Q: How are you, your coaching staff and players coping with this current pandemic?
A: I’m doing well and I hope you are too; thank you for asking. Working from home is much different and I miss seeing our players and coaches daily. We would be finishing up our last few practices of spring ball right now if we would have been on schedule. I definitely miss it but I must say that I’m fortunate to be able to spend more time with my wife and my 2 young daughters (2 years old & 4 months old). The current COVID crisis has helped me put things in their proper perspective. While my family is healthy and well, I’m saddened to know that there are others who are currently suffering whether it be from a health or economic standpoint. As a coaching staff, we communicate regularly. I’m fortunate to have a whole bunch of grinders on staff who love football, our players, and El Rancho. We have had both staff and player meetings via Zoom during this time. We’ve had a “virtual spring ball” the last few weeks. Our young receivers coach guides our players through workouts twice a week and our entire staff has offensive and defensive meetings with position group breakout sessions. We do this so we can get a head start on our installation plan, help keep our players stay in shape, and most importantly provide support and connect with them during this time.
Q: When you played at El Rancho what position or positions did you play?
A: I was primarily a defensive player as a linebacker. Every once in a while I posed as a fullback on offense.
Q: Did you play football after high school?
A: After high school I played at the University of La Verne for 4 years and it was an absolutely great experience.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a high school football coach?
A: I was finishing up my senior year of college and getting ready for the next chapter of my life. It was tough because for the first time, I didn’t have a football season to prepare for or look forward to. I was a journalism major and wrote part time for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and also worked at the copy desk a few nights a week answering phones. Doug Spoon, the sports editor, let me know that a position as a copy editor would be open for me once I graduated. I also had the possibility of an entry level intern position at Fox Sports with a college teammate of mine. However, Bill Zernickow, who was my defensive coordinator and position coach during my sophomore and junior years at ULV called me and asked if I’d be interested in helping him coach linebackers at San Dimas HS. I met with him to discuss the possibility and all of a sudden a couple of days later I was running some drills during 6th period football. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that this is what I wanted to do. A couple of weeks later, I took the CBEST test and once I graduated college, I was working as a substitute teacher and football coach.
Q: Was it always a goal of yours to coach at your alma mater?
A: El Rancho High School has always been very special to me. I didn’t go to NFL or college games growing up, but I fell in love with football by going to games at Don Memorial Stadium with my dad when I was 7 years old. I remember hearing the voice of our legendary announcer Armie Briones over the loud speaker and watching the teams of Dick Shelko and Jim Patricio come out and play with so much passion. There was something magnificent about it and I knew that I wanted to be a Don and be a part of the Blue Pride tradition. But if I’m being completely honest, I did not foresee myself being the head coach of my alma mater up until the opportunity came in 2016.
Q: How did the Bonita HC job prepare you for El Rancho and Possibly other jobs in the future?
A: I had always kept up with El Rancho football and had always rooted for the Dons, however, I was focused on the job that I was doing which is what I would recommend to anyone. You always want to make the big time where you are. I don’t care if you’re the head coach of a Trinity League team or the left-footed kickers coach for a Division 14 Frosh team; you want to make sure that you treat your job as big time and as if it’s the only job in the world that matters because that’s what the kids and the program you are working for deserve. No matter how detailed of an answer I give here, there’s no way I can do Bonita HS and my former players enough justice. I spent a ton of hours working during my time at Bonita and I like to tell myself that I did good things for the program both as an Assistant Coach and Head Coach; but the truth of the matter is that Bonita did far more for me than I ever did for it. I learned the importance of having a cohesive coaching staff. I was very fortunate to pretty much keep the same staff from Coach Podley my 1st year as HC (including Podley himself), but after the 1st year we had to replace everyone except our DC Ray Medina and our OLB coach Dave Flores and I ended up calling the offense for the 1st time in my coaching career. I quickly learned that it’s important to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. I learned that a coach needs to know what his own personal set of values are and what his identity is. Kids crave structure, discipline, and guidance, and the only way for a leader to provide that for them is to know himself first. You cannot try and be someone you’re not. Football coaches are great innovators, but there are far too many times someone takes a visit to the “good idea fairy” and wants to try something that doesn’t fit the identity or value set of the coach. This will ultimately lead to a lack of player buy-in. There are a thousand ways to skin a cat and there isn’t some kind of magic, one size fits all, way to run a program. While it’s important to learn and be open, it’s even more important that the things we implement fit our values. This includes all facets of a program (fundraising, uniforms, discipline, community outreach, X’s & O’s, player evaluation, off-season workouts, etc.).
Q: What was your first coaching job?
A: If we want to get real technical, I coached Powderpuff football my Junior year at El Rancho…. And we won!!! During the summer of 2004, I helped out with the ER Freshmen team that was coached by Jim Arellanes. Coaching linebackers for the 2006 San Dimas team was my 1st full year of coaching.
Q: What coach had the biggest influence on you and why?
A: Too many to say just one. I was fortunate to be coached by Tony Gonzalez, a Pico Rivera legend, for 4 years when I was in youth football. Coach Gonzalez is currently our running backs coach at ER. In High School, I played for both Greg Setlich and Willie Reyna. Each had a positive impact on me. Coach Setlich and I had a great relationship and continued it to this day as he’s our Assistant Head Coach. Coach Reyna was the HC my Sr. year and he, along with Brian Zavala (our DC) were influential in me wanting to play football in college. My college coach was a man by the name of Don Morel. I believe that Coach Morel has influenced a lot of high school coaches in Southern California. Several of my teammates at ULV are coaches today. I’ll always be grateful for Coach Zernickow giving me my first opportunity and I learned a lot from him. Coach Z is creative as a coach there is. I’ve also learned the importance of work-ethic and film breakdown from Ray Medina. I think if you look up “Coach” in the dictionary you might find a picture of Coach Medina. But it would be fair to say that Coach Podley had the biggest impact, particularly when it comes to how I approach my coaching. He’s a man who has old-school values and morals, but was never out of touch with the players and was also ahead of the curve when it came to modern trends in football. He found various ways to motivate players. There was never a stone unturned with Coach Podley and his teams were always so diligently prepared. I greatly value both his mentorship and friendship.
Q: Last year El Rancho went 9-3 overall and advanced to the second round of the CIF Division 11 playoffs. How does this year’s squad look?
A: We’re small but we make up for it by being slow and poorly coached!!! All kidding aside, we’re young. We return only 3 players in Jorge Villa, Andrew Bencomo, and Angel Diaz who had significant playing time on defense and only 1 player in Villa who had significant playing time on offense. Villa really stood out for us on defense and made big plays last year and Bencomo was a steady player for us on the D-Line. Diaz started as a Freshmen and will only get better next year and the following years. Our JV team went 8-2 and had a share of the JV DRL title so there’s definitely some potential there. I like that our kids seem to have confidence in the way we do things at The Ranch. They’re a resilient bunch and a very pleasant group which is why I miss them and am looking forward to eventually getting back out there with those guys.
Q: Who are the 5 best players you have coached?
A: 1- Reggie Turner, Bonita: Reggie was an all-around great player as a Running Back and Linebacker. There were a few times he put the team on his shoulders and led us to wins. I can remember a win vs. West Covina where he seemingly scored every time he touched the ball and also took a pick to the house. I was very fortunate to have great running backs at Bonita. After Reggie graduated, we had Jake Payton and Angel Verdugo who were also absolute studs. To be fair to them, they’re right up there with Reggie as running backs. Looking back, I can’t help but realize how good I had it as a young coach.
2- Danny Gelalich, Bonita: As great of a free safety as Danny was, he was possibly an even better receiver. There were times we struggled offensively and the desperate play call would be to throw a fade up to Danny and he rarely disappointed. He’s playing baseball now at BYU and is a very positive member of the LDS community along with his older brothers Jeff and Matt.
3- Andrew Tarango, El Rancho: T is everything you want in a high school player in terms of attitude, work ethic, and leadership. One of the highest character young men I have ever had the pleasure of coaching.
4- Chris Andrade, El Rancho: The ultimate underdog. Chris broke the school passing record this past year when he threw for over 3,000 yards. His presence and command of the offense was so impressive. He played with such a high level of confidence, poise, and determination.
5- Gabriel Huerta- El Rancho: Gabriel broke the school receiving record in 2016. He just had a second gear to him. He started on both sides of the ball for us and never came off the field. There was a certain type of toughness about him that made him great.
Others: Bonita: Tanner Diebold, Thomas Loy, Christian McQueen, BJ McLaurin, DJ Theard, El Rancho: Roman Rojas, Brandon Carmona, Alex Velasquez, Adam Chandler, Ryan Santa Maria.