By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
This story originally published Thursday, Sept. 3 on page C1 in the Star-News sports section
New high school football coaches anticipate a challenging season. After all, change can be difficult.
Whether it comes at a program with an established identity like Temple City or La Caada high schools or at Pasadena, Duarte and Keppel where there’s seemingly little continuity, these coaches are willing to face the issues head on.
Anthony White’s biggest challenge coming to Temple City was taking over a program that is used to running things a certain way.
For more than a decade, Randy Backus was the steady hand at the helm. He served two seasons as head coach, but also had great influence as one of former head coach Mike Mooney’s top assistants.
Backus was relieved of his duties late last season just as the Rams were beginning their improbable run to the semifinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs.
It took longer than expected, but the Temple City Unified School District gambled on the baby-faced White, who at 27 became one of the youngest head football coaches in recent history.
It didn’t take long before White realized he needed to surround himself by a veteran coaching staff to help maintain the Rams’ rich tradition, even if it meant altering Temple City’s smash-mouth trademark style.
He spent the summer and fall practices turning parents into believers of the spread offense formation he installed. It’s now a wait-and-see approach as the Rams open the season next week (Sept. 11) against Arroyo.
White concedes there is some pressure to perform, but added he’s confident with his abilities and grateful for the support of his administration and veteran coaching staff.
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“A lot of kids love it, they love change,” White said. “They love the updated offense. We had more players asking about trying out for receiver than we had in the last 50 years. The parents sometimes watch practice and try to see what we’re about this season.
“I understand there’s a ton of pressure coming to a program like Temple City, but at the same time I am confident in my ability.”
A former Wendy’s National High School Heisman, White played strong safety at Utah under Urban Meyer, now the head coach for the top-ranked Florida Gators.
It’s an experience White’s sure to draw upon as he gets ready to begin the season.
At Pasadena, Mike McFarland doesn’t have Temple City’s success to build upon.
A former Muir and Occidental assistant coach, McFarland’s greatest challenge is building from within before making lofty expectations.
“A lot of times when there’s not a level of success that has been achieved the passion isn’t there,” McFarland said. “It’s human nature, not just in sports. If you’re not being successful people don’t get excited. It’s the most important thing, to generate that passion.
“The passion comes when players start seeing themselves (as) successful. When they know things are headed in the right direction and feel themselves (as) the player they want to become, then you start to get guys with passion.”
Pasadena went 17-26 in four years under Kevin Mills, who resigned at the end of last season.
McFarland, a tight ends coach at Missouri Western University last year, is hoping his players soon will buy into what he’s emphasizing.
“It’s been a work in progress,” he said. “There’s ups and downs. We’ve battled demons here for the first few months with kids in terms of consistency not only in performance but attendance and the effort; some of those things are related to perhaps the past and maybe past disappointments, but I can’t put it all on that.
“What we as coaches have talked about is our players need to get closer to success and see it and feel it, and when that happens that’s when you start to get more of a buy-in.”
Duarte coach Tip Sanders revived the Marshall and Blair programs before moving on to coach the Falcons a few months ago.
He didn’t seem to get a chance right off the bat to win over players, who were disappointed when Wardell Crutchfield was fired after school officials decided they wanted to go in a new direction. The decision came after a Falcons quarterfinals run in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs.
Sanders said he’ll work with what he has and is focused on developing the younger talent.
Dan Yoder was having fun coaching a group of players without having to deal with the spotlight.
But that all changed when Rich Wheeler, the school’s longest-serving coach, resigned after 12 years as the Spartans football coach.
He was the junior varsity coach the past four years. He’s also been a history teacher at La Caada the past five years.
“I really didn’t expect to see it happen this fast,” Yoder said. “It’s always something I thought about but I really enjoyed my (junior varsity) experience, both as the head coach who got to call the shots and also that you’re the JV guy; it’s a little less of scrutiny coming down on you.”
Wheeler’s resignation moved Yoder’s plans ahead of schedule in becoming a head coach.
“I wouldn’t say I planned on this right away, it’s just sort of the way it played out.”
Something else Yoder hadn’t planned was heading into next week’s opener against Alhambra with a slew of canceled practices as well as a scrimmage due to poor air quality from the Station Fire.
It’s a challenge Keppel coach Bobby Madrid had also not anticipated.
His priority was moving the Aztecs program forward after Raul Solis resigned after his first season and putting an end to that dreadful 37-game losing streak.