The past and present champions of Downey High

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Monique Munoz

On February 21, Fred Gallagher and Harley Windmark former CIF champions from 1957 reunite at the Stay Gallery in Downey. “We only weighed one hundred and fifty pounds when we played football,” Gallagher said. “Now the boys weigh more then two-hundred pounds.”

Marilyn Ramirez, Copy Editor/Co-Editor-in-Chief

Since the CIF Championship football team has been history in the making, Coach Jack Williams, Stay Gallery Founder Valentin Flores Rogel, the Booster Club, and the Downey Alumni Association hosted Alumnight on Feb. 21 at 6:00 p.m. to promote the team and show their appreciation to the CIF Champions of 1957 and 2012.

 

“This is just super,” Fred Gallahger, 1957 running back, said. “Twice Downey had a chance at the champions and it’s finally happened.”

 

Members from the 1956 CIF Championship were the main figures of the evening: Gallagher who shared the fact that he was the one of only three left alive from ‘57’s back end, defensive end Harley Windmark, center Lash Stevenson, and guard Zach McCardy. Greg Sleven, although not a player, was given an honorable mention for being a fan who missed no games during the season.

 

2012 team captains Mark Kozhaya, Jeremy Villa, Robert Salazar, and Justin Huff were given the opportunity to meet the men who set the bar for them.

 

“You guys worked hard,” Windmark said. “We know you worked hard, and we’re proud of you.”

 

Gallahger became a fire captain in Downey, and Windmark followed his close friend by joining the city’s police force. The two men and their teammates shared memories of their days on the field, like drinking Coca-Cola instead of Gatorade during halftime and not drinking anything during practices to gain muscle mass when in fact it decreased.

 

“Before we were trying to get bigger,” Stevenson said, “but obviously we failed. Now we’re trying to get smaller and that’s not happening!”

 

Naming himself the historian of the 1956 team, Stevenson preserves old newspaper articles about his game, past ones, and now the team of 2012’s.

 

Attendees were excited to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and congratulated both past and present team members on their achievements. Mary Stauffer of the Mary Stauffer Foundation shared some input on her appearance at the Alumnight.

 

“I personally think football is treacherous,” Stauffer said, “however, I believe these young and older men deserve a lot for their efforts.”

 

Rogel, as a linebacker for the 2002 team, knew the dedication of the present team while setting up the event, as well as other team members present that evening.

 

“[Valentin] was an all-around linebacker in those days,” 2002 quarterback David Martinez said. “I come here and see these trophies and plaques, and you can’t help but remember every aspect of the game where we almost won the championship. It was definitely all worth it.”

 

Williams took some time halfway through the event to explain how much it meant to him and the team that people actually showed up at the Stay Gallery. As a former football player himself, he knew it was times like Alumnight to rejoin with old friends and reminisce about good memories.

 

“[The coaches] and I just want these guys to have that Downey pride,” Williams said, “that pride to wear those lettermens. Where once upon a time there was only one of those on the team and now there are 44.”

 

To kick off the events to come, Williams auctioned off memorabilia of the 2012 players as well as other objects of interest: two footballs signed by USC’s defense and offense, a Viking football player’s helmet, two footballs signed by the team of 2012, and Downey jerseys of the ages. Profits started at  $1,275 and increased as the night continued.

 

“My wife wasn’t here tonight to see my small investment,” George Reyes said, who purchased a signed football by the 2012 team for $325, “and I just wanted to help out the guys buy their rings.”

 

The Downey Alumni Association strives to support the dedication of the football team. They hope to host a number of programs that would make Stay Gallery the community spine. Rogel and his team of associates will continue to promote their programs with the help of their neighbors and await another night to celebrate what the city has to offer.