AVON PARK - The Avon Park Champions Club held its third annual Hall of Fame Banquet at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church last Saturday evening. Five new members were inducted into the hall. The Class of 2014 included Ralph Hill, Dewayne Lemler, Dexter Seigler, Ronald Sevigny and Don Sisemore.
The 1972 Avon Park Red Devil baseball team received recognition as well, while Maria Tataris and Charles Council each received $1,000 towards their college scholarship fund,
"The purpose of the Avon Park Champions Club is to create a championship environment in Avon Park both by honoring the past and supporting our local academic and athletic programs," the program's pamphlet said.
Hill was the evening's first induction. Rance "Hoppy" Rewis spoke on his behalf and said that Hill could have made the Hall of Fame as either a player or a coach.
Hill had a decorated career for the Red Devils. He played varsity baseball from 1945-1948, reaching the state semi-finals all three years, and helped Avon Park capture the state championship in 1948.
In 1965, he became the head coach for the Devils baseball team. During his eight-year tenure, the Devils went 103-40 and won two state championships. Avon Park won its first title with Hill as its skipper in 1966 and again during his final season in 1972.
Dewayne Lemler was the second inductee. His son, Dustin Lemler, accepted the honor on his behalf.
"It is with great joy and great sadness that I stand before you this evening to accept the honor of being inducted into the Champions Club Hall of Fame on behalf of my dad," Dustin Lemler said, fighting back tears.
Dewayne Lemler lived in Avon Park for over 50 years, and participated in numerous sports. He was a standout in football, basketball, and baseball for the Devils, and voted Most Outstanding Senior Athlete in 1963. After college, he returned to Avon Park and taught math at the high school. He also coached junior varsity football, basketball, and baseball. Dewayne retired in 1997 after 30 years of working the Avon Park school system.
Seigler was the third inductee of the night. As the starting quarterback for the 1987 and 1988 football teams, he guided the Devils to consecutive state championships. Seigler was also a member of the 1987 state champion baseball team and participated in track and field.
Following his high school career, Seigler attended the University of Miami (FL), where he played on two national championship teams. From there, Seigler played briefly in the Canadian Football League and the NFL.
"First of all I like to say God bless and thank God for having an event like this," Seigler said. "Secondly I liked to thank Charles Devlin and the Avon Park Champions Club for putting this on. I think you are doing a great thing. You are giving back to the community, not asking for anything and trying to empower our youth."
"I'd like to thank my family for their support throughout the years and being there for me," Seigler added. "I'd like to thank coach Rewis and coach Ronnie Jackson as well. Those were the two toughest coaches I ever played for, and I'm not exaggerating. They really prepared me for what was coming down the road, both in college and professionally."
Sevigny was the fourth inductee of the evening. Although he was not originally from Avon Park, moving to the area in 1974 to start his Optometry practice, Sevigny quickly became involved in youth sports and was an avid supporter of Avon Park baseball.
He was president of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and the Ridge Area Arc. In 1994, he helped establish the Avon Park Diamond Club, which gave further support to the Devils' baseball program.
His tireless dedication helped improve Charles R. Head Field, which brought multiple state tournaments and youth World Series games to the legendary ball field.
"Gradually over the year, quail hunting with Joe Franza, Ralph, Virgil Martin and talking to them and hearing their stories about the old days, it was simply amazing to learn the history of sports in this community," Sevigny said. "I thought I was so blessed to be in a community with this kind of tradition and these kind of people."
Sisemore rounded out the list of inductees. During his high school career, he played for the varsity team all four years for three different sports: football, basketball, and baseball. His talent was so impressive that the revered coach Franza said Sisemore was one of the best athletes he ever coached.
The starting quarterback for the football team, he earned All Heartland honors his senior year. On the hardwood, he averaged over 20 points per game and was named second team All-State in 1972. On the diamond he was just as proficient, batting .454 and compiling an 11-4 record during his senior year, helping the Devils win their fifth state championship in baseball.
Sisemore found success as coach, too. Returning to his alma matter in the early 1980s, Sisemore coached the Devils hoops for four seasons. In those years his team compiled an incredible 98 wins to 15 losses, twice reaching the final four.
"I like to thank the Champions Club for the honor of being selected," Sisemore said. "I look out there and see players that played for me, coaches I coached with, and in my memory all the great coaches I played for. Those men were people we emulated. They all had their different traits. I was blessed to have a family that loved sports. My parents always gave me the opportunity to participate when I wanted to and never pushed me into anything."
"I will always be an Avon Park Red Devil," he added.
The final presentation belonged to Thomas Gordon. Originally inducted in 2012, he was unable to attend the ceremony. But after a year of waiting, he received his red jacket Saturday night.
For more information and to read the complete biographies of this year's or past years inductees, visit the Avon Park Champions Club website at www.apchampionsclub.com.