It took four months to get them, but each member of the 2014 Arizona State Division IV football champions– the River Valley Dust Devils– received their championship rings during a special assembly at the school on Monday.
The ceremony had the feel of graduation. There were students, teachers, parents, and principal Dorn Wilcox. Even Colorado River Union High School District superintendent Riley Frei was present and excitement filled the air, and then the football marched in with the newest state championship banner to be hung in the gymnasium.
It was back on Nov. 29, 2014 when River Valley defeated Snowflake 28-21 to earn the school’s first ever state football championship.
Monday’s ‘ring ceremony’ gave the coaches a chance to thank the parents, the community and local businesses for the support they needed to even make it through the playoffs. Co-head coach Paul Duchaineau often referred to the team’s semi-final game in Tucson, playing Sahuarita, in what was suppose to be a neutral site. For Sahuarita, the stadium was only 40 miles from their school. For River Valley it was a 350-mile trip– one-way, which caused some logistical problems for the coaches. Duchaineau credited the community for pulling through with the money to pay for hotel rooms and meals for everyone. Many of the parents and diehard supporters also made the trip to Tucson to cheer on the Dust Devils against the quasi-home team.
The faithful were there again the following week when the Dust Devils claimed the championship trophy by defeating Snowflake.
Duchaineau saved his biggest thanks for Findlay Motor Company and their general manager Ray Meins. The Bullhead City dealership paid the $8,900 bill for each football player and coach to get a ring.
“I walked through their doors and they said, ‘we’re going to take care of you, coach,'” Duchaineau said. In appreciation of their donation to the team, Duchaineau presented Meins with a football, signed by the entire team, as well as a poster-sized picture of the rings.
Senior running back Brandon Long, who finished the season with 2,302 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns– earning honors as The Arizona Republic’s Division IV Football Player of the Year award– was selected to speak at last week’s ring ceremony. The workhorse who amassed more than 6,700 yards and 100 touchdowns in four years at River Valley started off by telling the crowd, he was nervous, but he got over it quickly because he was talking to family.
“Each of you have earned a ring,” Long told his teammates as he ended his speech. “I couldn’t be anymore proud to call you my family.”