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Del Oro Hall-of-Famer Fletcher dies at 68

Former Golden Eagles’ football coach ushered tradition of success at Del Oro
By: Mike Ray
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John Fletcher, who was a varsity football coach at Del Oro from 1979 to 1994, and helped lay down the foundation which thrust the Golden Eagles program into an era of excellence, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 68.

“He’s going to be missed by many,” said former Del Oro coach Larry Wyatt, who succeeded Fletcher and fellow co-coach Bob Christiansen in 1995. “He was an awesome person to know.”

Fletcher, who started his coaching career at Christian Brothers and later coached at McClatchy, came to Del Oro in 1978, where he coached the Golden Eagles’ JV team. A year later he took the varsity reins.

However, the following season in 1979, Fletcher came up with the idea of teaming with Christiansen, to become co-head coaches. The duo then held the post together until 1994.

“My first year, I think we went 4-5 and before the following season, I told Bob, ‘You’re working as hard as me, why don’t we do this together,’” Fletcher remembered in a 2011 interview before the pair was inducted into the Del Oro High Hall of Fame.

With Fletcher calling the offense and Christiansen directing the defense, the Golden Eagles embarked on a run of success that some 40 years later is still on track.

In 1981, the Golden Eagles won the school’s first league football championship in seven years. Under Fletcher and Christiansen, the Eagles followed with another league title in 1983 and again in 1985.

But for Golden Eagle followers, the best was yet to come.

Starting in 1988, led by players such as Andrew Floor, Matt Lofrano, Scott Auerbach, Mike Black and Randy Fasani, the Golden Eagles won seven consecutive Sierra Foothill League crowns and four CIF Sac-Joaquin Division II championships (’89, 92, ’93 and ’94).

Fletcher and Christiansen’s 1993 team, which many observers believe is the school’s “best ever”, was ultimately honored by being named as Cal-Hi Sports’ D-III State Team of the Year.

During the stretch from 1988 to 1994, the Golden Eagles put together a 45-game SFL winning streak and forged another skein where they defeated their main league rival – Placer – 16 straight seasons.

“We were fortunate to have good players and a lot of support from the school,” said Fletcher in 2011. “I think that all carried on after we left with Larry Wyatt and Casey Taylor.”

Wyatt, who succeeded Fletcher and Christiansen in 1995, remembered Fletcher well.

“John was hard to read when you first met him, but after you got to know him, he was a great guy,” said Wyatt. “I remember asking John to come back as an assistant coach a few years later and he did it with open arms.”  

Fletcher returned to the sideline in 2000 and co-coached with Wyatt in another SFL championship season in 2001. He also coached one year as an assistant at both Sierra College and at Lincoln High for one of his former quarterbacks, Clint Nelson.  

J.T. Doupnik, who was a standout receiver on Del Oro’s ’81 championship team and later played football and ran track at the University of Oregon, noted that the Fletcher-Christiansen coaching duo laid the groundwork for the school’s football success.

“They were the ones that implemented the weight room and year-round training,” said Doupnik in the 2011 interview. “Under their leadership is when Del Oro started to step it up.”

However, Fletcher remembered that the Golden Eagles’ success on the gridiron in their tenure was about more than wins and losses.

“Bob and I never looked back on how many games or championships we had won,” said Fletcher. “It was about doing our job and making it fun for the kids. I think it worked pretty well.”

Fletcher is survived by his wife of 47 years, Shelly, son, Tom (married to Tanya), and daughter, Heather McKay (Brandon), and grandchildren, Gavin, 8, Peyton, 7, Fletcher, 5, and Alyse, 3.

He is also survived by sisters Cathy Ernst and Chris Zhender and brother Mike Fletcher. He was preceded in death by his parents and sister Sue Howard. The family is planning a celebration of life in the near future.