We have already saluted some of the top teams of the past school year. Now its time to acknowledge some of the coaches who helped their teams to great things.
It’s easy to honor those whose teams went all the way. But it’s also nice to acknowledge those who have taken programs from the scrap heap and but them back to respectability.
Not going to rank them because they all deserve a lot of praise and it was hard comparing coaches who continued solid programs with those who had to revive theirs.
They’re listed in alphabetical order. Here goes . . .
Nick Baiz, Rancho Cucamonga football – The Cougars played in the elite Division 1 and more than held their own, making it to the semifinal before losing to national power Mater Dei. The Cougars played a tough schedule but what was also impressive is that they never played down to an opponent. They did what they were supposed to do in each and very game.
Dawnesha Buckner, Los Osos girls basketball (27-4) – I touched on the Grizzlies success in my team highlights. But Buckner took a team that was 6-19 just a year ago and led them to a Division 3A CIF Southern Section title and a berth in the state title game. The Grizzles went from last place in the Baseline to second behind juggernaut Etiwanda. It was a young team last year so future foes should look out.
Jerry DeFabiis, Colony boys basketball (30-6) – The Titans won the CIF Division 2AA title and did so without a true “superstar.” You hear a lot about team chemistry, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some say it is overrated. It’s not and the Titans are proof of that.
Sarah Farnworth, Upland softball (21-7-1) – The Highlanders were able to overtake the usual Baseline League powers this season – Etiwanda, Chino Hills and a much-improved St. Lucy’s and finished atop the heap. Upland did that despite losing its top pitcher for two months. Farnworth did a good job of handling her pitchers and getting the most out of them, one of those just a freshman.
Andy Farrow, Chino Hills girls volleyball – The coach originally hired had to give up the job very late and Farrow was given the nod just a couple of weeks before the season started. His team didn’t even have a full schedule so most teams had at least a half dozen matches in before is even started. But the Huskies upset Rancho Cucamonga the last match of the season to the Cougars for first place in the Baseline.
Don Furnald, Etiwanda baseball (27-3) – The Eagles made mincemeat of the Baseline League and that doesn’t happen often. They won 26 of their last 27, capped off by a CIF title in tough Division 2. Yes he had lots of talent, but it takes more than that to finish the job. The Eagles always seemed to keep calm under pressure.
Greg Gano, Don Lugo football (10-3) – Everyone knew Rancho Cucamonga was going to be good but it was Don Lugo emerging as the most pleasant surprise. The Conquistadores wrestled the Mt. Baldy League title away from Colony and made it to the Division 8 semifinal before losing to Burbank. He graduated some key defenders but many top offensive players will be back so they won’t sneak up on anyone next year.
Jeff Joines, Montclair boys soccer (27-2-1) – The Mt. Baldy isn’t competitive in most sports but the exception is boys soccer and the Cavaliers came out on top against some other quality programs. The Cavs lost the Division 5 semifinal the toughest way possible, penalty kicks after a 2-2 double OT tie.
Alex Matal, Diamond Bar water polo – The Brahmas fielded a girls team for just the third year and went from 7-22 a year ago to 26-8 and Division 7 runner-up. Natal won CIF titles at Nogales and looks to be working that magic again at Diamond Bar. The boys went 22-12 and made the CIF semifinal and after going 14-15 the previous year.
Kevin Nesbit, Alta Loma water polo – It’s not easy to build a program when you’re right in the same neighborhood as established foes, most notably Los Osos. But the Braves have made great strides. The girls went 22-10 and won a CIF title in Division 6 while the boys went 24-7, making it to the CIF semifinal before losing to Xavier Prep.
Max Pinedo, Chaffey baseball – The Tigers (20-6-1) were the Division 5 runner-up, dropping the title game to Katella 3-0 in 11 innings. Chaffey last played in a title game in 1971. He just rounded out his third year. The team was 11-9-1 last year and 3-20 in his first year. Now that is progress.