Spartan head football coach Jeromy Blackwell announced that the first inductees into the Strathmore Football Hall of Fame will be Jerry Crawford, Matt Gartung, Joe McCowen and Dave McDaniel.
Strathmore has won two Valley championships — 1992 and 1993 — and played in the Valley championship game in 1998, 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Blackwell, who dug into the archives to come up with some history, added the Spartans have been league champs 14 times, most recently in 2011. They have played in the playoffs in 18 of the past 22 seasons, including 1995 through 2000 and 2006 through 2012.
The first head coach of the Spartans was Coach Wege (first name not available), who led the Spartans to a record of 4-3-2 from 1920-23. He was followed by Daniel Roy Lightner, who coached from 1924-42, guiding the Spartans to a 55-56-9 record.
DJ Conley coached only three years — 1943-46 — and had a record of 6-14-1. He was followed by ER Berryhill from 1947-50, who compiled a record of 8-25. Cecil Harris coached only one year, as did coach Hubbard. They were followed by Coach Lindgren in 1953-54, then Coach Bottoms from 1955-57, who had the first winning career record as a coach at the school, going 12-5.
From 1959 through 1962, Coach Jim Brinkman led the Spartans to a 29-7-1 record. Robert Falos followed, then coach Dan Neppel took the reins from 1967-75, posting a 31-47-2 mark.
Records were not known for Coach Breshahen and coach Steve Greybehl, but Marty Sipe was there one year, 1981-82, before he was replaced by coach David McDaniel, and although Sipe’s record is not known, he led the Spartans to five league titles and two Valley championships.
Coach Blackwell has led the Spartans since 2000 and has a 89-71 record.
In this Part I of the Hall of Fame story, Coach McDaniel and Matt Gartung will be featured.
McDaniel coached the Strathmore football team from 1981-2000. He assisted Marty Sipe in 1981 and ‘82 and became head coach in 1983, inheriting a solid football program he built it into a dynasty over the next 18 years.
In 1988 the Spartans were suffering from the longest losing streak in the state. Coach McDaniel, with a lot of help from Jerry Crawford, Joe Vidrio and countless others, established Pop Warner football in Strathmore that would serve as a feeder program. The inaugural class went on to win the school’s first Valley Championship, but not its last. McDaniel skippered the Spartans to Valley Championships in 1992 and ‘98.
In 1992 the Spartans shocked the world when they rose to No. 5 in the state, according to Cal-High sports magazine, and went on to win the Section Title over Fowler. The following year the Spartans reappeared in the Section title game. Injuries mounted through the year and cost Strathmore the big game, but created an evolution in coach McDaniel’s offense.
His Spartans dominated the East Sierra League, winning League Championships in 1992, ‘96, ‘98, ‘99 and 2000.
McDaniel took the Spartans to the Section Title yet again in 1998. The Spartans trailed, but in the closing minutes of the game the Fowler Redcats scored a touchdown. It appeared the Spartans’ chances were nil.
But Strathmore executed a throwback on a kick return in the waning moments. When Jaime Garcia threw the ball to the completely uncovered returner Robert Tenorio and the sideline appeared wide open, the crowd began to hum, then erupted into a frenzy. As the Spartans scored the crowd noise reverberated throughout the local area.
Strathmore Assistant Coach Rick Anderson testifies that he heard the public address announcement of the touchdown by John Houy from his home in Porterville, 5 miles away. The echoes of this one play even found air time on CBS Channel 47 in Fresno in 2007, nine years later, when the Spartans were the team of the week after yet another victory over Fowler in the playoffs.
McDaniel left Strathmore in 2001 to teach and coach at Delano High School. He returned to the Porterville district as an administrator and recently retired.
McDaniel played quarterback at Porterville College and Monache High School. He resides in Strathmore with his wife. They are engaged in Christian Ministry and are beginning to travel the world.
The 1993 Strathmore High graduate is perhaps the most-heralded Strathmore Spartan of the modern age. He played football in Strathmore from 1990-93.
As Gartung began to grow and mature into his NCAA Div. I body, Coach McDaniel asked Rick Anderson if he thought Gartung had what it would take. After the 1992 season began, Anderson joined the staff and attests that the offensive line that he coached was equal to any that he had coached at Porterville College.
Gartung was the anchor of the line. Anyone who watched film from the ’92 season would agree that he was a man playing with boys. He was described as a beast to be reckoned with who could stick up a paw and decleat good defensive linemen.
He would earn a full-ride scholarship to play for the San Jose State Spartans. After the initial season he had his sights on higher levels and greener pastures. In 1996, he played his sophomore season at College of Sequoias, where he so impressed Head Coach Roger Kelly that he would often be moved to tight end to further dominate defensive ends in what coach Kelley called his Jumbo set.
Gartung anchored that O-line that went on to win the Central Valley Conference Championship, and played in a Bowl in Modesto versus San Bernardino Junior College.
From 1997-99, Gartung played for the Oregon State Beavers, where he excelled. Kelly Skipper, the running back coach at Fresno State, was so impressed that he asked “How did we let him get away?”
Gartung was invited to try out for the San Diego Chargers, yet chose to come home and assume the family business.
The banquet will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Joe Lopez ranch at 23798 Ave. 200. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased by calling Blackwell at 967-0847
Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015 6:00 am
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