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Rooted in Football: Family connections abound on Shasta County gridiron

The family ties go a long way on the football field in the North State with all of the relatives coaching or playing together in the area.

Illustration by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports

Like generations before, fathers and sons have bonded over the game of football.

From a game of catch in the front yard to seeing a high school, college or pro game, and then watching the young ones come up through the youth and prep ranks, football offers a rite of passage for many fathers, sons, brothers and cousins.

In Shasta County, that familial football tradition is alive and well, especially in the prep game.

On the eve of the 2019 high school football season, a handful of programs across the county have family ties — even across enemy lines.

And it’s not just players, but coaches who’ve made Shasta County football a family business.

Two programs, West Valley and Shasta, squaring off on the season’s first week — the Sub-Zero week on Aug. 23 — have a good ol’ version of “Family Feud” shaping up with  cousins Logan and Garrett Thibodeau will be on opposite sides of the ball.

And the potential for Logan, a Shasta offensive guard, to be on a collision course with Garrett, a West Valley linebacker, is very real.

The two met on the field as freshmen, when Logan played quarterback and Garrett took his spot at linebacker.

And it’s not just the Thibodeau cousins taking part in the rivalry, but brothers Adam and Eric, the former a JV assistant with the Wolves and the latter an Eagles varsity assistant.

Adam and Eric even spent time coaching together years back for Corning, their hometown.

Football programs talk all the time about teams being  family and for a handful of the Wolves, they really are.

Shasta head man JC Hunsaker won’t have his father — legendary Central Valley and Big Valley coach Matt, on the sidelines after the elder Hunsaker retired after five years as an assistant for the Wolves.

JC Hunsaker said having a family member — whether it be father-son, brother-brother or whatever — makes the ride sweeter, but is also a tightrope to walk at times.

“It’s a blessing, no doubt,” he said. “But it’s a tricky road with coach-player or coach-coach roles going along with father-son roles.”

He points to the Wolves’ 2016 season when he got to share the state-title run with his father, the section’s third winningest coach.

“I hope to have another year like that,” JC Hunsaker said. “But I know it won’t be the same because Dad won’t be there. He never got to experience that (despite all his success) and to go on that ride with him was special.

“He helped mold me into the person and coach I am.”

But Brent and James Weaver join the Thibodeaus as a father-son combo for the west-siders.

Both Brent and Adam Thibodeau help coach the junior varsity squad and then watch as Logan leads the sweep block for James on the varsity level.

Both Shasta and Foothill have a trio of brothers dotting the program. For the Wolves, the Stankey brothers include senior Kane, junior Bladen and freshman Mason.

While at Foothill, seniors Joe and Chris Ostergren play varsity as sophomore Zach will be a JV player for the Cougars.

Up the hill from Shasta, over at U-Prep, the Truebloods have a trifecta of their own in Panthers blue.

Second-year coach Darren leads the program along with eldest son, Zack, who shepherds the JV program and, like a lot of smaller schools, will help the varsity program as needed.

Adding to the mix is senior quarterback, Trevor, who will lead the Panthers under center this season.

“Coaching your kid and coaching with your kid definitely makes it interesting,” Darren said. “There is a line where you stop being coach and you have to be dad.”

And while Darren said there might be some perceived benefits to having a father, brother or whomever as a coach, most don’t realize that the player is never totally removed.

“Other kids get to go and escape, but a coach’s kid never really gets all the way away,” he said.

And while there are moments of tension, Darren Trueblood said the bond of being able to share the game with his sons is something he wouldn’t trade.

“I’m sure in five or six Thanksgivings from now, it will be something we all look back on fondly,” he said, adding that the moment often doesn’t allow for that kind of reflection.

In Anderson, Big Blue coach Don Trotter has son Marcus returning as a junior offensive and defensive lineman.

Trotter played for the Cubs back in the day, as did his oldest son, Mario, now an assistant for his father.

And it’s not just prep players who share the love of the game. Last season, John and Kody Karpinski played for Shasta College, as the 40-something father and defensive lineman joined his quarterback son. The pair even played in the same game, on opposite sides of the ball, on a handful of occasions.

And when the young man’s game does finally pass you by, you can do what the Diskins are doing — coach together.

Longtime coach Matt — he spent time at Central Valley, Shasta College and now Foothill — is the Cougars’ defensive coordinator, while son Sam calls the offense for Red Thunder, showing it is truly a family affair.

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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