300 of anything and it'll be hard to pick a favorite. For 35 year coach Steve Denman, maybe his favorite was one of his seven CIF title wins. Maybe Friday's win where he cemented his place in the history books. "It's not me and I've always said that," he said immediately after the Warriors win over West.
He may have said that, but those around him sing a different tune. "I would not have stuck in it this long if it hadn't been for Steve," said defensive coordinator Dennis Ruggles. Ruggles first met coach Denman as a first year PE teacher and saw right away that he would be something special.
Denman was initially a defensive end before being called on to be quarterback. He would go on to play at Bakersfield College but a knee injury in a pickup basketball game ended any thoughts of playing at the D-I level.
After graduating from Cal State Bakersfield, his high school football coach, Gary Ogilvie, called and offered him a student teaching job. "It was all planned, it was all set up for him," said Ruggles.
Paul Ogilvie, the coach's son and one of Denman's former players, still remembers how his dad passed the torch. "He went straight to the principal and says 'I've already picked my replacement and you need to hire this guy because he's a gem." Denman took the job at the age of 22.
"I think it's been a great place to raise a family number one," Denman said reflecting on 35 years. He says what's kept him going all this time has been the support from his wife Judy, "any coach will tell you that" but on the field it's been his consistent coaching staff.
Coach Ruggles has handled his defense for 32 seasons alongside Bill Carll who's helped for over 20 years. Carll, like Ruggles, first met Denman when he was a teacher at Tehachapi and describes an athletic kid who "couldn't shoot a lick" as he demonstrated Denman's shooting motion.
Only one person on his staff is a former player. Patrick Snyder was a running back on the 1985 CIF championship team and is now the school's athletic director, helping Denman call the offense. "He made such an impact on us (the '85 team) that there was nothing else that I was going to do," Synder said.
Through the 35 years, although it's hard to accurately count because of duplicates, that that impact was felt by more than 1,500 players. "He treated everyone the same but also made them feel special," said Ogilvie.
For Steve Denman, coaching has been second nature, his life blood and most importantly fun. "It's tough to walk away from something like that anywhere," Denman said when asked about opportunities he passed up on. "Because the grass isn't always greater."
"You don't find many coaches like him," said Carll. "If you do, those who have him are very fortunate.
The 2016 Warriors will look to pick up #301 tonight when they take on Delano at 7:00 PM at Coy Burnett. Catch highlights tonight on 23FNL starting at 11:14 PM.
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