The quarterback for the 1972 Fresno City College football team, Rick Jelmini, described the secret to their gridiron success this way: "I think the best thing about us was that there really wasn't one big star in every game; we just were a team that learned to play together, and we won a state championship doing it."
Although the Rams had quite a few outstanding athletes, it was chemistry and teamwork that set them apart. Under the direction of Hall of Fame Coach Claire Slaughter, the team finished the 1972 season ranked number one in the nation by the JC Athletic Bureau after winning the Central Valley Conference championship, and then defeating Pasadena College, 21-7, for the California Community College championship. The game was played in Bakersfield in front of thousands of Fresno City College Rams fans. Slaughter gave credit to "a small, but excellent coaching staff" that included Bill Musick, Billy Wayte, and Jack Maddox. "And we had great kids to coach, and it was just wonderful," Slaughter said.
The team attracted loyal backers from the school and community, with bus loads of fans following the squad all over the Valley. The Rams finished the season with an 11-1-1 record, ending the campaign with five straight wins, including three in the state playoffs. In the Championship against the Lancers of Pasadena, Jelmini was the game's MVP, while Jeff Johnson was named the Offensive Player of the game and Curtiss Wright took home the Defensive Player honors.
Led by All-Americans Rod Perry and Tom Ryska, six Rams made the 1972 All-Valley Conference team, including defensive tackle Don Poladian, offensive linemen Dan Upton and Delmar Brown, and linebacker Curtiss Wright. Perry and defensive lineman Greg Boyd went on to careers in the NFL. The 1972 Rams were a hometown team, with the squad made up mainly of players from Fresno and other Valley high schools Wide receiver Lamont Jarrett, from Rochester, N.Y, was the lone exception. A showdown with Reedley College on October 18th at Ratcliffe Stadium emerged as a pivotal game.
An electrified crowd watched the Rams defeat their arch rival-also the nation's number one ranked team 22-19. A Jelmini-to-Perry two-point conversion pass play, and a late interception by Perry, solidified the victory. When asked about his biggest thrill of that great year, Ryska said, "Oh, the Reedley game had to be it. What a game, what a battle! The wild crowd, the windy conditions, every play was huge, and there was so much on the line. It set us on the road to winning the state and beating the Tigers was the best way to get there."