By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
PORTERVILLE – The Strathmore Spartans’ football season officially came to a close when they walked off the field at Orange High School as state champions in December, and the first ever state champions to come out of Tulare County. But as of last Friday night each player finally got some well deserved hardware for their historic perfect season.
“I am really happy that we were able to commemorate it in this manner,” Strathmore head football coach Jeromy Blackwell said. “The 2017 Spartan team has achieved more than any other in its 99 years of history. You can’t say enough about just how great of a football team this was.”
Much like the efforts of the 53 players to win the title it was a whole team effort to make sure each player, coach, and support staff got a ring. The first posts of a Go Fund Me account hit social media around mid-January. However, a month after fundraising had already slowly begun to build in the immediate weeks following the game. What followed were presentations, and meetings with people and organizations wanting to help out.
The face which many saw heading up the fundraising mission was Blackwell himself. Often he had sometimes three to as many as six players with him. All the time they had the championship trophy close by.
What many did not see however, was the time, work, and effort spent by the Strathmore Boosters Club. Some parents of current players receiving their last rewards, but all making sure each player had what they deserved. For their efforts they compiled a laundry list of sponsors. In all there were 60 to 70 sponsors offering donations in various amounts.
One of the biggest sponsors was Sierra View Hospital in Porterville. They donated $5,500 toward the cost of the rings.
“No one has ever donated that kind of money to Strathmore High School,” Blackwell said. “The community definitely took care of these kids. You could feel the pride in there, it is a proud community.”
The evening began with an entrance into the dinning area by the 2017 team. As they gathered up and around the stage the first speaker, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, took the podium. The Sheriff spoke about how he ordered an escort of the buses carrying the team to bring them from the county boarder all the way home.
“You guys represent something more than a championship,” the sheriff said. “You are an inspiration and your families are proud.”
After dinner Blackwell took the stage. He spoke of the teams hard work and determination to redeem themselves after the 2016 loss at state. All the time he thanked them for their dedication from the weight room to the field.
Blackwell shared some lasting advice to his football players as well. He told them if they wanted to go fast to run alone, but if they wanted to go far to run in a pack.
“The reason we are here today is because about 67 football players wanted to win real bad,” Blackwell said.