BRAWLEY â€“ Monday, March 10, 2014 marks a big night for the Imperial Valley Coaches Association as The Town Pump in Westmorland is set to the host the 15th annual Imperial Valley Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
It will also be a big night for one Brawley family, a family that will have two inductees being honored, a family strong in Brawley Football Tradition that continues to pass the love of the game through their generations.
For Ron Rubio and Rick Rubio, Brawley football and family tradition go hand in hand, and on March 10, 2014, both will be honored for their accomplishments on the football field with induction into the Imperial Valley Football Hall of Fame.
â€œSince I was five years old my mother took me to all the Brawley home games, and I knew then that I was going to be a Wildcat football player,â€ recalls Ron Rubio, 1981 graduate and member of the 1979-80 Wildcat varsity squad.Â Ron also recapped games with his father over the phone during those years and would hang up the phone if his father made a negative remark about the team.
For Ron, the Hall of Fame road began in 1979, his junior year and first season on the varsity team.
â€œAs a junior on the 1979 team my main goal was to find a way to get some playing time on a team that was loaded at all positions for both offense and defense.â€
After a couple of injuries to key players on offense and defense allowed Ron on the Wildcat line- up rotations on both sides of the ball, running back on offense and cornerback on defense.Â Statistically he would finish the season with over 1,000 yards rushing on offense and four interceptions defensively.Â But more importantly he helped the Wildcats to a semi-final finish in the tough CIF Southern Section Playoffs, falling by one touchdown 14-7 to an Indio team that would win it all a week later in a blowout.
As a senior in 1980, Ron was again utilized on both sides of the ball and part of the first Wildcat team in thirteen years to win the Desert Valley League, beating Indio 13-3 in regular season league play.Â Ron again had over 1,000 yards and defensively added 6 interceptions.
In 1989, eight years since donning a Wildcat uniform, Ron saw competition on the football field, this time on the sidelines as a Wildcat football coach. Â One of his first pupils just so happened to be his nephew, Rick Rubio, who was in the early stages of paving his own Hall of Fame High School career.
Rick was a freshman Wildcat in 1989, but his love of Brawley football began long before.Â Rick grew up watching Uncle Ron and Cousin Ernie Pena (also a Hall of Famer) lace â€˜em up for the Blue and Gold on Friday nights in the early 80â€™s.Â Next for Rick was Brawley Wildcat Pop Warner, where began playing football at the age of eight.
â€œMy parents were very supportive.Â My dad coached and served on the Pop Warner Board during my playing years, then after me,Â he coached until my brother (Randy Rubio) graduated. Mom spent many birthdays at Pop Warner practice,â€ said Rick of his parents football support.
Throughout his Pop Warner days and his first three years of High School, Rick dreamed of doing something all Brawley football athletes dream about at least once in their lifetime, to beat valley-rival Central in the annual Bell Game.Â Brawley lost the bell in the 1984 and lost it on the field seven years straight after that, including Rickâ€™s first three years of high school.
â€œRemembering Brawley losing the bell in the early 80â€™s and seeing Central celebrate on our own field served as my motivation and inspiration to beat Central, the highlight of my playing days,â€ Rick said.
Rickâ€™s senior season, Wildcat squad of 1992, would be remembered as the team that â€œbrought home the Bellâ€ snapping the longest Central Bell Game winning streak to date.
â€œItâ€™s a great honor to be inducted to the Hall of Fame; football has been such a big part of my life. I was fortunate to play for a lot of good coaches. Â Steve Cato, Mike Swearinger, John Bishop, coaches that meant a lot to the game here in the Imperial Valley, and it is also great to see some of my coaches still coaching around the valley.Â Kerry Legarra at Imperial, Frank Lugo at Calexico, and Keith Smith at Holtville,â€ said Rick in remembrance of the great coaching that Brawley is known for, a tradition that hits close to home in his heart, especially these days.
After Rickâ€™s high school playing career he too would find himself on the Wildcat sidelines, when in 1994 Ron brought him on as an assistant coach for the Wildcat freshman team.Â Fast forward twenty years and the torch has officially been passed from teacher to student, uncle to nephew, as Rick is now the current wildcat JV coach with Ron working with him as an assistant coach.Â An uncle and nephew, well versed in the language that is football, sharing ideas and strategy, itâ€™s a situation both couldnâ€™t be happier about.
â€œAs a little kid I always knew I wanted to be a coach, and I played the game with passion and determination to be the best I could be, all along knowing that after my playing days were over I would be a coach,â€ said Rick on his transition from player to coach.
Rick now has over twenty years on the Brawley sideline, having spent the first seventeen of those years with Coach John Bishop as his boss and Head Coach of the Brawley Wildcat Varsity squad.Â Coach Bishop retired from coaching after the 2010 season.
â€œI am also very fortunate to have played and won the Bell with my brother Randy.Â Ill never forget the emotions I had pre-game knowing this was the last game with my brother, and hugging him afterwards was absolutely the best.Â We had finally done it, we had beat Central!! And also coaching my brother, Robby, during the 2007 season, when we brought the Bell back again.â€ added Rick.
But the most proud moment for both Ron and Rick post playing career wise came during the 2012 football season during a CIF Quarterfinal Playoff game against a loaded Imperial Tiger team, A Tiger team that was a pre-season favorite over the Wildcats, and loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.Â It was during this game that an injury to senior quarterback Josh Godinez would place the hopes of an entire season on the nerves of a young sophomore JV quarterback.Â That sophomore
quarterback just so happened to be Ross Rubio, Ronâ€™s son, Ricks cousin.
â€œWhen I saw my son taking snaps on the sidelines I knew it was really going to happen, instantly my boy was going to be QB for the Brawley Wildcats, and I was the proudest father in the whole world,â€ said Ron in remembrance of the night.
Ross surprised many in attendance that night, giving a spirited performance, and being an integral part of the overall team effort and victory over Imperial in the quarter-final, with only limited varsity playing experience.
â€œMy first prayer as we waited for him to go in was that they would have a good snap exchange.Â This first snap is so very important because if it is bad it stays with the quarterback.Â I tried to be positive by reminding myself of how well he had played on our undefeated JV team, and then another worry enters my head.Â Will he and the running backs have good timing? Â Too lateâ€¦ there was my son behind center and thenâ€¦â€¦.. He kicks butt!â€
Rick has a five-year-old son of his own, who also will don the Wildcat blue and gold later this year in Brawley Pop Warner.
For Ron and Rick, the Imperial Valley Hall of Fame will be the official mark of achievement for their playing careers, but as they continue coaching Brawleyâ€™s youth and their children continue to take part in Brawley Athletics it is clear that the Rubio name will live on within the Tradition known as Wildcat Football.