College of the Sequoias is saddened by the death of its former football coach, Roger Kelly, who passed away Memorial Day at the age of 78.
A proven coach with extensive experience at both the high school and community college level, Kelly was the COS head coach from 1989-2004. He retired from the school in 2006 and had lived the last several years in Sheridan, Wyoming, to be closer to his family.
His 16-year career at COS tied Al Branco for the longest tenure in college history. Roger led the Giants to a 28-5 mark his first three seasons. His 1991 squad finished 10-1 and was ranked No. 3 in the nation.
That COS team averaged a school record 48.2 points and 496 yards per game.
In Kelly's tenure at the college, 91 players earned all-conference honors, 11 were named all-state and eight were named All-American.
His 1998 team was the last football conference champion at COS.
Kelly, a native of Needles, Calif., attended Bakersfield High School and went on to attend school and play football at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He earned BS and master's degrees at Cal Poly in Physical Education.
He survived a personal tragedy early in his life as 22 members of the Cal Poly football team died in a plane crash following a game at Bowling Green University October 29, 1960. Kelly was one of 26 survivors.
Kelly returned to BHS in 1964 as a teacher and coach. His head coaching career started in 1966 at Paso Robles High School. In 1968, he guided Paso Robles to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Kelly assumed the Redwood High School job in 1969 and in the next 20 seasons, built the Rangers into a valley football power.
He won three CIF Central section titles in the Yosemite (large schools) division, including back-to-back crowns in 1982-83.
His teams won six West Yosemite League titles and Kelly finished his Redwood tenure by guiding the Rangers into the CIF playoffs 11 consecutive years, a feat unmatched in section history.
His 1973 team went 12-0 and the 1978 team was section runnerup to city rival Mt. Whitney.
Kelly's coaching record at the high school level was 161-87-3. He was selected Northern California high school Coach of the Year three times, and the national high school Coach of the Year in 1973.
Curtis Allen, who transferred to Redwood his senior season to play for Kelly, eventually succeeded him as head coach at COS. Allen is now an assistant track coach at UCLA.
"When I moved into town (Visalia), coach Kelly kind of adopted me a little bit, he helped look after me," Allen said. "He encouraged me, gave me lots of advice and because one of his former players (Willy Robinson) was coaching at Fresno State, that's why I went there," he added. Allen starred two seasons for the Bulldogs after a standout career at Bakersfield College.
"Coach encouraged me to get my master's degree, which changed my life," Allen said. "That enabled me to go to Fresno (City), COS and now UCLA. A lot of the moves and things that have happened in my career, he was in the background kind of guiding me."
Allen saw another side of Kelly when he joined the COS staff in 2003.
"He was a great coach to work for. He showed me how to organize things and how to deal with being a head football coach. He was very organized, worked long hours and had a great passion for the game.
"I love coach Kelly," Allen added.
Kelly had long been active in the organizational end of coaching. He was a past president of the California Community College Football Coaches Association, and was inducted into the CCCFCA Hall of Fame in 2010.
Roger is survived by his wife Susie, daughters Kim and Michelle, and five grandchildren.
A memorial service for coach Kelly will be held June 29 at 11 a.m. at the Gateway Church in Visalia.