Calvary had one intense decade

February 7, 2008 

Officials at Calvary Temple Academy announced the high school would be closing its doors at the end of the school year. That also closes the book on a school that has had quite the tumultuous history since athletics began there in 1997.

Calvary Temple had a meteoric rise that saw loads of success in high school's two most popular sports: football and boys basketball.

The school began fielding athletic teams in 1997, when it joined the California Interscholastic Federation as an associate member, meaning it could compete against other CIF schools but didn't belong in a league.

It didn't take long for Calvary Temple to garner its share of headlines.

The boys basketball team went 1-19 in its first season, but received an instant upgrade when a handful of star players transferred over from Modesto Christian in May 1998. Two of those players -- Nick Tabari and Chris Armstrong -- played as freshmen on the Crusaders' undefeated Division V state championship team in 1997. The new head coach, Bobby Cole, also came over from MC.

The Warriors caught fire in the postseason, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship and advancing to the CIF State championship game, where they lost 75-68 to Santa Clara of Oxnard.

They won a section Division V title the following year, before the nucleus of that team scattered. Cole resigned. Tabari had already transferred to West of Tracy. Most of the rest of that team returned to Modesto Christian, where they helped the Crusaders make a run into the 2001 Division I state title game.

CALVARY Temple's next action was to start a football program. It hired the controversial Booker Guyton as its first head coach.

Guyton came to Calvary from Brookside Christian of Stockton, where he built a similar small Christian school into a powerhouse despite accusations of recruiting and other section bylaw violations.

Several players from the Stockton area joined Guyton at Calvary, including former NCAA Division I players Lavelle Hawkins (Cal receiver) and Lynell Hamilton (San Diego State running back). The Warriors, playing an independent schedule consisting mainly of Oakland Athletic League opponents, went 8-1 that year. Guyton was accused of undue influence (recruiting violations) when four players followed him from Brookside Christian, but was cleared after a 9-hour hearing in March 2000.

Calvary upgraded its schedule for the 2001 season, including a game with national powerhouse De La Salle of Concord. But Guyton, and many of the Warriors' players, left soon after that.

Guyton resurfaced at Edison of Stockton, where he was found guilty of several section bylaw violations and his team was banned from the section postseason.

MEANWHILE, at Calvary, Jerry Grimshaw stepped in as the school's new coach.

"We're not really rebuilding," Grimshaw said at the time. "We're building."

His first act was to cancel the Warriors' game against De La Salle. His second act was to install a pass-happy spread offense that made the Warriors fun to watch.

In 2002, Calvary Temple won its first nine games, setting up a 9-0 vs. 9-0 game against Central Catholic for the Southern League's Alta Division championship. It was one of only three games in the state that week featuring two 9-0 teams. The Raiders rolled past Calvary 70-7.

But Grimshaw and Calvary Temple persevered.

In 2006, the Warriors advanced to the section Division VII championship game behind junior running back Marcus Cooley and flashy freshman quarterback Isaiah Burse.

However, Burse was declared ineligible before the Warriors' title game against Vacaville Christian because, at 14, he was too young to play varsity football.

Without Burse and facing a Vacaville Christian team that defeated Calvary Temple 51-13 during the regular season, the game looked grim for the Warriors.

But Calvary Temple had another surprise left, upsetting Vacaville Christian 27-14 and becoming only the second Modesto high school to win a section football championship.

Before the 2007 season began, Grimshaw left for a new pastor's job in Yerington, Nev. Burse transferred to Modesto Christian. But the Warriors, thanks to Cooley and new coach Mike Vennard, advanced to their second consecutive section Division VII title game. They lost what would turn out to be the school's final football game.

Soon, all we'll have is memories of Calvary Temple. But those are some pretty wild memories.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at wdeboard@modbee.com, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.

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