Turlock's love of football came long before Tom Brandstater and Colin Kaepernick went from hometown heroes to NFL quarterbacks. Turlock native and former sports editor Richard Paolinelli knows in high school football, every fourth quarter comeback, rivalry matchup and playoff run is important to the players and fans. Paolinelli pays tribute to Turlock's Friday night warriors in his new book "From the Fields: A History of Prep Football in Turlock."
The book lays out the history of high school football in Turlock from the very first game in 1920 through the completion of the 2014 season. Among the rosters, stats and individual stories of former players and coaches is also a look at Turlock as it changed from a small agricultural town to the commuter city that it is today.
Turlock, Pitman and Turlock Christian's prep football histories are told from the viewpoint of a local sports writer.
The idea for the book began during Paolinelli's stint as sports editor at the Turlock Journal in 2001. He began to work out a simple draft of the history of Turlock football to add into that year's prep football preview tab, but digging into the archives he saw a mass amount of information.
He decided it was too much information for a newspaper special section and decided that a book would need to be written someday for every person to know the truth of football in this town.
“I was very worried about the preservation of the history,” said Paolinelli. “It was also the first non-fiction book I had written so I didn't know what to expect.”
For some time the project was left in hiatus due to conflicts in scheduling.
In 2011, Paolinelli and his wife relocated to Modesto and in 2013, a year after retiring, the opportunity presented itself to resume what he had started.
“I probably should have done this a long time ago and people told me to do it some time back,” he said of the book. “But for one reason or another I just couldn't but I was just glad I did.”
Over the next several months, Paolinelli would wake up and head to either the Stanislaus, Modesto or even Sacramento libraries to find all archives of every possible game and any other necessary information needed for the book.
He also contacted numerous sports reporters, athletes, former athletes, and coaches.
“I wanted to make sure I got everything right,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I had every game chronicled. It was a lot of work and I did not know it would take as long as it did, but I like doing this kind of research, it all fell in place.”
A small yet growing town that is driven by football and fueled by competition on the gridiron, the sport in Turlock has a history unlike any other. The name of the book itself was written commemorating some of the first warriors on the field at Turlock High.
“The title is a tribute to the agricultural roots for Turlock since most of the players for many of the early years were farm boys who played and practiced then still went home to do their chores afterwards,” Paolinelli said.
Paolinelli said the project would never have been completed without the support of everyone he talked to.
“I want to thank everyone who reached out to me,” he added. “Some former players and coaches came up with material and photographs, and it would not have been as big of a final project if they did not help. I really appreciate their help. If I missed anybody, I am sorry that's why I am thanking you now."
When it comes down to it, Paolinelli accomplished what he set out to do:“I did not want the stories to be forgotten and erased in history."
"From the Fields: A History of Prep Football in Turlock" is available at Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit www.richardpaolinelli.com.