MORAGA, Calif. -- In the history of Saint Mary's College athletics, no team can claim the resume that the 1988 Gaels football team boasts.
At halftime of Thursday's men's basketball game between Saint Mary's and Santa Clara, that squad was recognized in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the school year that saw the Gaels go a perfect 10-0 and carve its place in Saint Mary's history forever.
"It's a dream come true," said Warren Parker, who was a senior receiver on the team and who has been a member of the Saint Mary's Alumni Board for some time. "We were such a close-knit group of guys. It was a special season for us and to see these faces brings back all those memories."
That the team's recognition came on a night when the rival Broncos were in town made the memories all the more vivid. Saint Mary's defeated Santa Clara 27-24 in the final game of the 1988 season, the 45th annual Little Big Game, as a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tim Rosenkranz to Jon Braff capped a stirring Gaels comeback and provided the game-winning score with 37 seconds left. The win came in front of an overflow crowd of 6,000 at Saint Mary's Stadium and remains one of the most biggest moments in Saint Mary's athletic history.
The victory over Santa Clara put the cherry on top of a season in which the Gaels also defeated St. Joseph's-Indiana, Humboldt State, Menlo College, Cal Lutheran, Chico State, San Francisco State, Cal State Hayward, UC Santa Barbara and Sonoma State.
Head coach Craig Rundle's squad earned four shutouts in those 10 games and averaged 32.9 points per game offensively. Rosenkranz was named the NorCal College Division II Offensive Player of the Year by Northern California football writers and the Gaels were among the leaders in most Division II offensive categories.
"We had a great leader in Coach Rundle," Parker said. "All he said to us is 'hey, all we want to do is beat the teams that beat us last year.' We were 8-3 the year before. We went out one game after another and built momentum and we never quit. That was the special part of our team. We never quit."
Rundle's team wasn't just your run of the mill group, either. The '88 Gaels garnered national headlines for their penchant for eating lizards, a practice started when assistant coach Jim McDonald wagered offensive lineman Matt Foley $5 to eat the slithering visitor. Foley did and, as with any good sports superstition, the reptilian chow down became a pre-game tradition.
"We ate one every game. There were 10 and I ate the last one," Parker said. "I was the most senior member of the squad. I got hurt the year before and came back for a hardship year. The last game, they called me and said 'hey, you've got to take it.' So, I did it. It's not a fable, it's not false. It actually happened."