Monday, August 15, 2022

Four to be inducted into Colusa County Athletic Hall of Fame

Granzella’s Banquet Room in Williams provides the backdrop for the 20th Annual Colusa County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will be held this coming Saturday, July 9.

Preserving the rich athletic heritage of the county and connecting it to the current crop of student-athletes who are continuing the tradition of excellence is the goal of the event.

Last week, the Pioneer Review highlighted the ten 2022 outstanding senior athletes recognized by the CCSHF. This installment concludes the series by focusing on the four inductees who set the standard in the time spanning from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Those being enshrined in the class of 2022 include Sal Frias, Jerry Gross, Heath Roper, and Jose Velasquez.

Sal Frias

Sal Frias

A three-sport athlete for Colusa in the early 80s, Frias excelled in tennis, basketball, and football before becoming a highly successful coach for Maxwell in the 90s.

At Colusa, Frias was a back-to-back Butte Valley League tennis champion in both singles and doubles, eventually going on to play at Butte College where his team won a California Community College State Championship.

In basketball, he was a two-time All-BVL selection after leading the league in scoring as a junior where he averaged 21.3 points per game, and then followed up by finishing second in scoring his senior year. On the gridiron, Frias was an All-League offensive lineman in 1981.

After graduating from Chico State in 1988, Frias took a teaching job in Maxwell, eventually becoming the Panthers’ head football coach. In 1991, despite having only 12 players, his team won both the Mid-Valley and North Valley League championships. He also swept the coaching awards, being named the MVL, NVL, Tri-County Newspapers, Northern Section and All-Superior California Coach of the Year. Frias went on to lead his 1993 Panther team to a 12-2 overall record and the Northern Section Class A championship.

Jerry Gross

Jerry Gross

Another multi-talented athlete, Gross was a standout for Pierce in the early 1970s, participating in football, basketball, and track.

During his time at Pierce, Gross posted some top marks in Northern Section track history, several of which still rank among the best, including 14.2 in the 120-yard high hurdles, 19.3 in the 180-yard low hurdles and a 9.9 in the 100-yard dash.

Big and fast, Gross, despite missing his senior football season due to injury, made enough of an impression as a Bear to continue his playing career at UC Davis. There he was an All-League Freshman and contributed to the Aggies’ freshman squad’s undefeated season in 1972.

Gross ended his athletic career at Davis shortly thereafter, choosing instead to focus on preparation for medical school, which ultimately resulted in a long career as a physician and medical director.

Heath Roper

Heath Roper

Roper, who now has the distinction of joining his father, Gary, as a member of the Hall of Fame, starred in basketball, baseball, and football for Williams in the late 1980s.

A three-time All-League performer in basketball, Roper scored 1,222 points in his career, which made him the ‘Jackets’ all-time leader. And, although his record has since been eclipsed, he still stands third in the school’s history.

As a baseball player, Roper also garnered multiple All-League and All-Tournament awards.
Equally successful in football, Roper earned All-League honors twice, finishing his career having thrown for 2,500 yards, including 1,000 in his senior year.

A starter at defensive back in the 1989 Lions’ All-Star football game, Roper went on to play football and baseball at Butte College, where he was part of both team’s league championships.

Returning to Colusa County, Roper remained active in softball and rugby, and, in another nod to history, is being inducted into the CCAHF at the same time his daughter, Reese, is being recognized as one of the county’s top senior athletes.

Jose Velasquez

Jose Velasquez

One of the most prolific athletes to attend Maxwell High School, Velasquez excelled in basketball, football, and baseball for the Panthers.

An All-League pick in basketball, Velasquez also earned tournament MVP honors at both the Williams Invitational and Irene Wells tournaments.

In football, perhaps his best sport, he was named to the All-Mid-Valley, North Valley, and Tri-County teams for three consecutive years, and was additionally selected to play in the Lions All-Star football game.

A catcher and pitcher for the Panther baseball squad, Velasquez was also one of its top hitters. He received All-League recognition three times, two All-Tri-County nods, and was selected to play in the inaugural Lions North-South All-Star game, making him the first player from Maxwell to play in both the baseball and football All-Star games.

After high school, Velasquez continued his baseball career at Butte College then returned to the county and played for Davies Oil in the Colusa Softball League.

Tickets to the banquet are $30 per person and available at the door. Cocktails begin at 6 PM, with dinner at 7 PM followed by the presentations. ■

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