September 19, 2021
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A dinner of joy and contentment

  • Coach Gehrig Hotaling holds the autographed winning helmet signed by all players and coaches. Photo by Irene Hilsendager

By: Irene Hilsendager
January 31, 2020

Some folks say the sumptuous meal on January 11 at the Rohnert Park Community Center was felicitous in nature by feasting on succulent sweet crab for the new year and everyone was blissful and content.

The community center was a harborage that evening in anticipation of what was still to come. During crab feasts there are always whispers or rumors to what exciting items are available for the auctions.

Several items were especially interesting as it almost seemed similar to a football theme. Yes, there on the table was a helmet with the Rancho Cougar symbol with about 70 signatures on it. The names were players and coaches alike and yes there also was the winning football when the Rancho Cotate Football team became the winning Northern California State Champions, the first in Rohnert Park’s history.

The dinner was hosted by the Rohnert Park Peace Officers Sports Federation.

A very generous community member had the helmet in sight. Since she is such a supporter of the sports program, Joyce Rogers put in a bid of $2,000 since she felt the team needed to be honored for their vigorous and determined work for the football season.

Along with the $2,000 and with cheers of “come on, the kids need it,” the audience accumulated $3,000 along with the $2,000 for the helmet with a total of $5,000. Jeff Nicks said “there is such a long history of high school sports, we have to help our local team and the coaching staff did such an accomplished and adept job over the year.”

Here is where the gasps and tears appeared. Rogers donated the decorated helmet back to the Ranch High School to be displayed in the show case in the TAG building. She felt the spirit of the Cougar’s moved everyone that evening.

So told the $5,000 will off-set the costs for the symbolized football rings that the team will receive the end of Feb.

Couch Hotaling will never forget the evening the CIF Northern Ca. Division 3-A in one of the most determined and grim rainstorm when the Timberwolves fell to the Rohnert Park Rancho Cougars 10-0 in the Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium in Manteca.

The Ranch put away the game with a long drive by running between the tackle with Rasheed Rankin and on the edges with Jayden Herrera.

Coach Gehrig Hotaling said, “We were all hands-on deck with paper towels, and we had players running over to the sideline after every play to wipe down footballs.”

Hotaling said, “I placed a special order for 15 brand new footballs for this game.”

Coach Gehrig also added “Every senior will go down in history as the first team and the first Rancho Cotate group to play in a state championship game.” The Cougars certainly have nothing to be ashamed of and the 2019 team will be fondly remembered. As several of the players and the coach has said, “If you go to the Ranch and graduate, you will always be welcomed back with open arms.”

Regardless of the end results, the Cougars players and coaches are proud of their achievement. By the way, the winning football was purchased by Coach Ken Hawkins.