CALEXICO — The highly anticipated celebration of the 100 years of football at Calexico High School ended with tears of joy and disappointment as the Bulldogs lost to the San Diego Cavers, 38-6, here last Friday.
The celebration began with a pre-party at the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center where past and present coaches and players gathered and shared anecdotes and past gridiron war stories.
“One hundred years ago we played in San Diego, can you imagine playing San Diego High who ranked number one in the entire U.S., we lost 55-0, but we don’t tell people that,” said Gordy de Necochea, Calexico alumni and former football player 1958-1959.
The first game played between the Bulldogs and the Cavers was in 1916, the very best year of CIF playoffs, according to the committee. The game was played in San Diego’s Balboa Stadium which was built for the 1915 Panama Exposition.
“My football team was very fortunate. Carlos Moreno owned a beautiful home in Rosarito Beach with a beach front and he took the entire football team there to practice. He fed us steak during the morning, lunch, and dinner. When we would walk on the beach, people thought we were professional football players, they thought we were the Los Angeles Rams,” said De Necochea as his face lit up telling his story.
“I’m hoping that today Calexico does better than 55-0, even if they don’t win, I want them to at least score one touchdown,” added de Necochea.
Beautifully decorated, the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center yelled Bulldogs as the colors garnet, white and gold sprung throughout the room. Items such as framed pictures, newspaper clippings, clothing, even a pair of cleats belonging to Louie Espinoza, the 1945 Imperial Valley football champion, all amazingly displayed throughout the room and soon to be auctioned following the game.
“It is a great honor to be accepted as the head coach for Calexico High School,” said current Calexico head coach, Sean Johnson. “It will be a great game and I expect good things from my team tonight.”
Ready to cheer on the Bulldogs, several guests proudly wore spirit t-shirts, representing their beloved team and anxiously waiting kickoff time.
“This event had been in the making for five years and the day is finally here,” said Mike Charles, committee member and 1960 Calexico High graduate.
Dinner consisted of savory tacos catered from Taco Mex, and a variety of exquisite wines and drinks.
As the clock stuck 6:30 p.m., guests made their way to Ward Field where the Bulldogs and Cavers were ready to begin the first home game of the season.
Bulldog fans of new and old packed the home side bleachers ready to root on a Calexico victory.
“There was no way I was going to miss this game. Celebrating the 100 is an important mark for the football team,” said Sandra Bustos, Calexico resident.
Once the game began, the Bulldogs received a standing ovation as they made their way into the field where they faced their opponents.
“Come on and fight Bulldogs fight, come on and fight with all your might!” Over and over the crowd cheered on their team.
The halftime ceremony was very emotional as former Bulldog players dating back to the 1940’s were recognized, receiving a standing ovation in addition to honoring the 9/11 fall of the Two Towers by the Color Guard.
Adolfo “Fito” Yturralde (1933-1935) and Bobby Casanova (1948-1950) were among those recognized.
The Calexico school band performed spectacularly along with the cheerleaders, drill team and flags.
Ward Field, too, had something to celebrate. The new food stand was inaugurated during the centennial.
It was a tough loss for the Calexico Bulldogs but it wasn’t for lack of effort or support as the crowd made sure to remind the youths with applause after the game.
Following the game, several guests made their way back to the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center where the silent auction took place.
All monies from the auction and donations went to the football program.
Anxiously waiting for the deadline, bidders and guests enjoyed drinks and food and took the opportunity to converse and share stories with those attending.
“I played with the best player, Primo Villanueva, with whom I switched positions yearly between quarterback and halfback. Together we won the championship in 1948,” explained Bob Casanova, former football player and 1951 Calexico High graduate.
Victor Esquer and Lolly Torres received a varsity ‘C’ letter as a special recognition from Mike Charles for their participation in organizing the centennial ceremony.
“The centennial program was successful as well as the silent auction” said Charles.
The hottest item was a beautiful Bulldog, garnet and white, chair, won by none other than Daniel Romero, City of Calexico, vice chairman planning department with a bid of $200.
“It’s a beautiful chair and I’m taking it home,” said Romero.
As the clock struck midnight the party ended with tears of joy, sadness and laughter for those who attended this once in a lifetime celebration.[envira-gallery id=”64248″]