Where’s the Gold Mining Pick trophy?
For the Nevada Appeal
The mystery of the Gold Mining Pick football trophy — once passed between Dayton, Yerington and Fernley high schools — remains exactly that, and its whereabouts aren’t known, at least that’s what former coaches and high school administrators say.
When Dayton plays at Fernley today at 7 p.m., the outcome of the game won’t change where the pick resides — wherever it currently resides.
“Dayton has it…tell him (Dayton Athletic Director Cory Sanford) he better look in a closet over there because I know it’s not over here,” Fernley Athletic Director Jeff Knutson said.
“In my two years here at Dayton High School, I haven’t seen it,” Sanford said.
What does Yerington say?
“I believe Fernley had it last,” Yerington Athletic Director Daron Wildermuth said.
The three schools — the largest in rural Lyon County — started passing the football trophy around in the 1980s, former Dayton football coach Rick Walker said. The tradition stopped about the same time Yerington dropped from 3A to 2A in 2008.
According to Walker and Wildermuth, Fernley dominated the series in the 1990s, but Dayton won the pick for the first time in 2003. The Dust Devils stayed competitive, finishing the 2006 regular season undefeated, 10-0.
A growing rivalry between the two schools led to an incident that many said ended the tradition.
“There were coaches and players that did not handle the pick and the rivalry in a professional manner,” Knutson said. “We have just laid it to rest. It hasn’t been used in close to 10 years now. Maybe it’s something we need to consider bringing back.”
As for specifics on the incident, Knutson declined public comment.
Walker and Dayton High Principal Steve Henderson confirmed an incident of unsportsmanlike conduct involving the pick occurred when Mark Hodges was Fernley’s head coach, but they also declined public comment.
Robert Perea, former Mason Valley News reporter and author of “The Fernley Reporter” news website, said he was on the sideline when the incident occurred.
“The tradition had been that the losing coach would present the pick to the winning coach at midfield after the game,” Perea said. “But, in Hodges’ first year, they won at Dayton, and Fernley players rushed to the Dayton sideline and tried to take the pick out of the hands of Dayton coach Rick Walker. That started some bad blood between the teams, and I don’t remember if that was the last year or if it was stopped after that.”
Hodges — perhaps best remembered in northern Nevada for being the head coach at Fernley when Vaquero lineman Kevin Hart made up a story about being recruited by the University of California — left Fernley for a head coaching job in 2008 at Hermiston High School in Oregon, about the same time the tradition stopped.
“The last time I was there, we won the game by about 50 points over Dayton,” Hodges said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We beat them bad. I would imagine the last team to have it was Fernley High School.”
When asked about an alleged incident of unsportsmanlike conduct that ended the tradition, Hodges laughed.
“That’s one thing about northern Nevada, or Fernley, people love to get stories stirred up,” Hodges said. “It didn’t have anything to do with our team. I don’t remember anything memorable about the pick.”
Henderson knows the rivalry from both sides. Along with currently being Dayton’s principal, he played quarterback at Fernley and eventually worked as an assistant coach there. He described the pick as “golden” colored with game scores from each season displayed on small tabs. The last time he saw the pick was when he was an assistant coach at Fernley in 2008.
“It was on a display board,” he said. “They basically ran out of tabs (because there were so many scores over the years). They stuck it to a board.”
When asked Tuesday if the pick could potentially be at Dayton, Henderson said, “It could be here…maybe I’ll have Mr. Sanford check through some boxes in the back.”
Some people close to the rivalry over the years were unaware it stopped.
Ed Bonine, who left the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association as director in 2014 and former Fernley High School principal, said he “was not aware the tradition had stopped even while at NIAA.”
Former players, such as former Fernley lineman Cody Wagner (2003), called the trophy a “big deal.”
“My senior year, we were 3-6, but our two wins were over Dayton and Yerington,” Wagner said. “The most important accomplishment of my senior year was making sure we kept the pick.”
If someone is keeping the pick today, it remains a mystery to many.