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December 6, 2023

This isn’t Gilroy’s first championship!

Here’s a piece of history from reader and history buff Phil Laursen:
Thanks to the discovery of a large reel of film and two local grants, we know 2017 does not mark the first time Gilroy High’s football team won a championship.
Decades ago, Junior Wilson rescued that film from the basement of Wheeler Auditorium. The 35mm film was labeled “1911 (?) Gilroy High School Championship Football Team”. Grants from the Gilroy Foundation, as well as from John and Betty Clark, enabled the Gilroy Historical Society to digitize that reel and a few others. Mark & Debbie Davis of Express Media Graphics very generously turned the footage into DVDs that can be purchased for the benefit of the Gilroy Museum.
In the Spring of 2006, the Society held a standing-room-only premiere of the film and that led to the unraveling of a key mysteries of the films. The “1911…” reel included Armistice Day scenes, but that holiday wasn’t established until 1919, so when was the film made?
Eleanor Villareal, then-director of the Rebecca Children’s Home, attended the premier and brought forward a book from the IOOF library, “IOOF Children’s Home; 1897-1997”, that included the story of the 1926 Gilroy High School Championship Football Team. Compared stills from the digitized movie to photos in the book convinced us we had a match.
The book told of four IOOF boys who played on the GHS 1926 team; known as “the Four Horsemen”, captain and fullback John Graf, quarterback Ernest Graf, halfback Fred Gerholdt, and Harold (“Peanuts”) Main.
That team won the division title; not only were they undefeated, they were not even scored upon. A little poem about the team was published in the Dispatch:
“For nothing could stop them nor hold
These warriors that traveled like flame;
They rode with the footfalls of fate
And the answer seemed always the same.”

Brad Kava
Brad Kavahttps://morganhilltime.wpengine.com
Brad Kava is a longtime journalist and social media enthusiast.

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