Looking back: Rams take section championship in 1980
If you have ever been in the Dixon High School gym, and if you have ever looked up at all the banners, there is one banner hanging that shows the last time the Dixon Rams basketball team won the section championship. The Rams have come close since, but in the 1979-1980 season the Dixon Rams went all the way to the championship and beat Ripon Christian 75-54 to become section champions.
When I talked to the team’s manger on the team, Scotty Stacey, he said this team was a true team. “This team defined the sense of the word team, in every sense of the word,” Scotty Stacey said. This team was truly the ultimate bonded group on the court, and through their bond they went through thick and thin to eventually become Division 3 champions.
The Rams would host Hughson and would dominate to get the big win over Hughson to move on to the next round. The Rams would then go on to play Ripon High School and would end up playing a tight game, with a final score of Dixon winning 65 to 54. Scotty Stacey said that of all the games that they played, this was indeed the most intense and close games of them all. The Rams would move on in the playoffs to play in the section championship game against Ripon Christian at Tokay High School.
Scotty Stacey commented on the matter, “You have to remember that Tokay High School can fill about 2,000 people, and Dixon fans filled about 3/4 of those seats”. Dixon came to Tokay in Lodi, loud and proud, and were ready to show that even small schools belong in basketball glory. The Rams would go on to dominate Ripon Christian, and, with a 75 to 54 Dixon victory, win the Division 3 section championship for the first time in the school’s history and since.
This team was unified all year long, starting all the way at the beginning of the year. The Rams would play Galt High School in a scrimmage, and throughout the game both teams were getting a little aggressive with one another. Finally, a fight broke out between the two teams. After this team was brought to their limits of emotion, they were able to ride this momentum all the way through the season.
Though this game was indeed a key factor to the team’s success, the team’s student section and overall support of the town also made the team successful. Every game, the Dixon faithful would pack the house and bring unbelievable spirit to the gym. “So many people would come to the games; we had to put the baseball bleachers behind the team’s bench to fit more people in the gym,” according to Scott Stacey. Despite being a school of just 550, the school would always find a way to pack the gym.
Though everything seemed perfect for this team, they weren’t very experienced; their coach was only in his second year on varsity. George Skezas, who was a vice principal at C.A. Jacobs at the time, made surprising leaps as a coach going all the way to win the section championship. George would go on to have a great career with the Rams, coaching for 35 more years.
The Rams team had a very hard-nosed defense with a substantial offense that clicked because of the connection between the players. Their top players were Chris Luttges, Mike Hansen, Keith Hamilton, Tavo Lizaragga, Greg Pryor, and Bill Slater. The whole team was Rob Adams, Kevin de Garmo, Tim Fitzpatrick, Abrain Garcia, Keith Hamilton, Mike Hansen, Tavo Lizarraga, Chris Luttges, Dave McDonald, Abel Martinez, Greg Pryor, Todd Rehrman, Bill Slater, and Troy Sorenson. This team leaned on these guys, especially on Chris Letchy, Keith Hamilton, and Bill Slater. Though Slater wasn’t the initial stating center of the team, he grew to become that player. Despite being 6’1 he became the dominant forward. Players Tavo Lizeragga, and Keith Hamilton were the leaders of the team that made sure everyone worked together.
This team is surprisingly the only team in Dixon’s basketball history to ever win a section championship, despite countless close calls. The Rams have made the playoffs countless times and have even reached the semi-finals before, but have never won the section finals. The Rams with the famous Ball brothers came close when they played, but never could get the job done, unlike the 1979-1980 team.
This team should be remembered not only for what they did, but also how they did it. It takes skill, good players, and a team unit. Without that combination you can’t win a championship. Perhaps future teams should take this as a model for their own journey to become section champions.
Though Dixon has never won a section championship since, we are always looking to follow in the champions’ footsteps, and bring back another section championship to Dixon.