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LEONARD ORTIZ, , LEONARD ORTIZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Santa Margarita's new football coach, Rich Fisher, right, jokes with members of the football team after his first meeting with the team on Friday.

New coach has Santa Margarita players 'really excited'

STAFF WRITER

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA - The new football coach’s first impression was a good one.

Rich Fisher was introduced to the Santa Margarita football team Friday in the banquet room of the Catholic school’s three-story athletic center.

Before Fisher addressed the players, Santa Margarita principal Ray Dunne read through a series of complimentary statements about Fisher, including one from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Dunne also reviewed Fisher’s coaching history that includes assistant coaching positions at Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska and Oklahoma State and two years as a high school head coach in Massachusetts.

“I’m really excited,” said Santa Margarita junior receiver Grant Calcaterra. “He has a great resume, and he’s had nothing but success at different levels.”

Fisher, 45, is moving quickly in assembling a coaching staff.

“Most of them are hired already,” said Fisher, who will announce his assistants once they all are in place. “I’m still going to go through the group that was already here.”

For next year’s seniors, such as Calcaterra and offensive tackle Brett Neilon, Fisher will be their third coach in four years. Harry Welch was the coach when they were freshmen and, after Welch retired, Rick Curtis had that position for two seasons before he was relieved of his duties after the 2015 season.

Neilon said the Eagles focused on their offseason training while they waited for a new coach to be hired.

“We had to rely on each other instead of relying on a coach,” Neilon said. “We’ve gotten close and we’ve bonded together a little more.”

Fisher said he won’t have a classroom teaching assignment or an administrative position at Santa Margarita.

“My focus is on getting this program off and running,” he said. “I’m going to be the director of Eagle football.”

Neilon said Santa Margarita got the right director.

“I’m excited after hearing his talk today,” Neilon said.

Calacaterra, who was All-Trinity League first team this past season, was intrigued by Fisher’s statement that he would have the best coaching staff in California high school football.

“I don’t doubt that will happen,” Calcaterra said, “with all the connections he has.”

Calcaterra followed all of the rumors and conjecture about who the next coach would be.

“I heard over 15 names,” Calcaterra said. “I’m glad that it’s him.”

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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