Sports fans were treated to some amazing stories in 2016. We saw the Chicago Cubs break their infamous World Series curse, the Cleveland Cavaliers end a championship drought, new stars emerge (Kyrie Irving, Kris Bryant, to name a few) and old ones fade away (Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Michael Phelps, to name just a few more).
Those were stories followed and savored by a nation. Here in San Luis Obispo County, we had our own stories to celebrate, shed tears over or just plain shake our collective heads about. We’ve seen triumph over adversity in the inspiring story of Arroyo Grande graduate Ryan Teixeira, historic success in the Cal Poly football team’s first home FCS playoff berth in eight years, tragedy in a Morro Bay assistant football coach dying unexpectedly and, of course, Isaac Lindsey making a triumphant return to the sidelines. That just scratches the surface.
Yes, it was an eventful year locally, as well, and we were glad to bring it to your doorsteps and screens. Looking back, here are what The Tribune sports staff considered the top-10 stories of 2016:
Paso Robles football coach Rich Schimke pours syrup into player's belly button
When longtime Paso Robles High School head football coach Rich Schimke was placed on paid administrative leave in the middle of the season, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District wouldn’t say why. But a few days later, The Tribune obtained a video that shed light on the district’s decision. The video showed Schimke pouring syrup into a player’s bellybutton during an impromptu postgame locker room celebration and then licked it — or pretended to lick it — depending on who you ask.
Schimke was placed on leave but found support from many members of the Bearcat community. Eventually, he was reinstated as a teacher. But as of the end of 2016, he has not returned as a coach and his football future for 2017 remains unclear.
Schimke has yet to make a public statement following the incident.
Cal Poly football hosts first playoff game in eight years
The Cal Poly football team went 7-5 overall and hosted an FCS playoff game for the first time in eight years. Though the Mustangs were upset by San Diego on a rain-soaked November afternoon, it was a strong rebound season for Cal Poly after an uneven 2015 campaign.
Ten Mustangs received all-Big Sky Conference recognition during an exciting season that included upset victories over top-10 opponents South Dakota State and Montana.
High School Football Changes
The past year brought with it some major changes when it comes to high school football on the Central Coast. No change perhaps was bigger than the proposed move of 13 schools (Orcutt Academy was added later) from the Southern Section to the Central Section. The move, which probably won’t take affect until 2018, is expected to become official in January when the Central Section votes on the proposal.
Two longtime coaches at big programs also stepped down. Arroyo Grande head coach Tom Goossen announced his retirement, ending a 30-year career in coaching. Mission Prep head coach Chad Henry also announced he would be stepping down as head coach to take an assistant coaching job in New Jersey.
Henry said his decision was not a result of the other big shakeup — Mission Prep’s likely move to 8-man football.
Arroyo Grande High School grad Ryan Teixeira has second bout with cancer
A little more than a year after Ryan Teixeira had surgery to remove a 10-pound malignant tumor from his leg and eight months after his last round of chemotherapy, the Arroyo Grande High School graduate and former baseball star was diagnosed with leukemia in September.
Teixeira has received support from the community and a handful of Major League Baseball stars as he continues treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and got a small dose of good news when he found out his younger brother Aaron Teixeira was a bone marrow match in October. Aaron Teixeira donated his marrow on Tuesday.
Morro Bay High School assistant football coach dies at 47
Morro Bay assistant football coach and Grizzly Academy counselor Jim Atichson died suddenly at the age of 47 following complications from a Sept. 19 neck surgery. The beloved coach was mourned by many on the Central Coast and beyond. More than 200 people attended a touching ceremony at Morro Bay High School to honor his life.
Isaac Lindsay makes a comeback
Isaac Lindsey, the Templeton High School football player whose tragic brain injury during a game and rehabilitation captured the attention of SLO County in 2015, made big strides in his comeback in 2016. Sports reporter Travis Gibson witnessed another milestone in Lindsey’s recovery during a hike to the top of Cerro Alto in April.
Now a senior at Templeton, Lindsey returned to the football field, not to play, put as an honorary member of the team.
In October, the Lindsey family filed a lawsuit against the Templeton Unified School District and Riddell All-American Sports Corp.
Serious injuries hinder Cal Poly athletes
Cal Poly football recruit Jake Javier suffered a paralyzing injury in June, the day before his high school graduation from San Ramon Valley High School. Javier had accepted a preferred walk-on position with the Mustangs and, following months of medical procedures and rehabilitation, he attended Cal Poly’s final regular season game of the 2016 season.
Javier served as one of the Mustangs’ captains and was on the field for the pregame coin toss in late-November. Cal Poly went on to beat Northern Colorado and provided Javier, and the fans in attendance, a lasting memory.
The Cal Poly community also rallied around former baseball standout Matt Imhof, a left-handed pitching prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization who suffered a career-threatening injury during a training accident in June.
A rubber resistance band that was anchored to the wall with a mounted brace broke off and hit him in the head, Imhof wrote in an Instagram post, “resulting in a fractured nose, two fractured orbital bones and, most significantly, the loss of vision in my right eye.”
Cuesta runners capture individual state titles
It was a historic year for the Cuesta College cross country team.
Freshman Miranda Daschian and sophomore Sean McDermott won the women’s and men’s CCCAA state championships, marking the first time runners from the same school won both races at the state meet since 2004.
Daschian, a freshman from Atascadero High School, was Cuesta’s first ever women’s state champion with the school’s fastest time since 1996.
McDermott, a sophomore from North Tahoe High School, also was Cuesta’s first champion in the men’s race.
Community pulls together for Paso Robles High School football coach who lost house in fire
Paso Robles High School assistant football coach Matt Carroll and his family lost their home of nearly 20 years in an electrical fire in August. The story of their loss and the overwhelming community response to help them rebuild was equal parts heartbreaking and heart warming.
Callum Bolger’s spectacular seasons
San Luis Obispo High School senior runner Callum Bolger had a 2016 to remember. The cross country and track star finished third in dramatic fashion in the 3,200-meter event at CIF state finals in June. During the cross country season, Bolger dominated a field of 192 runners in November to win the Division 4 state title at the CIF Cross Country Championships at the Woodward Park course in Fresno. He then placed 10th in the one of the top cross country races in the nation.
In the middle of it all, Bolger found time to commit to run at Stanford next season and was named the The Tribune’s Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.