NEVADA UNION ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2017: Dennis Houlihan
When Dennis Houlihan was a student-athlete at Nevada Union High School he made countless fond memories on several different fields of competition, but the one that stands above the rest is one that brought him closer to the community he loves.
It was 1988, Houlihan’s senior year of football, and the Miners were facing Woodland.
“The 49er fire was that week,” Houlihan recalled. “We had a lot of people who lost homes, we had a lot of people who were just kind of in a panic and it was real chaotic. We didn’t practice all that week and I just remember them setting up that Friday night game as a night of relief. To go and enjoy what everybody in our town did on Friday nights, which was go to our games. It was pretty electric the way we played that night. Coming back from behind to win that one, and the way the community came together was kind of a special night.”
The Miners trailed 21-0 to Woodland before rallying to win 62-34. Houlihan carried the ball 22 times for 257 yards and a school-record five touchdowns.
“That was the night I completely fell in love with this town and community,” he said. “It was a special Friday night lights story and one of many Miner Magic stories.”
During his time at Nevada Union Houlihan played football, basketball and tennis. He was best known for his prowess on the gridiron, rushing for 1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns his junior year and 970 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games in his senior year. He was also a strong receiver out of the backfield with more than 1,200 yards receiving between his junior and senior seasons. In his senior year, the Miners went 9-1-1 and won the league championship. Houlihan was an All-League player in his junior and senior seasons and was All-Metro his senior season.
Houlihan also starred on the tennis court, being named team captain all four years and earning team MVP twice. For his many efforts in athletics he was awarded the Albert Ali Award in his senior year. For his efforts as an athlete at Nevada Union, Houlihan will be inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame.
After high school, Houlihan went to Sierra College where he was an All-Conference tennis player. He then attended Santa Rosa Junior College where he was again an All-Conference tennis player. He then found his way to La Verne University where he played football and tennis.
After graduating from Laverne in 1995 with a degree in physical education and a teaching credential, he linked up with his varsity football coach Randy Blankenship, who was then the head coach at Clovis West High School. Houlihan went on to be an assistant coach on Blankenship’s staff for three years at Clovis West, winning two league titles and a section championship.
He then followed Blankenship to Fallbrook High School in San Diego where he spent another two years as an assistant, winning a league title and a section title in that time. In 2001, Houlihan took over for Blankenship at Fallbrook and began his first head coaching job. In four years at the Fallbrook helm, Houlihan won two league titles and reached the section title game once.
“I was really grateful to be able to stay with Randy Blankenship after college for another five to seven years,” said Houlihan. “I learned a lot during those times. He taught me a lot, and got me prepared.”
Houlihan made his return to Nevada Union in 2006 where he joined the Miners coaching staff as an assistant under Dave Humphers. During that time Houlihan collected another league title and another section championship in 2009. In 2010, He became the head coach of the NU junior varsity football team and took over the varsity team in 2013.
Since taking over, Houlihan has put an emphasis on the team reconnecting with the community. He created a community service program that is currently in place and was recognized by the CIF for those efforts. In 2013, his Nevada Union football team won the CIF Community Service Award.
Houlihan credits his father Pat Houlihan, a former Nevada Union coach and athletic director, as well as Blankenship and several other coaches for the successes he’s had in his life.
Houlihan currently lives in Grass Valley where he coaches not only Nevada Union football, but varsity tennis and freshmen basketball as well.
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