Fryer: Trinity League tough on coaches
That Trinity League is a tough place for a football coach.
Jim Kunau lifted Orange Lutheran from a strong small-schools program to a champion in the Trinity League. He was fired.
After three years as JSerra’s first football coach, Tim O’Hara was fired.
After a couple of struggling seasons, Servite gave football coach Larry Toner a new assignment that created an opening. After John Barnes did the hokey-pokey, taking the job and rejecting it the same day, Troy Thomas stepped in. Thomas, after some terrific seasons, stopped getting along and returned to Crespi of Encino.
Thomas’ replacement, A.J. Gass, hit the ejector button after two years and is coaching in Bakersfield.
Mike Jacot resigned, sort of, at Santa Margarita after a last-place finish there in 2009 and was replaced by Harry Welch. Welch had a couple of great years at Santa Margarita and then retired, but one sure got the feeling that if things were a bit different there he would have stayed.
Kiki Mendoza was canned by St. John Bosco in 2010. Jason Negro replaced him, and in a couple of years that program took off.
Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson? Like a 20-day champion on “Jeopardy,” Rollinson still is in the game, perhaps wondering who is going to be his competition on the next show.
On Thursday morning, Rick Curtis was fired as football coach at Santa Margarita, less than a week after his second and final season there ended with a last-place finish. His Santa Margarita teams were 11-10.
Curtis handled it with the grace and nobility he’s been known for in more than 30 years of coaching in Orange County.
He sent a statement that read, in part: “Our players and staff were great to work with and I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work. While the time was short, we are proud of our ethical standards, the progress we made in all areas of the football program, and how we honored God in doing so. I also want to thank the parents that supported me and I wish the players great success in moving forward.”
Who wants in at Santa Margarita?
Of course, JSerra coach Jim Hartigan’s name made the rounds this week as Curtis’ departure became imminent. Hartigan was Santa Margarita’s first coach and led the Eagles to back-to-back CIF championships in the ‘90s. He has a great situation at JSerra – he also is the athletic director, has a couple of children there, including a sophomore who played varsity football this season, a fine salary and plenty of administrative support.
Welch, who retired after the 2013 season following a successful stint at Santa Margarita that included CIF section and state championships, still is a star to school parents and boosters.
Welch has been sporting Santa Margarita garb around town, and was at Santa Margarita’s final game, against Mater Dei, wearing Santa Margarita garb. He had former Capistrano Valley and San Clemente coach Eric Patton with him. If Welch is thinking of getting a coaching staff ready to go, well, Patton would be a great cornerstone.
Welch said Thursday “If called, I will serve,” although he emphasized he is not actively pursuing a return to Santa Margarita.
Hartigan, Orange County coach of the year in 2014, on Wednesday and Thursday did not return messages. That’s unusual for him.
Let’s see, when was the last time that happened … oh yes, when O’Hara was fired at JSerra and Hartigan was said to be ready to leave Clovis and return to Orange County to coach at JSerra. Which Hartigan did.
Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:
• Edison’s football team has nine seniors out for the Chargers CIF-Southern Section West Valley Division first-round playoff game against Rancho Cucamonga because of injuries. Four team captains are among those nine seniors.
• Long Beach Poly, expected to be a factor in the Pac-5 Division football playoffs, is out of the playoffs for the first time since 1979. The Jackrabbits forfeited three Moore League wins for using an ineligible player.
• Zack La Monda is a heck of a guy and a heck of a coach, but his decision to apply for the at-large berth his El Dorado football team got was not a good one. There is nothing wrong with the “everyone gets a trophy” stuff in kids sports. But that practice should end when kids reach 14 years of age.
• You know, though, if La Monda did not apply for the at-large berth some parents would accuse him of not believing in his players.
• Mission Viejo defensive lineman Carter Hartmann, who will be in the discussion for All-County first team, committed to Harvard. That means he studies with the same effort he plays football.
• The most valiant football players in the county are the guys at El Dorado, Dana Hills, Bolsa Grande and Loara. Their teams did not win a game but those players still went to practice through one of the hotter Septembers and Octobers we’ve experienced. They probably got ridiculed on campus where they should be feted as heroes.
• Portola, a public high school soon to open in Irvine, is starting to schedule games for the 2016-17 school year in which it will field only freshmen teams.
• The CIF-SS already has completed coin flips that determine second-round home teams in the football playoffs. Coin flip results can be found at the football page at cifss.org. When two teams meet after the first round of the playoffs, the team with the fewest number of playoff home games at that point of the playoffs is the home team. If the two teams have played the same number of playoff home games, a coin flip decides the home team.
• The Ryan Lemmon Foundation, which runs baseball tournaments and programs in the county, has a benefit dinner Wednesday at Strawberry Farms in Irvine. “An Evening of Baseball Dreams and Stories” features former Angels Chuck Finley and Bobby Grich, two guys who are great story-tellers. Go to ryanlemmonfoundation.com/events/benefit-dinner for information.
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