Petaluma High School sports teams have played their last game at Durst Field and their first game at Steve Ellison Field.
Midway through Friday night's football game against Analy, the school's football/soccer field was rededicated in honor of Ellison, the school's three-decade football coach and teacher.
The renaming of the field was approved last week by the Petaluma City Schools District Board, but not officially announced until Friday night in hopes it could be kept secret from Ellison.
It almost was. A chance mention of congratulations by a woman in a grocery store earlier Friday had the coach wondering and there was nothing to prevent him from seeing the big “STEVE ELLISON FIELD” sign above the scoreboard as he drove to the game.
“I'm floored,” Ellison said. “I benefited a lot more from the students and people at Petaluma High School than they benefited from me. To have the field named for me is beyond belief.”
“He was the heart and soul of Petaluma High School football for 31 years,” said his friend and former Petaluma High School principal Frank Lynch during the official dedication ceremonies at halftime.
“As a teacher he was a role model for thousands,” Lynch added. “He required respect and he delivered respect.”
“I am mainly overwhelmed,” Ellison told a capacity crowd that included family, many friends and former students and players. “This is a tremendous honor.
“Outside of my family, the happiest day of my life was when I came to this community and to this great school.”
The stately educator coached at Petaluma High School for 33 years, the last 31 as head coach before retiring after the 2009 season. His entire coaching career spanned more than four decades, including a year at San Rafael Military Academy and eight years at Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco before he came to Petaluma.
Ellison and wife, Linda, have raised two children in Petaluma, still reside in the city and the former coach attends many Trojan sporting events.
Ellison's Petaluma teams compiled a 204-126-7 record. His overall coaching mark was 218-173-7.
In his final coaching year at Petaluma, his team won 10 straight regular-season games, captured the Sonoma County League championship and went 12-1, reaching the North Coast Section semifinals.
In addition to his coaching duties, Ellison was a popular teacher who influenced the lives of many young students through his classroom work.
Whether coaching or teaching, Ellison always conducted himself with class and character, teaching not only with words but by example.