Image created by Accolade co-sports editor Andrew Ngo. Individual images of football players with their rings used with permission from Peter Karavedas.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the governor’s stay-at-home order, two Sunny Hills football coaches and a booster contributor took it upon themselves from April 3-8 to distribute roughly 80 rings commemorating the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 8 championship-winning squad.
“We wanted to make sure that we got a chance to see everybody open up their championship rings,” said football head coach Peter Karavedas, who, along with freshman football head coach David Wilde and parent Robb Massar, delivered the rings to Sunny Hills players. “We did make sure to keep our distance and left the rings on their porches for the players to pick up.”
Karavedas delivered the jewelry item to the seniors and coaching staff while Wilde dropped them off for the underclassmen and other recipients. Massar followed Karavedas during the deliveries and would later produce a video detailing the players’ reactions that was eventually posted on The Orange County Register’s website.
“It was great to get out of the house and drive around and get to see the kids open up their rings,” Wilde said. “They were like kids on Christmas morning.”
Massar, whose son Jake Massar is a defensive lineman on the team and a senior, came up with the idea and presented it to Karavedas.
“Floating the idea to [Karavedas] was easy [because] he misses his football family and quickly had a vision of how and what he wanted to do,” Robb Massar said. “Things then expanded [to] “virtually” recreating the ceremony with all the footage from the coaches.”
According to sunnyhillsathletics.org, the football program features 15 different coaches at Sunny Hills. Three of them are part of the Karavedas clan.
While head coach Peter Karavedas and his beard are the most recognizable of the three, his father, Nick, is the defensive backs coach, while the head coach’s cousin, Joseph, works as the junior varsity assistant.
“Every parent wants their kids to be successful, [and] to see [Peter Karavedas} be rewarded for all the hard work of building the program these past five years is and was very gratifying,” said Nick Karavedas, whom the players affectionately call “Papa K.” “To actually [win a title] was something that is hard to put into words. I’m so proud of him.”
Nick Karavedas is only in his first year of coaching at Sunny Hills after most recently coaching at Aquinas in San Bernardino, where he won a CIF-SS championship during an undefeated 2017 season.
“[Aquinas] hadn’t won a title since 2005, so it was very rewarding being part of rebuilding that tradition,” Nick Karavedas said. “[But], coaching and winning a championship with your son and nephew is beyond special. It was the most rewarding year of coaching in my 27 years doing this.”
Joseph Karavedas also coaches jumps for the track and field team and is the head coach of the junior varsity girls basketball team.
Not only did Wilde have the opportunity to deliver rings to the many underclassmen on the team, but he also had the honor of sharing the entire championship experience with his son, sophomore Nick Wilde.
“It was pretty special,” Nick Wilde said. “I feel like [the title] sparked up a new tradition of winning a CIF championship each generation — I want my kids to win one, too.”
The elder Wilde agreed.
“[It was] one of the best experiences I’ve had as a coach,” David Wilde said. “Inscribed inside my 2019 CIF ring it says, ‘Father Son CIF Champions.’ It’s surreal too. If someone told me that this would happen, I would have told them that they were crazy.”
Nick Wilde opted to honor a former coach with his ring inscription.
“Mine says, ‘What a time to be alive,’” the sophomore said. “One of our coaches that we all loved had to leave unexpectedly, and he would always hype us up and say that.”
2019 wasn’t the first year David Wilde was part of a CIF-winning Sunny Hills team. He was a senior during the Lancers’ 1990 championship campaign before returning to Sunny Hills as a social science teacher and coach.
“It’s really satisfying because I was part of the program when it was a perennial county power, I coached during the down years and then came on board seven years [ago] and watched the program take a slow, steady climb back to the top.”
The Wilde duo isn’t the only father-son relationship between a player and coach.
Freshman assistant Sergio Silva, the father of running back and linebacker junior Vincent Silva, joined the Lancer football coaching staff in 2017 after graduating from Sunny Hills in 1986.
While he was a four-sport athlete, soccer, not football, was his greatest strength. He was named First Team All-Orange County, First Team All-CIF and Freeway League Player of the Year in his senior soccer season.
“[Winning a football title] wasn’t something he had dreamed of doing in high school because he was mainly a soccer player, along with track, baseball and football,” Vincent Silva said of his father, who despite being on campus during the 1983 title, was not part of the championship-winning team.
Vincent Silva stressed the importance of family connection in the title.
“Winning with my dad as a coach means a lot because not only did I give myself a ring, but I gave him the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than the both of us,” the junior said.
The championship breed runs in the Irons family, too.
Linebacker junior Carson Irons played a tremendous role en route to the championship game, including tallying 20 tackles and catching the game-sealing interception at the goal line in the semifinal match at Trabuco Hills, but he isn’t the first in his family to win a ring—his father Cameron Irons was part of Sunny Hills football’s first ever championship team in 1983.
“It’s really special that after all the years he flaunted his, I have one of my own,” Carson Irons said.
Cameron Irons was proud of his son for the achievements that he and the team made this year.
“I’m happy he will get to experience living the rest of his life as a champion,” Cameron Irons said. “Not everyone gets to say that.”
The Freeway League Defensive Player of the Year was happy with the ring deliveries.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation,” the linebacker said. “[But] it was still great to finally get our rings and see our coaches in the process.”
On the fateful night under the lights at San Marcos High School Stadium, the Lancers and the Dons traded scores while the rain fell around them. That is, until an errant throw from the hands of Santa Barbara quarterback junior Deacon Hill dropped into the waiting arms of Lancer wide receiver and defensive back senior Wilson Cal in the Sunny Hills endzone with under a minute left to play.
“I knew that as soon as the ball fell into my hands, we had a ring on our fingers,” Cal said after the game.
He was right, and just over four months after his championship-sealing pick, Karavedas delivered the ring to him.
“I was just really happy that even through all of the coronavirus stuff happening right now, [Karavedas] still found a way to make getting the rings memorable,” Cal said. “It was a great way to cap off the season.
Cal also mentioned the process of what it meant to become a champion despite detractors questioning his decision to come to Sunny Hills, a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2008 or a playoff win since 1997.
“My whole high school football experience was a life lesson,” the Azusa Pacific-bound senior said. “It showed me that not everything you want comes right away. We had three years of first-round exits but we kept preaching 14 games, and this year, we did it.”
Karavedas and the rest of the staff made sure that rings would be offered to everyone involved in the title run — including booster officials, water girls and superfan junior Garrett Geimer, who posts online video footage of football games throughout the season.
“It wasn’t a question that they would get a ring,” Peter Karavedas said. “They’re all a part of this team.”
For junior Juliana Hodgson, one of the four water girls, this isn’t her first championship ring — she won one with the 2019 girls soccer team that won the CIF-SS Division 2 title last year.
“I’m really glad that I was able to go through [title runs] with two different teams that were both filled with amazing people,” Hodgson said. “It took a lot of work, but the outcome was definitely worth it to see both teams grow and accomplish the ultimate goal.”
Hodgson highlighted the largely unrecognized work that the water girls put in throughout the season.
“It means a lot to us because we’re always there with the team, and it’s very time-consuming during the school year because all four of us also play another sport,” she said.
Geimer, who is wheelchair-bound, has had a constant presence on the field during games for the past three years in addition to developing a close relationship with his special education teacher Phil Hughes, who is also the linebackers coach for the football team.
“It meant a lot that I had the opportunity to get a ring,” Geimer said. “I felt honored because I know how long it’s been since Sunny Hills football has won a championship.”
Geimer’s custom ring was supposed to say, “The rise is real,” but a mistake was made resulting in the ring saying, “The ride is real.”
“I put, ‘The rise is real,’ because that’s something that’s said at school, and it represents how the team has improved over the past four years,” he said. “But, ‘The ride is real,’ fits, too.”
For Robb Massar, being able to help with the ring deliveries meant a lot to him, but he himself did not receive a ring.
“I was [offered], but I’m a simple guy [who doesn’t] wear jewelry, and as much as I helped in time and effort, it wasn’t a quarter of what the coaches, players and long time supporters of the program have done,” he said.
Over the past four years, Robb Massar has uploaded over 5,000 photos of the football team in games and practices to the @footballlancers Instagram account, which gave him a platform to share the ring delivery videos.
“Memories fade quickly,” he said. “Photos and now videos help those memories to ‘stick.’”
Robb Massar attributes his team contributions to his family, which emphasizes community-based service to schools and sports teams.
“Being involved takes work, but the rewards far outweigh the extra effort we put in,” the booster member said. “Both [my wife, Cindi] and I really feel [like] we are a part of the Lancer Football family and worked to see it be successful.”