Standing on the north sideline facing west at Lamonica Stadium just before kickoff of the Clovis-Modesto football game, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the picture-perfect sunset, a beautiful hue of orange and red with blue cascading up into deep purple, and beyond, a few sparkling stars making an appearance as if to say, “Friday Night Lights is here.”
I turned to a Clovis administrator and said: “There’s nothing like Lamonica Stadium at sunset.”
When you look to the east, you’ll see Old Glory majestically waving in the wind, and in the background a few feet away is a gorgeous array of 26 pine trees firmly planted. They, like this community, have taken root, matured, and now exude a strength built from a blue-collar work ethic.
Oh what a stunning site Lamonica Stadium is to behold. The perfectly manicured grass on the crowned field doesn’t just look greener; it IS greener, with its manicured, crowned football field with a capacity of 6,500 to watch a football game. It is perfectly scaled: large enough to be grand, but understated enough to be graceful. Consider the gentle curve of the bleachers, allowing spectators to take in much more. Or how the bleachers blend seamlessly into the field. When you get a whiff of the natural grass, you’ll have flashes of the glory days of old and the promises of the present future, the place where the legends of Clovis past talk about the madness of those games that got away, revel in the many games they won when they were treated like heroes just for a moment and say things like, “If I could just lace up the cleats one more time …”
It is the gold standard experience for watching a game; no track to look past, the front row just 15 feet from the Clovis players who majestically don gold helmets like members of an elite emperor’s royal guard, the crazed student section close enough to hear the coaches’ huff and puff and praise and preach.
The stadium opened in 1974, named for its most popular and decorated alum, the famed AFL and NFL star Daryle Lamonica, a football paradise set back away from any outside noise or traffic or tall buildings that might obscure the horizon and beyond; just the sounds of helmets hitting helmet, pads colliding with pads, players screaming in victory or agonizing over defeat.
It’s a place where Clovis Football Hall of Fame members and former NFL players Tyler Clutts, Stephen Spach, Keith Poole and Zack Follett all played and the place where legendary and beloved coach Tim Simons roamed the sidelines, coaching to a record of 220-61-6 with five CIF Central Section and 12 league titles from 1976-1999. This is a home of champions.
Their names, along with Floyd Doc “B” Buchanan, Lloyd Merriman, Jack Mattox, Dave Lewis, and of course Lamonica, are all enshrined on a marbled monument just outside the gate entrance of the stadium, a most fitting venue to honor these pillars of the Clovis football community.
Once a Cougar, always a Cougar.
Fittingly, Lamonica himself has been coming around to Clovis football practices of late, showing the boys (and coaches) a few tricks of the trade, demonstrating receiver routes and explaining how a quarterback needs to see the whole field and most of all, modeling how to be a leader. In fact, after the 42-14 Clovis romp over Modesto, Lamonica went up head coach Rich Hammond and said, “I like what I saw going on!”
Next time you walk into Lamonica Stadium, look beyond the passes, runs and the tackling on the field for a moment. Take the time to breathe in all the sights and sounds that are all around, reflecting on the iconic place it is, a hallowed ground worthy of the mantle of Clovis High Football.
A special place indeed, this Lamonica Stadium.