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Friends and players ring one for Semancik

Tough as nails. Dedicated. A bear. A hero. An institution.

Some men, like the late Bremerton High school football coach Chuck Semancik, lived their life with such vigor and grace, they are remembered long after their death.

Semancik coached high school football in Bremerton from 1948 to 1984, racked up a 210-114-18 record, and was so tough and determined with all his players, he changed many of their lives forever.

On the sidelines he ripped up grass and chewed on it as the game rolled on, and off the field he pulled kids off the street and picked them up from jail if they dipped into trouble.

Semancik died in 1999.

Last Friday night a bunch of Semancik’s old friends, assistant coaches and former players dedicated the Chuck Semancik Victory Park at Bremerton’s Memorial Stadium, and shared their recollections.

“I remember fear,” said Dick Todd, a football official on the field from 1973-1991.

“The fear of having him at my back. The things he might say or do. I had a lot of respect for him,” Todd said.

“Chuck was very good at getting your attention,” said Ron Burley, who was a kicker for the Blue and Gold in the 1960’s.

“Chuck always cared for me and he always talked as if I was one of his star players.”

The sky darkened as the emcee and former assistant Lanny Dowell shouted into a microphone.

Alumni stood with their children and listened to the words.

On the field below, the Bremerton High football team did jumping jacks and warmed up for their homecoming game.

“I used to come down here and say, ‘man I wish I can be good enough to wear the blue and gold,’ ” said Jim Spencer, who once toiled under Semancik and now holds the position of Bremerton’s Parks and Recreation director.

Spencer played for Semancik from 1968-1970, and he remembers fiery half-time pep talks, in which Semancik would roar from his deep-barreled lungs.

“It didn’t matter if we were up a touch down or four, Chuck had something to say,” Spencer continued among tears.

He also recalled the times the coach played back the game tape over and over again, almost imagining a mistake would change, Spencer said.

Dowell wore a Bremerton letterman’s jacket, with a single football letter.

He spearheaded the effort to create the Semancik Victory Park, which includes three boulders, three rock benches, engraved tiles and four flowering plum trees, which were Semancik’s favorite.

Dowell also created the Semancik Memorial Foundation, which has awarded $5,000 in scholarships to students in need.

“This park was created not just to recall all the bone-jarring tackles and rough, tough brand of play that we call ‘Chuck Football,’ ” Dowell said.

It is about more than sports, and can include anyone’s fond memories of Bremerton.

Finally, Dowell pulled out a trademark of Chuck’s era, the old brass victory bell. He bent from the podium and rang it loudly.

“We rang this bell after each score and each win,” Dowell barked into the microphone.

The bell was given to the Bremerton High School cheerleaders, who continued the tradition at the Homecoming game.

They rang the bell as the stands shouted, “One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven!” marking each touchdown and extra point, and reminding the Semancik’s ex-players of one of the greatest leaders in the city’s history.

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