By KEVIN SAULS
Dale Clifton's coaching positions weren't always of the highest profile, but his results were.
Clifton had phenomenal records as the head sophomore boys' basketball and sophomore football coach at Sonora High School, and every team with which he worked as an assistant coach flourished be it in football, baseball, softball or track.
He coached in one sport or another at Sonora for more than 20 years, until he stepped away from the basketball program in 2001, and he seemed to have a golden touch in the most golden age of Wildcat sports an era in which Sonora was the dominant athletic force in the Valley Oak League.
Clifton's success continues at Calaveras High in San Andreas, where he has been the offensive coordinator in the varsity football program the past five seasons four of which saw the Redskins win Mother Lode League championships.
He and his wife, Manon, are both considering retirement, he from both from coaching and from his campus security job at Sonora, and she from her job in the Sonora administrative office. Their decisions aren't final, but his is close enough to warrant a sendoff as first runner-up for The Union Democrat's 2002 Sports Figure of the Year award.
For the record, Clifton was 367-70 with 12 VOL championships in 16 seasons in soph basketball. As head soph football coach from 1991-94, his teams went 33-6-1 with two VOL titles. He was offensive coordinator for Sonora's greatest football team, the 1995 bunch that went 13-0, won the Sac-Joaquin Section championship and was ranked No. 2 in the state.
As an assistant, he was part of Sonora's run of six VOL track championships in seven years during the 1990s, and had a hand in VOL titles in sophomore baseball and in helping Sonora's varsity softball team earn playoff berths in the 1980s.