Four in the athlete category, three coaches plus five others will be inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in October. Elk Grove’s Lance Briggs, who should get some consideration as an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, is among the group. The section also is honoring a longtime referee who was killed in the line of duty as a sheriff’s deputy in 2016.
The inductees were decided through a lengthy process that included months of research and three separate committees. The induction banquet and ceremony are scheduled for Sunday, October 21 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento.
This is the Sac-Joaquin Section’s fifth Hall of Fame class. The inaugural class in 2010 had 56 members, the 2012 group had 43 inductees, 2014 had 32 and the 2016 class had 17 honorees. This class makes a total of 165 Hall of Fame inductees. Cal-Hi Sports co-founders Mark and Nelson Tennis were the first inducted in the media category.
Here are more details about this year’s group of SJS Hall of Fame inductees:
LANCE BRIGGS, ELK GROVE (Football): Briggs was a superstar on both offense and defense for one of the top football teams in section history. As a senior in 1998, the Thundering Herd rolled to a 77-22 victory over Atwater in the SJS Division I championship game. He was also part of Elk Grove’s 1997 Section title squad. He went to the University of Arizona, where he was a two-time first-team all-Pac-10 linebacker. He played 12 years for the Chicago Bears in the NFL, where he made seven Pro Bowl rosters and was named all-Pro three times.
J.P. HOWELL, JESUIT (Baseball): Howell is considered one of the most dominant pitchers in section history. His senior year in 2001, he went 10-0 with a 0.09 ERA and 137 strikeouts while leading the Marauders to the Division I section title. He also set a section playoff record his junior year by striking out 47 in 22 innings. He moved on to the University of Texas, where he went 25-4 in his two seasons with the Longhorns, earning first-team all-American honors. He compiled a 36-30 record in a 12-year major league Baseball career, playing for four different teams.
CHANIQUA (ROSS) BUTSCHER, LAGUNA CREEK (Track and Field): Ross won the section championship in both the shot put and discus for all four years each; she’s the only track and field competitor in section history to win championships in two different events four times. She won CIF state titles in the discus in 1996 and 1997. She moved on to UCLA, where she won two Pac-10 championships (2001 and 2002) and she was the NCAA discus champion in 2002.
JOHN VUKOVICH, AMADOR (Football, Basketball, Baseball): The late Vukovich is the most storied athlete to ever come out of Amador High School. He played football, basketball and baseball well, but he really shined in football and baseball. He earned an impressive double when he was named the Cal-Hi Sports state small schools basketball player of the year in 1963 and he was the Cal Hi state small schools football player in 1964. He had a 12-year Major League Baseball career that included winning two World Series rings (1975 Cincinnati Reds, 1980 Philadelphia Phillies) and he was a coach with the Phillies from 1988-2004.
MONTY MULLER: He was a standout wrestler at La Sierra High of Carmichael (closed in 1983), American River College and San Francisco State before transitioning into the officiating world. He has worked as a high school wrestling official for the last 40 years, working 18 state championships. He was the commissioner of wrestling officials in the Sac-Joaquin Section and, for the last 21 years, has been a partner with Jorgensen Sports Service, which assigns officials in all sports for the northern half of the SJS.
DENNIS WALLACE: The late Wallace officiated football in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section for the last 25 years. He also was a high school soccer official for three years. He spent the last 15 years of his officiating career as a crew chief. He worked playoff games every year and he was on the field for four section championship games. He was also the referee for 11 North/South Rotary All-Star games. He served multiple terms on the NCOA South football officials board as well. Wallace, a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy, was killed in the line of duty in 2016.
MIKE RAY: Ray graduated from Colfax High School in 1969 – he was the school’s Athlete of the Year – and even as a high school athlete was already writing for the Colfax Record. He was the sports editor for the Record from 1970-1985 and from 1989 to the present. He was also the sports editor of the Grass Valley Union from 1975-1985. He has covered three generations of high school athletes for the Colfax Record.
JOE DEBELY, TURLOCK (Football): The late Debely was a longtime football and wrestling coach at Turlock High. He coached the football team from 1933-1941 and from 1946-53; that gap was because he served in the US Navy during World War II. His teams won seven league championships, and in 1948 and 1949 they finished the year at a perfect 10-0. Turlock High’s stadium is named after him as well. Debely was also involved with the Sac-Joaquin Section during its formative years; he came up with the name “Sac-Joaquin Section.”
RON PUCCI, COLFAX (Boys Basketball): Pucci coached boys basketball at Colfax for 19 years in three separate stints. He coached from 1979-89, from 1996-2001 and from 2004-2009. His teams compiled a 371-191 record in that time, winning seven league championships, three Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV titles (2004, 2006 and 2007) and the Falcons advanced to the CIF Northern California Division IV championship game in 1999.
MARK SPECKMAN, LIVINGSTON/MERCED/GOLDEN VALLEY (Football): Speckman coached at Livingston (1981-1983), Merced (1986-1993) and Golden Valley (1994), compiling a 113-48-3 record. It was at Merced where Speckman’s teams were at their best. Those teams played in five Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships, winning two of them. The 1990 team was the mythical overall state champion, ranked No. 1 by Cal-Hi Sports.
ADMINISTRATORS AND BENEFACTORS (2)
RICH CATHCART: Cathcart returned to his alma mater as a coach and served as the school’s athletic director from 1995 to 2014. During his time at Bret Harte, he coached football and boys basketball and he founded the boys and girls golf teams as well. The boys golf team began in 1986 and girls golf followed in 1999. He’s coached teams to divisional section championships in boys basketball and boys and girls golf. He’s been the Mother Lode League Commissioner since 2010.
JOHN WILLIAMS: Williams served a stint as the Sierra Valley Conference commissioner before being hired as the Sac-Joaquin Section’s first assistant commissioner in 2001. He worked at the section office during a period of growth and massive playoff expansion, of which he played a key role in making the postseason look the way it does today. He also developed the section’s history and record books and served on the CIF State Editorial Committee for many years. He is back as the SVC Commissioner, having served in that role since 2015.