Longtime North State football coach Darren Trueblood died Wednesday after a short battle with cancer. He coached at Enterprise and U-Prep, winning 119 games in 15 seasons as a head coach. 

Former Enterprise and U-Prep football coach Darren Trueblood died Wednesday after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 54.

Trueblood is survived by his wife Kathy and children Zack, Madisen and Trevor.

Trueblood coached at Enterprise for 21 years, the last 13 (2003-15) as head coach, guiding the Hornets to 105 wins and four Northern Section titles, including three in a row from 2012-14 and four in six years. He has 119 total wins in time spent with the Hornets and the past two seasons at U-Prep, which is the most wins among any active head coach in Shasta County and fourth-most all-time among Shasta County head coaches.

U-Prep Principal Shelle Petersen said in a statement Thursday morning “His family was by his side throughout this difficult time; they are deeply mourning the loss of a beloved husband, father and brother.”

“Darren Trueblood’s brilliant north state legacy exceeds his notable accomplishments as a high school coach and history teacher. He was a man of rare integrity, a family man who epitomized the true meaning and value of ‘We Not Me.’ His character was stellar and he set the bar for the positive influence educators and coaches can have on young people and families,” Petersen wrote.

Former players remembered Trueblood on Thursday more for the person he was than simply being a football coach.

“He cared more about us as people than football players,” said Antony Cavalli, who played for Enterprise until he graduated in 2011. “I’m forever thankful for him – he taught us more about what we need to do in life than football.”

Cavalli, who now coaches at Shasta College, remembered the 2009 Northern Section championship in Paradise as a quintessential Trueblood moment. Two weeks after losing 49-13 on The Ridge, the Hornets pulled off an improbable 26-23 title win in a bizarre game featuring a 30-minute delay while referees tried to sort out a series of penalties and on-field rulings.

“I’ll never forget that section championship and him out there standing on the field fighting for us,” Cavalli said.

An Enterprise field goal in the waning minutes was blocked and recovered by Paradise, but the Bobcats were flagged for leaving the bench, a penalty originally ruled a dead-ball foul that would’ve turned the ball over to Paradise. However, Trueblood stood between the numbers and hash marks arguing his case and Paradise coach Rick Prinz did the same on the Bobcats’ side.

Eventually, the call was overturned, giving the Hornets a fourth-and-forever with little time on the clock.

“We were already in a huddle (not knowing if we were getting the ball back) and Darren came over and said ‘What do you want to do?’” said Anthony Williams, quarterback of the ’09 team. “In the moment, we knew what we were going to do and that we were going to win.”

Williams hit his brother James with a jump-ball pass down to the 1 for a first down, and two plays later Anthony Williams scored the game-winner on a keeper.

“That’s one of the most memorable sports moment – him going to bat for us. He had our backs and, in retrospect, you really appreciate those moments,” Williams said. “We got our butts kicked by 40 two weeks earlier and he and the staff had us believing we were going back to Paradise and would win.”

Another coach inspired by his tutelage, Williams, who coaches girls basketball at the school as well as track and field at Simpson University, said Trueblood’s lasting legacy was being able to foster a culture of success by showing how much he cared for his players as people before athletics.

As a coach now, Williams said he marvels how Trueblood was able to build culture in the Hornets’ program from the freshman to the varsity level.

“He was one of those coaches that made me want to get into coaching,” Williams said. “He did a good job getting everyone from different socioeconomic backgrounds to buy in. It seems easy from the outside, but the fact he was able to do that day in, day out is a testament to his leadership.”

Petersen said school counselors will be available for students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday to support students. She also said those wishing to send well wishes and/or financial donations may do so by contacting U-Prep in care of the Trueblood family.

He was named MaxPreps Coach of the Year in California in 2013 after leading the Hornets to a 13-1 record and state bowl game berth – the first time a Northern Section team won either a NorCal or state playoff game. He was twice named Northern Section Coach of the Year, as voted on by North State media, once in 2009 and again in 2013.

A Red Bluff native, Trueblood was an assistant for Clay Erro at Enterprise before taking over the reins of the program in 2003. He taught U.S. history at Enterprise more than two decades before resigning as football coach in 2016 and transferring to U-Prep, where the Chico State alumnus taught AP U.S. history.

He took over the help of the Panthers’ program in 2018, guiding the program to an 8-3 finish last year following a 6-5 season one year earlier. His .683 winning percentage is tied for 12th on the all-time section list and is third among Shasta County with a minimum of 100 games coached.

He began his career as a coach at Mercy High School in Red Bluff, where he grew up. He went on to teach and coach at Chester Jr./Sr. High School before he was hired by Enterprise in 1994-1995, according to media archives.

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