Rich Fisher, an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska last season, is the new football coach at Santa Margarita. ‘It's always nice to be able to implement your own vision, your thoughts and your ideas and what you want,' Fisher says.

Meet the new guys: 17 new coaches for '16 season


Rich Fisher likes being in the driver’s seat again.

Having spent several seasons as a college football assistant coach, Fisher has his hands on the wheel as Santa Margarita’s head coach. He was hired by the school in January after serving as an assistant coach at Nebraska from 2011-14.

Fisher has also been an assistant at Colorado, Idaho and Oklahoma State, but before his stint at Nebraska he was the head coach for a Massachusetts high school in 2009 and ’10.

Fisher said he enjoys being the one who decides where and when to turn, when to accelerate or tap the brakes.

“It’s always nice to be able to implement your own vision, your thoughts and your ideas and what you want,” Fisher said. “From that perspective, being a new head coach is good. But it takes time to change a program so it matches your expectations.”

The transition to a new coach is a challenge facing a lot of Orange County football teams as they begin practice for the 2016 season. Including Fisher at Santa Margarita, there are 17 new coaches leading Orange County teams. (See the complete list at the bottom of the story.)

Two schools – Esperanza and Fountain Valley – are on their second new coach since the end of last season. Their first choices stepped down, citing off-the-field reasons.

Among the “new” faces is Tustin’s Myron Miller, who is beginning his second tour as the school’s coach.

Several other coaches have new homes, but are not new to the county scene.

Rick Curtis, who was replaced by Fisher at Santa Margarita, is now at Capistrano Valley Christian.

Ray Fenton left Fountain Valley after last season to replace Orange County’s all-time leader for coaching wins, John Barnes, at Los Alamitos.

The new coach at Fountain Valley is Jimmy Nolan, who was the coach at Laguna Beach in 2004-06.

Former El Dorado coach Shawn Racobs is now at Valencia, hired to replace Mike Marrujo, who retired last fall after coaching the Tigers for 35 years.

Mike Maceranka had been Segerstrom’s only football coach since the school opened in 2005, but he left the school to replace Bruce Ingalls, who retired, at Laguna Hills. Maceranka played and coached at Laguna Hills, still lives in the area and has two daughters who soon will be attending the school, so the opportunity to return to his alma mater was something he felt he had to pursue.

“Laguna Hills is the only place I would have left Segerstrom for,” Maceranka said. “Everything lined up perfectly, which is pretty ridiculous.”

Miller, whose first run as Tustin’s coach lasted from 1996 to 2012, has the same feeling about his situation. He chose to step down in 2012, but he quickly accepted last December when the school asked him to take over again as head coach.

“When Winter (Welz) left, the principals asked me if I wanted the job,” Miller recently told the Register’s Tim Burt. “I found out that three years away from it, I wasn’t very happy. I’ll be 73 in October, and I think I’m going to try and coach until I’m 80. They can fire me, but I won’t quit again.”

Matt Mitchell was an assistant coach the past couple of years at El Modena, but during the winter he was promoted to replace Ed Drzanek, who resigned as coach but remains at the school as its athletic director.

“I’m learning the ins and outs of it, like the paperwork which is such a big thing,” Mitchell said. “That and fundraising. You hear that fundraising is so much work and you don’t believe it, but now I see that it is so much work.

“But when I’m on the field with the kids, that’s when everything is OK. All the work is done and the reward is being with the kids.”

For Fisher, part of the “fun” of his new job was putting together a coaching staff made up of “guys I know and trust. We have very professional guys who take their craft very seriously.”

His staff includes Max Onyegbule, who coached with Fisher at Nebraska, and Mater Dei and USC alum Lenny Vandermade.

“Surrounding yourself with good people is the key to success,” he said.

Like Fisher, Chuck Petersen arrived in Orange County with a lengthy college football resume when he became Orange Lutheran’s coach in 2012. Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita are in the Trinity League, which is often called the best football league in the western U.S.

Petersen understood the challenge.

“I came in with the expectation that the coaches in the Trinity League would be good,” Petersen said. “I was not disappointed.”

Lessons were learned, too, in Petersen’s first couple of seasons.

“I learned that you have to play kids both ways (on offense and defense) if you’re going to go far in our league,” he said. “My first year here, I didn’t do that.”

How much players play and where they play ultimately is the decision of the head coach.

That’s the type of responsibility that steered Fisher to Santa Margarita.


The county’s 17 new coaches:

Capistrano Valley Christian: Rick Curtis

Crean Lutheran: Matt Bowman

El Modena: Matt Mitchell

Esperanza: Thomas Storing

Fountain Valley: Jimmy Nolan

Huntington Beach: Brett Brown

Laguna Beach: John Shanahan

Laguna Hills: Mike Maceranka

Los Alamitos: Ray Fenton

Northwood: Phil Roh

Sage Hill: BJ Crabtree

Santa Margarita: Rich Fisher

Segerstrom: Joe Tagaloa

Sonora: Daniel Morales

Trabuco Hills: John Abdelnour

Tustin: Myron Miller

Valencia: Shawn Racobs

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