity team is also turning things around as they put together a 5-4-1 season in 1970. Could this be the year Truckee gets things turned around? The head coach was Clark Burton for the second year but his would be his last. In the offseason Truckee would recruit a coach from the Bay area, John Stewart. I was able to track coach Stewart down in the summer of 2018 and he was very complimentary of coach Burton and I can see why. Burton put together a great season in 70′. Coach Burton had this to say about his team:
“A football team is the combined effort of a group of young men working toward a common goal, their only reward being self-satisfaction, self-improvement and self-sacrifice for that team. Each one will leave his contribution and move on toward his goal in life, taking with him the valuable lessons learned while being a part of that all important unit known as the Tahoe Truckee Wolverines.”
Walt Brett is the Hall of Fame inductee of the 1970 season and he was a leader on this team. He earned himself first team All-League for his contributions. His number was 83 and he was the tallest kid on the team. I am assuming he was a Tight End and Defensive End. By the looks of the JV schedule Truckee has realigned somewhat from prior years and the schedule in order was: Colfax, Quincy, Portola, Reno, Delta, Lincoln, Incline, Live Oak, and Sutter. Delta is on the schedule for the first time. As one might expect Delta High School is located along the Sacramento River South West of Elk Grove. I’m guessing that the new league consist of Lincoln, Colusa, Live Oak, Colfax, and Sutter. Though I was able to extract information from the yearbook it was not detailed enough to accurately represent the 1970 football team. However, I was again, able to retrieve some information from Mike Ray reporter for the Auburn Journal.
The 1970 Wolverines were no joke.
1971: 5-4 (League 3-2)
Truckee’s 10th coach, John Stewart, is hired and he would be Truckee’s coach for most of the Seventies. In his first season Stewart would post a winning league record going 3-2. Not sure why the rest of the games were not posted or discussed. Again, according to the JV schedule, Truckee played 9 games in 1971. There is mention that every time Truckee lost a game they followed it up with a win. So that could give Truckee another 2 wins. This is a team that has a very successful junior class. To have a winning league record in the Pioneer league at this time was an accomplishment. So, it is hard to believe that Truckee would have lost all of their non-league games. I’m going to guess that Truckee was 5-4 with the possibility of being 6-3.
This team had some good size to it and talented running backs. The most talented was Cal Felte. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1972. According to the JV schedule Truckee’s League games were: Sutter, Lincoln, Colusa, Colfax, and Live Oak. On Truckee’s schedule for the first time is Sutter. Sutter is off of highway 20 west of Yuba City and North of Woodland. Truckee beat Sutter in their first matchup 28-12. Also on the schedule for the first time is Live Oak. This is not the Live Oak. Truckee scrimmaged in the 1990’s from Morgan Hills. Live Oak is located up Highway 99 north of Yuba City. Truckee lost to Live Oak in 1971 6-20. Truckee beat an always tough Lincoln team 21-
20 and they also shutout Colfax 21-0. The Wolverines did not beat Colusa, losing soundly 7-28. The JV team had another good year with a 6-2-1 season with a 6-6 tie against Colusa. This team would again post 5 shutouts playing extremely aggressive defense. Other teams on Truckee’s schedule in 71′ included: Quincy, Portola, Winters, and Delta. The JV’s beat all of these teams but as mentioned there was no Varsity scores for Non-Conference games. Stewart in his first year had very good success and the future looks very good going into the 1972 season.
1972: 7-2 (League 3-1)
Stewart leads the Wolverines to a 7-2 record. The SMI, Sierra Mountain Intermediate, has broken ground and it is being constructed in the background of the field. In just two short years coach Stewart has turned things around for the Wolverines and made Truckee relevant in the Pioneer league. This should be no surprise as the JV team in 1970 only lost one game. The JV team under Santamaria continues to play very well going 6-3 and posting another 4 shutouts. The freshman team is also exerting itself and went undefeated with an 8-0 record. So, the lower levels are playing great and now the Varsity has turned it around in the early part of the 1970’s. Stewart’s aggressive style of football is rubbing off on his players. The Truckee defense gave up just 54 points in 1972 and posted 3 shutouts. The offense put up 192 points in 9 games which in my research looks to be a school record at the time.
The schedule in 1972 is a bit different than the year before. Sutter, Colusa, and Live Oak are not on the schedule but both Colfax and Lincoln are. Del Oro and Wheatland returned to Truckee’s schedule in 1972. Truckee appears to be in the Pioneer league which includes Wheatland, Lincoln, Del Oro, and Colfax. In week one Truckee took on Quincy winning in very close game 8-0. In week 2 the Wolverines soundly beat Portola 22-6. Then Truckee played South Tahoe for the first time since 1963. Once Truckee went to the California leagues and no longer played independently South Tahoe was no longer on their schedule…until 1972. The old rivalry game, known as the “Big Game”, was played in Truckee. Truckee came out on top 28-6. Truckee started 3-0 for the first time in years and appears to be pushing for tops in the Pioneer League outscoring their opponents 58-12 in their first 3 games.
Trying to keep their year moving in a positive direction Truckee faced Amador High School. Amador High opened in 1912 and has quite a bit of history of its own. The school is located in Sutter Creek which is off of highway 49 South of Placerville. The school has around 800 students in it and is roughly 2 and a half hours away from Truckee. The Wolverines unfortunately suffered their only shutout of the year and lost 0-8. The following week the Wolverines got back on track beating a very good and always tough Del Oro. The Wolverines beat the Golden Eagles 7-6 making it only the second time Truckee has ever beat Del Oro (according to my research). Then the following week Truckee shutout Wheatland 40-0. Truckee always struggled against Wheatland so this was a very big deal. Truckee was now 5-1 and was looking very good to win a league Championship.
Truckee is now entering the back half of their schedule with the best record they have had in many years. In week 7 Truckee had their homecoming vs Herlong. The Wolverines dominated winning 40-16. Now 6-1, it was looking like Truckee would be unstoppable. the following week Truckee shutout Colfax for the second year straight 47-0. So, it would all come down to the last game of the year for League Championship. Truckee would now have to beat Lincoln another team the Wolverines struggled with throughout the years. In a tough fought
battle Truckee would lose 2-12. No where in the yearbook does it say Truckee was League Champions. Usually in when a team won the Championship it was recognized in the yearbook. The fact that Truckee went 7-2 and did not play in another game would tell me that there were no playoffs yet. This was as good as team as Truckee ever had. The 1958 team and the 1967 teams were also very good but this team dominated teams and good teams. Many of the football players were also part of the basketball team and the basketball team went undefeated in league winning the League Championship. This was a very talented group of players and if nothing else Truckee was definitely looking up after the 1972 season. All levels were playing very well and numbers were up in the program at an all time high. Unfortunately the high numbers were due to a growing enrollment that in the near future was going to change everything.
1973: 7-2 (League 3-1)
Truckee’s enrollment is at an all time high in 1973 topping out around 750 students 9-12. The new High School at North Lake Tahoe is near completion and the “Great Divide” is just one school year away. The football program is still benefitting from the high enrollment as Truckee fields all three levels for its 4th straight year. Unfortunately the JV team has a disappointing season going 3-5. It would be the first losing season coach Santamaria had at Truckee. The freshman team was 4-2-1 in their last season before the split of the school. After 1973 Truckee would not have another freshman team until 1998. Coach Fandl, as mentioned before, was Truckee’s first freshman coach and after the 1973-74 school year made the move to North Tahoe with a god portion of the student body. I am unsure if he continued to coach under coach Dalton. As for the Varsity team they are now riding the success of the past couple years at the lower levels. Truckee goes 7-2 in the last season that Truckee and Tahoe would be together. There are 93 young students playing Truckee Football in 1973 and 36 of them are Varsity players. One of coach Stewart’s assistant coaches was a young man from Florida, Jeff Scurran. Coach Scurran has been coaching ever since he left The Tahoe Truckee area in the early 80’s. I ran into him at a coaching clinic in Reno in the winter of 2011. I asked him to help me out with some of the history during the years he coached at Truckee. Coach Scurran’s thoughts about the season:
This was an excellent season by any standard. The N. California league that we were in was loaded. Even with the combined enrollments from the future two schools, we were the smallest school in the league. Lincoln, Wheatland, and Del Oro were VERY good and over 400-500 larger than us. This was John Stewart’s best season coaching that I was with him and his personal will and toughness was the biggest factor in our success. I learned more about coaching this year than any 3 combined in my long career.
The Wolverines were just one win away from winning a league title the year before when they lost the last game of the year to Lincoln. I’m sure that was a bitter pill to swallow and there must have been some extra motivation in the off season to win that Title in 73. The Wolverines would start the season off with a win over Quincy by
a score of 7-6. The next week Truckee played Portola and beat them 39-2. Then it was the “Big Game” as the Vikings and Wolverines battled for last time in many many years. Truckee won 41-20 and maintained the Trophy. Next up was a tough game vs Amador and Truckee got some revenge in a 13-0 win. Truckee starts off the year 4-0 and is looking real solid going into week 5. But they would have to face the Golden Eagles of Del Oro to extend their win streak. Del Oro was just too much for Truckee in 73 and beat them 7-14. Truckee rebounded nicely the following week beating Wheatland 23-14. But then the Wolverines would have another set back losing to Herlong 20-23 in tight battle. Truckee, now 5-2, would face Colfax for the Wolverines Homecoming. In very cold and blizzard like conditions the game was played and all Homecoming festivities took place. Anytime a game is played in late October or early November in Truckee there is always a chance for winter like conditions. Truckee beat Colfax in a muddy mess 39-24. Then wanting some revenge for the loss the year before Truckee shutout Lincoln 19-0. The two teams Truckee lost to in 1972 they would shutout in the 73 season. Unfortunately nobody could beat Del Oro and they would win the Championship.
Coach Stewart has quickly turned things around for Truckee. The Wolverines who struggled to get a win in the 1960’s are 19-8 in 3 years with Coach Stewart. But hard times were on the way as everyone already knew that the following year the team would divide into two teams creating a rivalry for all to remember. Surprise Stadium was under construction during the 1973 season and a new era of football was upon the small Town of Truckee giving us much to cheer for.
1974: 4-3-1 The Great Divide
September of 1974 The Great Divide is in motion as Tahoe Truckee High School splits with the Tahoe kids and North Tahoe High School is Born. Surprise Stadium was constructed in the spring of 1974 and was ready by fall to open up the season. I can only imagine the excitement the Town must have felt as Truckee played their first game in their new stadium. There is a tremendous amount of tradition and history that has taken place on the grand stage of Surprise Stadium and to many who are closest to Truckee Football feel as though the ground is sacred. As the Town of Truckee has congregated around the tops of Surprise to rally around their football team, many of Truckee’s opponents have their own memories of Surprise Stadium that are not as pleasant. One of those stories comes from Cameron Norcross now the
offensive line coach for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Norcross, a senior at White Pine, traveled to Truckee to play the Wolverines in the playoffs in November of 1994. As James Van Brunt scored touchdown after touchdown the blaring guitar and the voice of Bon Scott belting out the lyrics of “TnT!” echoed throughout Surprise Stadium as the Snow fell from the sky. A sight and sound so warm and comforting to the Home crowd has become a nightmare to the opposition. Norcross has mentioned that heading back into Surprise Stadium to scout the Truckee vs Lowry game in 2010 brought back memories that he has tried to forget. Norcorss replied, “I hate ACDC.” Dave Hart, Fernley’s coach through the 80’s and 90’s has admitted to Surprise having a Mystic to it that is hard to explain. Something Mark Hodges, also a Fernley coach and replacement of Dave Hart, admitted to in a interview after a last minute loss to Truckee in 2007. I’m not sure if it is Mystic or sacred but I do know Truckee is a very proud town and Surprise Stadium has hosted many of those proud moments.
Why Surprise? Bill Connors, a member of the school board, named the stadium after Harry Surprise. Mr. Surprise was born in 1910 and died in 1995. Harry was the General Manager of Fibreboard Corp. who bought out the old mill in 1967. Today that business is the Truckee Tahoe Lumber Company. Mr. Surprise donated all of the heavy equipment and labor that was used to grade out the stadium. He also donated all the lumber for the stands and press box. On top of donating most of the materials and labor to the new stadium Mr. Surprise contributed to the community in many ways and was well respected. In Truckee’s first season in Surprise Stadium they went 4-3-1. When comparing the three seasons prior, this record could be described as disappointing but that was not the case. The team was very proud of their efforts having to overcome the school splitting and still competing with great passion and determination. The yearbook does not have an individual game breakdown, so I don’t know what teams Truckee beat or lost to. We do know they beat NT and at that time it was the only game that really mattered.
Truckee dominated the inaugural Rivalry game 22-6. It was Truckee’s Homecoming weekend and the game seemed to be some what cordial in comparison to the 1980’s. It should be mentioned that the first Homecoming Queen at Surprise Stadium was Cindy Fish who was also voted “best all around” for the class of 1975. Though Truckee won the first matchup, it didn’t take North Tahoe long to get their program rolling. North Tahoe’s first coach was Ken Dalton who is now a Nevada High School Football Legend. The rivalry was originally called the “Little Big Game” named after the South Tahoe and Truckee rivalry from past years which was called “The Big Game”. From this point Truckee did not play South Tahoe until recent years (2010) and I’m not sure if North Tahoe has ever played South Tahoe. The rivalry in 74 was much more friendly than I ever remember it being. It is understandable as many of the players played together just a year prior. However, it did not take long for the rivalry to heat up as the two communities would clash for the next 32 years. The Truckee football program took a big hit when the school split as many of the upper class man were North Shore residents. The freshman team is gone and there is just 50 players in the program in 1974. Coach Santamaria is also feeling the burden of the split at the lower level as Truckee’s JV won just 2 games, lost 4, and tied 2. Emmitt Tracy was the QB of the Wolverines and a standout player. Also on this team was Dave Copeland a tall athlete and good player.
Coach Scurran’s thoughts on 1974:
This was also a fantastic season because Truckee had to stay in the exact same league with an enrollment under 400 now. It was tough enough when we were 750ish. We lost two very close games that year. We were the surprise of the league playing in “Surprise Stadium”.
1975: 3-5 (League 2-2)
The Wolverines enter into their second season as a split school and again struggle to win games. However, with the exception to a big loss to Lincoln, 6-42, Truckee battled and kept things close in every game. Coach Stewart is now in his 5th year coaching and he’s doing a good job keeping the Wolverines competitive even though he is struggling with numbers. Truckee suited up just 22 players in the 75′ season. Quite a difference from just two years prior when Truckee was rolling with all 3 levels and and over 90 players in the program. Worth mentioning is the arrival of Dr. Dick Curtis. Coach Curtis played football at Cal Berkley and moved to Truckee to start a practice as a Dentist. Curtis coached for Truckee for 14 seasons under 5 different coaches and was a huge part of the program ultimately helping Truckee win their first State Championship in 1983. He spent his first year coaching with Santamaria at the JV level and ran his practice here in Truckee for many years. Curtis is now retired in Auburn Ca.
Truckee started their season off with a tough loss to a very good Portola team 0-14. Some where during this time the Pioneer league realigned. As Truckee split into two schools and got smaller Del Oro, Wheatland, and Lincoln got bigger. Colusa has been off the schedule for a couple seasons at this point. With Portola and Quincy on the rise, a new league is in the near future as the Pioneer Feather River League. However, in 1975 Truckee is still playing in the Pioneer League which looks to include Truckee, North Tahoe, Colfax, Wheatland, and Lincoln. Folsom is also on Truckee’s schedule and could be part of the division replacing Del Oro. In week 2 Truckee played Loyalton and again beat them badly in a 42-0 shutout. Loyalton’s days of
competing with Truckee are long gone as far as football goes. They did still compete in basketball and baseball throughout the years. The Lions had not been on the schedule for many years to this point and really can’t compete with Truckee as their school was much smaller. On the schedule for the first time is Westwood. I am guessing this is the Westwood off of highway 36 just east of Chester. Westwood now plays 8 man football and is in Loyalton’s league. In 1975 they must have been a bigger school as the Lumberjacks beat Truckee in a tough game 7-12. The Wolverines started the year off 1-2 and the loss to a smaller school, Westwood, is a big downer going into the second Annual “Little Big Game”. The second Little Big Game was played at North Tahoe for the first time. The hype of the new rivalry proves to be legit and it is growing fast as the two mountain towns go head to head. A once united front goes to battle against one another and in front of a large crowd the two teams did not disappoint. Truckee battled and fought hard but North Tahoe proved to be the better team in 1975 beating Truckee 6-7. Truckee, now 1-3, would have to face powerhouse Lincoln who was much larger at this point. As mentioned before Truckee was blown out for the only time of the year 6-42.
Truckee would right the ship in week 6 as Wheatland was still on the schedule and Truckee beat them 31-27 in a close game. The Wolverines with some momentum had a good win over Colfax 26-6 in week 7 and would hope to keep it rolling going into the last game of the year vs a tough opponent in Folsom. Folsom, on the schedule for the first time, had other ideas and beat Truckee in another close game 6-16. Dave Crenshaw was a first team all league QB and captain of the team. He was well respected by his peers and the coaches around the league. The Pioneer League was no joke so to be honored as an All-League selection was a great accomplishment. Crenshaw had two other teammates join him with All-League honors. Running back Jim Bevins and Receiver Aldo Nevarez both made it too. I’m sure Crenshaw and his teammates would have much rather shared in more wins with their team. The Wolverines had some heartbreaking loses in 1975 and I’m going to guess that depth and fatigue at the end of games played a factor in some of those close
losses. Going to battle with just 22 players is tough. If just a couple things go wrong and an injury or two hits, it can be the difference. However, coach Landon in 1967 proved that it can be done if it is the right 22. This team very easily could have been 5-3 if a couple things went their way but it didn’t shake out that way and the Wolverines would have to get back to work if they would turn things around the following season. Unfortunately the JV team was also struggling and went 1-4-3. Again some very close games and they competed in every game even in the losses. With some hard work the future is looking bright.
Coach Scurran’s thoughts:
I remember Del Oro leaving the league to a larger one after they totally dominated everyone…it was too easy for them, in fact. Colfax and Quincy were growing and Ken Dalton was asserting his “personality” into N. Tahoe (he was VERY good at promoting and Stewart was loving his fishing time. The two did NOT get along). Portola, still coached by their legend (a good guy and an excellent coach) had a very good group.
1976: 4-4 (League 0-4) Feather River League
Truckee goes 4-4 under Stewart but lose big to NT 14 to 33. The rivalry is in full swing at this point as the Lake Tahoe antics are rearing its ugly head. This comes from the yearbook in the 76-77 edition, “It was three short years ago our Seniors as freshman were once part of a school of 800 students including North Tahoe and TnT students. Then they were close associates, but now friendships have dwindled because of their everlasting rivalry. This discontentment began three years ago and was freshly renewed at half time of Homecoming when bad taste overtook good judgement and North Tahoe delivered a live turkey to the Wolverines.” And so it begins! This type of thing, as I’ll talk a little about in the 80’s, is no surprise. Now that Truckee and North Tahoe don’t face each other anymore the bad blood is
nonexistent between the two schools. Today’s students just don’t understand how much the two schools had it out for one another. It is kind of crazy how fast the two schools turned on each other. It was a real rivalry that I am happy to say I was a part of and even more happy that I never was on the wrong side of. The Truckee North Tahoe game was always the hardest hitting game by far. It was not always the cleanest of games and certainly was a bit talkative than most games. But It was just driven by two proud communities that were competitive and wanted to win. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the North Tahoe guys I played against. In particular Andy Habeger, Mattson, and Chey Walker. Other than Sean Price, Chey Walker might have been the best North Tahoe Laker in their history and there have been some great ones. By no means was it a friendly rivalry but when the game ended we were able to shake hands with respect for one another. At least that is what I remember.
Also in 1976 Truckee participated in their first Power Puff game. Now days Power Puff is one of Truckee High School’s largest attractions. It deserves some mention here on the Truckee Pride Football site. The only night game played on Surprise Stadium is our annual Powder Puff matchup between the Juniors and Seniors. The game sells out the Stadium on both sides and is one of the largest fundraisers for our Student Body. Did you know the first Powder Puff game was actually played vs North Tahoe? The girls from both school faced off in the first Power Puff game as part of the Homecoming festivities on Surprise Stadium in 1976. The two teams were evenly matched and the first Powder Puff game ended in a tie 8-8.
This was the year that the new league was formed and became the Pioneer Feather River League. The league consisted of North Tahoe, Colfax, Portola, and Quincy. The schools are all close in size and are closer in proximity. It would be a much better division for Truckee even though the Wolverines would go 0-4 in League play. The Wolverines started out 4-0 in 76 beating Whittel, Sparks, Westwood, and Greenville. Truckee came out swinging in game one shutting out Whittell 46-0. In week two Truckee faced of with Sparks a team that has not been on the schedule since the 1950’s. Truckee beat the much larger school 27-17 and things were looking good for the Wolverines. The following week Truckee would get some much needed revenge on Westwood beating them 21-7. Truckee starts the year off 3-0 and is looking much more like a Stewart team of the early 70’s. On the schedule for the first time is Greenville. Greenville is off highway 89 just South of Lake Almanor. They play in Westwood’s league and I think it is 8 man football. Truckee is 4-0 to start the year and is feeling good about their season. However, they would have to play the Lakers in week 5 and that would prove to be Truckee’s doom. After a crushing loss to North Tahoe it was all down hill from there. Truckee lost a close one to Colfax 8-12, got dominated by Portola, and finished the season with a loss to Quincy 21-7.
The promising thing is that the JV team went undefeated and the future is looking bright. It was back to a typical season for coach Santamaria as they dominated the schedule facing off with Quincy in the last game of the year for the League Championship. They had another stout defense that allowed just 54 points on the year 24 of them coming from Incline. Willy Raber is the only player who made all league and he was also a captain of the team. Willy would be the first of four Raber boys to come through Truckee High. It was another tough year for coach Stewart. The Wolverines did go .500 and had a better win loss record but being 0-4 in the new division was a major blow. With a successful season at the lower level the Wolverines would look to get that league Championship in 77!
Coach Scurran’s thoughts about ’76:
Truckee was still quite competitive in league but N. Tahoe was becoming dominant. Stewart started changing his approach to that game, making it more than a “neighborhood” rivalry…and it ended up hurting Truckee more. Dalton seemed to thrive on the rivalry but they also had an excellent group of athletes. ALL of the real athletes moving into the area started going to NT because of the “flash” of their program…and they were good, too. Most other games were quite competitive.
1977: 4-5 (League 1-3)
The Wolverines go 4-5 in coach Stewart’s last season. Coach Stewart announced his retirement at the end of the season banquet and many of the players paid their respects. Coach Stewart made a positive impact on many young men in the Truckee community. He was well respected by his colleagues, the parents, the players, the community, and by opposing coaches. He continued to teach at Truckee High school through the 80’s and into the early 90’s. He was an avid hunter and fisherman spending a lot of his spare time in the outdoors of the Sierra Nevada’s. He also loved old cars and country music as he always had some Haggard or Jones playing in the background of his classroom. But he started in Truckee as a football coach and a darn good one at that. I feel like coach Stewart is often overlooked or forgotten about in the discussion about Truckee Football. Coach Stewart should be recognized as the coach who pulled Truckee from the depths of the Pioneer League and put us on the competitive map. Though coach Landon won a League Championship in the Pioneer League it was basically one year of success and Truckee returned to the bottom. Stewart, like Landon, made an immediate impact. The difference is that Stewart maintained that success. In his first three seasons he went 19-8, had all 3 levels competing at the top of the division, had a great defense, and had the teams of the Pioneer League on their heels. He was so close to winning a Championship in back to back seasons but unfortunately fell short to the two schools that were usually always on the top. In 1972 he came so close to winning that championship but lost in the last game of the year 2-12 to Lincoln and Lincoln won the division. The following year they would go 7-2 again but would fall short to Del Oro in a close battle 7-14 and again he would just miss that Championship. Unfortunately for Stewart he was the coach who had to experience “The Great Divide” as the two schools split. Something completely out of his power and something that needed to take place but something that would most defiantly have an impact on the football program. However, he was the perfect man for the job as he would keep Truckee competitive during a time when many thought the Wolverines would never have a chance. He saw Truckee through the first years at Surprise Stadium. He beat NT in the first ever “Little Big Game.” Aside from Shaffer’s most recent reign of 18 years, Stewart had the longest tenure of any coach in Truckee history, which gave the Wolverines some sustainability through most of the decade. Stewart was 34-25-1, giving him the most wins in Truckee history to that point. Not bad considering Truckee only had 44 wins in their 20 year history before he took over. John Stewart was a teacher, an educator, a mentor, and most of all a Coach….Stewart is a Truckee Football Legend.
The Truckee JV team went 6-2-1 in 77 winning another League Championship. They were not as good as the year before but it was another Santamaria like season as they posted two shutouts and multiple games only giving up one score. Their only two losses came to Yerington and Quincy who beat Truckee badly in the last game of the year 6-30. For the Varsity it was no where near the success the JV had. The yearbook has a bit of a discrepancy as it has the Wolverines at 3-6 losing to Yerington but the score would indicate that Truckee won the game 22-13. So, I will always favor on the side of the Wolverines. I have Truckee going 4-5 beating Yerington the first game of the year. In week 2 Truckee took on Sparks and battled in a close game but fell to the Railroaders 6-16. Sparks during this time was feeling the effects of newly built Reed High. Reed High school was built in 1974 and pulled some of the Sparks students. However, Sparks was still well over 1,000 students at this time. Truckee then played Westwood again shutting them out 34-0. In week 4 Truckee beat Greenville and shut them out too 23-0. The two smaller schools were not match for Truckee at this point and would soon never appear on our schedule again. The Wolverine’s last non-league game of the year came against Milpitas which was newer school from the South Bay. Milpitas today has around 3,000 students. The Wolverines would give the much larger school a run for their money but lost 23-35.
Truckee was now 2-2 going into the game of all games. North Tahoe would have the upper hand once again and Truckee lost 21-7. Though Coach Stewart would win the first matchup between the two rival schools, he would never win again. Stewart was 1-3 vs Dalton and his North Tahoe Lakers. The following week Truckee lost their homecoming game in yet another close game by a score of 21-24 to Colfax. Finally in week 8 Truckee got another win beating Portola 34-7. In week 9 Truckee played Quincy and lost in a tough fought battle 14-19. Though Truckee lost five games in 77 they were competitive in every game and the scores were close. The yearbook suggests that Truckee only won 3 games but then it also has scores for each game played and I see Truckee winning four games. This team had 30 players with some Truckee classics. Names like: Waters, Raber, Graham, Carlson, Suter, Zirbel, Mezger and more. All league players included Mike Diaz as a junior, Matt Stewart, Eric Carlson, and Tom McCauley. Doug Zirbel, who represented number 19, was voted as the team MVP by his
Coach Scurran’s thoughts:
During this time, NT really had an edge. Money from the district was getting slim and NT had the ability to fund their own program very well. Stewart was an excellent “old school” type of coach and Dalton was ALL “new school”, in a true time of change in sporting attitude. John knew football about as well as anyone I’ve known for his day, but he simply wouldn’t adapt to a new type of kid (I think he could have as he was a smart man but had very definite ideas). Also, the more Ken worked to get kids to NT, the more John fished (I think his real passion at that time). I remember a lot of frustration from kids, coaches, parents and old time TNT followers about the lack of support from the district. NT was definitely the “favorite son” of the new district administration and because the influential parents were there, no one made any bones about that…except the quiet, good people of Truckee.
1978 3-5-1 (1-4 League)
Jeff Scurran becomes Truckee’s 11th coach and goes 3-5-1. Scurran was the Offensive Coordinator during the Stewart era. Truckee would lose to NT again 14-35. This would be Scurran’s only year as coach. Coach Scurran has been coaching in Arizona the past 20 years and was National Coach of the Year in 2007. Truckee tried out their second helmet sticker but again it only stuck for one year. TNT
All league players were Gary Crenshaw, Bob Raber, and David Turnquist. Mike Diaz who suffered an injury his senior year would get honorable mention after making All league honors the year before. While Varsity struggled in 1978 the JV team won their 3rd consecutive league title. At this point the JV success was not translating to success at the Varsity level.
Scurran’s thoughts about his one and only year as head coach, his time in Truckee, and insight on coach Stewart a Truckee Legend:
For some reason, no one wants to count our first game, a non-league win vs. a much larger Sparks HS (Reno) 21-7 I think. I was actually the “offensive coordinator” and only for the last few years of my time with John Stewart. John did a lot himself, as I learned to do from him later in my career (we won State and were nationally ranked at Sabino in 92, 98, and 99 with me doing both. Also when I was selected the “National Coach” at Santa Rita in 07). You must remember that this guy really was an excellent “football strategist”, not the mountain man some thought. It really worked for him as a guise and he’d play it to the hilt.
Also, this was a time of great real estate growth in the Tahoe Basin and I was teaching and working part time with my own company building spec houses. When I got the head job, I was also teaching full time, working for Sierra Nevada College, teaching adult ED and building spec homes in Dollar Point (with other people’s money).
This was also a time of great transition in football. I realized that TnT was no longer a “big” school and as tough as Stewart coached the kids to be, we could only play against those odds so many times, not to mention getting stuck over Donner Summit and sleeping on buses two times during John’s last year.
I personally raised the money for the NEW weight room in part of the back of the “new’ gym addition (probably very old now) and fought to get us into playing in the Nevada league that you are currently in now. Both of these things were controversial at the time and the “old timers” were all over me, especially…well, that’s getting into politics. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times; “we went over the summit and played against those schools (that were 500-700 at the time, then up to 1199 in the league where we were 350). Remember, since we had beaten Division I Sparks (a mediocre team but a school of 2000) and tied the #1 team in Nevada Yerington at Surprise Stadium, I knew we would be an instant power in that state.
I did put decals on the helmets with TnT and it was very popular with the kids. We added almost 30 more athletes to the program, especially in the lower grades.
Then my real estate development boomed and I was forced to decide; stay with the new league in Nevada with the “old guard” saying those wins would mean nothing, or take a HUGE financial offer to do my development stuff full time. For my family, it was an easy decision…for me, not so easy but the right one.
I had very limited impact on Truckee, compared to John Stewart or some of the more recent coaches. I did however, set things up and I knew with an up-to-date training regiment and playing in Nevada, Truckee would be an instant power. It really was a no-brainer. I think I took a lot of “hits” for doing this, but believe me; it wouldn’t have happened if others (who hide when the yelling started) didn’t also think it was a great idea. After all, everyone loves to win.
Scurran’s last thoughts about his team:
The impact players during my times at Truckee were: the Raber boys (Bob was younger and my QB, can’t remember the older one’s name right now (Willy was the oldest and John was younger than Bob), he was a LB-RB and very tough) There were actually 3 (and maybe more). They were down the interstate and I can’t remember the town but toward Reno where they used to make ice (We all know he’s referring to Hirschdale but the Rabers lived in Floriston). The older one was one of JStew’s favoritess. Then there was Mike Diaz, a fast RB. The Zirbel boys…the older played with JStew and the younger for me. He was the one that missed the extra pt that would have beaten #1 Yerington on my year…a good kid. We mostly had “role” players with Raber and Diaz carrying the ball. We played good team ball but we got beat on a 50+ FG at Truckee with Lincoln (north Sac), and the same fate with Portola on the game’s last play…
This was an amazing account of events by coach Scurran but he has a couple things mixed up. John Raber was the 3rd Raber to come through and played QB for him. He wore number seven and Bob Raber who was a year older than John was number 32 and played Running back. It was a great help having coach Scurran’s input on Truckee Football through the 70’s. Though this team was 3-5-1, it very well could have been 5-4. Truckee lost a very close game to Portola in the last minutes 15 to 17. Then of course as mentioned above Truckee tied Yerington after missing a PAT. Truckee lost to Fallon in a hard fought battle 20-7, Lost to Quincy 7-25, and also lost to Colfax 6-20. But the Wolverines took care of business beating Menlo High from the South Bay 42-22. Menlo was established in 1951 and was a much bigger school than Truckee. Today Menlo has over 2,000 students. The Wolverines also took down Greenville 12-10 and Chester 21-6. All-League players included: Gary Crenshaw, Bob Raber, and David Turnquist.
1979 4-4 (2-2 League) Best since 1974
Dick Barrett takes over the Head Coaching job. Barrett was Teammates with Ken Dalton at Cal Poly and Dalton put a word in for Barrett at the district level. Prior to getting hired at Truckee, Barrett had been teaching and coaching at is Alma Mater James Lick High School. Barrett played high school football with NFL great Jim Plunkett going 9-0 in 1965. He also played against John Stewart, Truckee’s old coach, while Stewart was at Willow Glen High School. Both High Schools are in the San Jose area. Barrett coached 8 years as an assistant at James Lick. When arriving in Truckee Barrett coached JV for a year with Coach Santamaria. In 1979 Barrett gets his first job as a head coach becoming Truckee’s 12th coach in history. Coach Barrett assembled his staff aquirring newly hired Dave Brolliar, who was the head coach of Incline, and retaining Coach Curtis who had been Truckee’s line coach for the past couple years. Curtis played guard at Cal Berkley and was very respected by the players, coaches, and community. Curtis was a local dentist in Truckee for many years. Curtis took on the Defensive play calling while coaching both the offensive and defensive lines. Brolliar would take the offense. According to coach Barrett Truckee then installed the veer offense. The 79′ Wolverines went 4-4, the best in 4 years. In the first decade of the new rivalry NT dominated Truckee going 4-1 and out scoring the Wolverines 107 to 62. Truckee suited just 26 players in 1979. It has been a theme throughout my research that with a coaching change came a decrease in players. But Truckee gained a player in 1979, his name?, Bruce Estabrook the son of Truckee legend Coach Ron Estabrook. The Estabrooks moved to Truckee in 1979 from Santa Barbara. So not only would Truckee be blessed with the play of Bruce Estabrook the next two seasons, his Dad is responsible for the birth of Youth Football in Truckee.
Truckee started their season with a close win over Fallon 13-12. This was a huge win as Fallon was coming off Back to Back State Championships and they would also win the Nevada AA Championship in 1979. It gives you an idea of the type football Truckee was playing when they were in the California league. Bruce Estabrook remembers that Truckee secured the game in the last seconds on a goalline stand. On 3rd down and forth down and goal from the one yard line Fallon ran right at Estabrook with the QB behind the rest of the backfield. It was the old student body left. Estabrook and the Wolverines would hold their ground and pull out the victory. The next week Truckee crushed Portola 27-6. After losing big to Colfax in week three, Truckee beat Greenville 33-8 in week 4. So, the Wolverines started out the season 3-1. After losing a close game to Chester 14-19, Truckee had a big win over a private school from Oakland beating St. Elizabeth 27-0. St. Elizabeth was a very talented and fast team but had no idea what they were getting into as they made the travel to the Sierras in October. It was snowing all game and started accumulating on the playing surface. St. Elizabeth wanted nothing to do with Truckee and its weather. They came off the bus with sleeping bags wrapped around them. They took that same mentality into the game. Estabrook remembers them talking before plays with their teeth chattering and basically telling him that they were gong to lay down and give up on plays. They just wanted to get off the field and be home. The funny thing is that Bruce, being from Santa Barbara, was feeling the same way…”what have I got myself into.” But of course Bruce is an Estabrook and would never appear nor give that kind of mentality up to his opponents. Truckee rolled them up in the Truckee elements. But that would be Truckee’s last win of the year as they would get blown out by NT and lose to Quincy 9-6.
The NT score is deceptive. Bruce remembers the NT game quite well. The game was played at North Tahoe in very wet and muddy conditions. Many Alumni and fans surrounded the field for the rival matchup, around 2,000 plus which is a lot for up here. Bruce remembers games at his school in Santa Barbara playing in front of 10,000 people. But at NT it was much different the fans were surrounding the track to the point that you couldn’t even see it. Many were expecting a lopsided victory for NT but the score was 7-6 at halftime to many a huge surprise. North Tahoe was a powerhouse at this point. Kids were flocking to the school. There were kids who lived in Incline some how playing on North Tahoe teams? Dalton’s teams were suiting up 60 players. So, when Truckee showed up with 26 players, and was in the game at the half, it was an accomplishment. I’m sure Dalton had some choice words for his team at halftime as the second half was a different story. It was the game of all games and even though the score might not show it Truckee always came to play when it came to this game. But North Tahoe would wear Truckee down in the second half and win 26-6. North Tahoe won a CIF championship in 79.
With exception to the Colfax and NT losses Truckee was very close to being 6-2. The Wolverines experienced quite a few injuries and at one point were out 5 starters giving them the nickname by their coaches “The Red Cross Squad.” The 1979 team had 5 All-League players on it and 6 Honorable Mention. Truckee was not used to having players selected to All-League. Bobby McPherson was one of these players as he was selected as a Junior running back and was considered one the leading backs in Northern California. Greg Zirbel was an all league selection and senior leader for the Wolverines in 79. Other notable players in 1979 were Bob McPherson, John Raber, and Mark Davy. Bob Gebhardt also started at QB for the Wolverines as a junior. He was 48 on 98 attempts for 578 yards. All and all the 79 team had a lot of young talent and a young new coaching staff that was anxious for the next season started and for the decade to roll over to the 80’s. Also, in 1979 Barrett continued to improve Truckee’s weight room building upon what coach Scurran had started. Barrett introduce the Lift-A-Thon as a fundraiser and it still one of our biggest fund raisers we have today.
1970’s RAP UP
A lot took place in the 70’s. A school split, a new stadium, and 4 coaching changes. Truckee had 42 wins, 42 losses, and 2 ties one of those ties vs the number 1 ranked team in Nevada 2A, Yerington. After 3 decades Truckee has seen 12 coaches, 86 wins, 136 losses, and 2 ties, a measly 38% winning percentage. Truckee is averaging just 3 wins a year to this point, but they had more success in the 70’s than in any other decade. The move back to Nevada is lurking…