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Forty years later, Kenny Tawzer finally has his Righetti High School football letter.

He was presented with the letter just before his Righetti squad edged Santa Maria 14-13 Friday night at Santa Maria High School’s Ralph Baldiviez Stadium in the first Righetti-Santa Maria Alumni Football game.

“This means more to me than the seven World Powerlifting championships I’ve won,” Tawzer said of his long-delayed letter. Tawzer graduated from Righetti in 1971 but did not play football there, though he did play his junior year at Arroyo Grande High School.

Tawzer has won multiple world titles in the 242-pound bench press category of the men’s 55-59 age division. He said he will go for the World’s Strongest Master title at 630 pounds in Reno, Nev. Nov. 1. Tawzer said he bench presses 585 pounds now.

Chris Van Pelt preserved Righetti’s win when he partially blocked Victor Velasco’s 34-yard field goal try with 16 seconds left.

Velasco holds Santa Maria’s school record for longest field goal kicked. He had already knocked home second-half field goal tries of 32 and 40 yards before Van Pelt got a hand on his last kick.

Righetti led 14-7 at halftime.

Santa Maria scored first. Daniel Gauna hit Joey Galaviz with a strike over the middle at the Righetti 15, and Galaviz raced in to the end zone to complete a 27-yard scoring play.

Righetti quarterback Anthony Sullivan passed for one score and ran for another. He connected with Ernest Williams for a 29-yard scoring play on the first play of the second quarter.

Sullivan scored on a quarterback sneak 1:34 before halftime. Jose Knox recovered a Saints fumble at the Santa Maria 24 to set up the score.

A lot of players were all over the field making plays on defense, including former Saints wrestling standout and wrestling coach Anthony Dakuras, along with Makani Sarellano for Santa Maria, and Jordan Rubio and Kevin Bendele for Righetti.

Jarrod Hargrave, who heads Alumni Football USA which put on the game, said Alumni Football USA supplied all the players’ gear. Players from both sides wore pants with University of Oregon lettering on them.

“We work with the University of Oregon, we work with many universities and organizations,” Hargrave said. Hargrave added his organization puts on alumni football games throughout the nation. Santa Maria players wore black uniforms and black helmets with “Alumni USA” inscribed on the side. Righetti wore its school colors — purple and white.  

Righetti scrambled to get players in the days leading up to the game. Righetti coaches credited Warriors lineman and alumnus Chris Spence for getting the team together. Some said Righetti only worked out as a full team for one day. Santa Maria had been well-organized for weeks before the game in getting a team together.

Righetti alumni coaches, including coach Derrick Beebe, said most of the players for the Warriors were from Righetti, but that some graduated from other schools.

Some on the Santa Maria side seemed unhappy that Righetti’s alumni were not strictly from Righetti. Al Rasgado, one of the Santa Maria coaches, had words with Beebe afterward. Everyone seemed to settle down when Hargrave addressed both teams in a brief post-game speech in which he congratulated both teams.

Brothers Adam and Eric Wilson definitely DID play for Righetti. They are Righetti varsity football coach Gary Wilson’s sons. Both made timely big gains for the Warriors Friday night.

The Santa Maria side of the stadium was packed. Cheerleaders from SMHS and Santa Maria Youth Football encouraged the Saints. Righetti alumni cheerleaders cheered for the Warriors.

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