By Bill Tamburrino
It has been a cold winter but the Ramona High School athletic department has been very hot.
Many of Ramona’s teams couldn’t compete in the Palomar League. It was a noble experiment but so was prohibition and neither worked.
Ramona can and does compete well in the Valley League. This winter we dominated in wrestling and breezed through the league undefeated and won the Valley League championship. Coach Steve Koch, his staff and teams have gone from having no on-campus practice facility (wrestlers have practiced in a trailer, barn and abandoned school cafeteria) to an abandoned barn in the Ag department, to an unheated welding shop in the Ag department, and then to the Old Gym to practice. All the while they have filled the New Gym (Isn’t it time to name the two gyms on campus?) with raucous crowds during home matches. This year they outdrew basketball in average attendance at home.
Coach Donnie Williams and his Water Dawgs made history as they too went undefeated in Valley League action to win Ramona’s first ever championship in water polo. The girls ended the regular season with a 19-9 record. The Bulldogs played 15 games in the final three weeks of the season and ended the season with three matches in the final week. Like wrestling, the water polo team has had to scramble for a place to practice but they found a way to win. Water polo has a loyal following and draws well when they are playing a home match.
Girls basketball used a familiar formula to win a share of the Valley League championship. Coach Dan Marshall and his staff stressed team defense and a team concept on offense. Each girl knew her role and did what was needed for the team to be successful.
“I came to Ramona as a boys coach. I was offered a junior high job in the boys program and a junior varsity job in the girls program. I took the girls job and I am happy that I did. It has been said that I am just a girls coach by some critics. I consider that intended put down as a compliment. I am proud that I am the girls coach and I am proud of every girl that I have ever coached,” said Marshall, who won his seventh league championship as a “girls coach” this season.
Boys soccer had a great season. They played for the Valley League championship against defending league champion Orange Glen in the final game of the regular season. Coach Michael Jordan and his staff and team needed a win to clinch the championship but tied Orange Glen. The Dawgs finished the season with a stellar 20 win season as they went 20-3-3 overall and 8-1-1 in the Valley League.
Soccer has a loyal and loud following. They draw as well as basketball and wrestling.
“We have to start charging for soccer matches. They draw great crowds and they are a classy group,” said Ramona High Athletic Director Damon Baldwin with a chuckle at the Orange Glen game.
The championship game was one of the best, hardest played and most exciting high school soccer games that I have ever seen. Both teams left it all on the pitch. Both teams hustled to the ball and fought for every position. Both teams were well coached and showed class during and after the game. Orange Glen’s coach made it a point to tell every Ramona fan that he saw on his way to the team bus that the Bulldogs are a class act. Ramona’s fans were sincere when they returned the compliment.
Coach Lance Thompson of California State University at San Bernardino was in attendance. He scouted Patriots players at the first match between Orange Glen and Ramona. He was so impressed with the Ramona team that he traveled to Ramona with his young son to see the championship game and to recruit a Ramona athlete or two.
“Both teams play the game the way it should be played,” said Thompson during the first half.
It is very possible that the Bulldogs and Patriots will play a third game during the playoffs. Both teams should get a top four seed.
Ramona not only competed for four championships and won three during the winter, they did so with class and did so with team efforts. Will the Bulldogs dominate the Valley League in all sports? Probably not, but they do have a fighting chance.
“It is amazing how hard a team plays when they know that they have a chance to compete every time they step on the field,” said Jordan.