FRESNO, California (KGPE) — Central Unified put its new state champs front-and-center Thursday, honoring them with a parade the whole community was invited to attend. But, through the smiles and cheers, four district staff and faculty members were especially missed.
Central High School’s varsity football team became the 1-AA Division State champs last Friday. The Grizzlies beat Sierra Canyon from Chatsworth by a score of 34-19.
This is the district’s first state football title. Nearly a week later, the team got the community appreciation they deserved when they paraded down West Gettysburg Avenue.
“You feel the atmosphere, the whole community right behind you,” linebacker Jimeng Xiong said. “So, you have to win. You got to do it for them.”
The parade started at Central Unified’s main district office and wrapped at the team’s home turf — Deran Koligian Stadium. The high school’s band and cheerleaders led the way.
At the stadium, the team was welcomed by friends and family. Head Coach Kyle Biggs said it’s a moment he and his team will never forget.
“Last Friday and [our time] on these floats, it’s something that’s going to be engraved in my memory for the rest of my life. I think for the rest of their lives, also,” he said.
Schools along the parade route had their student bodies line the path. Staff and faculty also drove out to see the parade.
However, four people weren’t there. Tilley Elementary principal Karen Davis, assistant superintendent Kelly Porterfield, and track coaches Kevork Ajamian and Donte Johnson all passed away this year.
Superintendent Andy Alvarado said while the district is one of the biggest in the area, it’s still small enough to be a tight-knit family.
He adds even though those four weren’t at the parade in spirit, he knows they were there in spirit.
“It’s obviously a little bittersweet, but I know they’re looking down on us right now and celebrating,” said Alvarado. “I know all four of them would’ve been here to celebrate this momentous feat that the team has accomplished.”
Alvarado is confident this is only the first of many state titles to come to Central Unified.
Aside from the staff and faculty mentioned, the school district also lost student Dayvon McCoy when he died in a DUI accident.