New Baldwin Park High School football coach Daniel Algattas isn’t bashful when he talks about his goals for the Braves’ program.
“We want to be recognized as a team that can play with the best of them,” Algattas said. “Our kids want to be No. 1 in the Valley. Whether that’s realistic or not, somebody can tell me that in 5-10 years. We want to get there one day. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But we want to play to our full potential.”
It doesn’t end there. Algattas is hopeful that he can take Baldwin Park on such a run that the Braves will “earn our way into Charter Oak’s league”. And if you remember him as a standout quarterback at Walnut, it’s not a wise idea to be against it happening.
When last seen by most Valley prep football fans, Algattas was firing the game-winning touchdown and 2-point conversion pass in the final seconds of the 2003 Hall of Fame All-Star Game.
It was the culmination of a stellar prep career that saw Algattas lead Walnut to the CIF championship game against South Hills in 2002. He parlayed his high school career into scholarship to play at Colorado St.
But before Algattas’ freshman season in Fort Collins, Colorado, he injured his shoulder and suffered a serious concussion in car accident that came as a result of another driver running a red light.
Algattas soon found himself rehabbing and restarting his career at Mt. San Antonio College. He later wound up at UCLA as a backup quarterback. Algattas could have gone other places to finish his playing career, but he had his eye on the future. And that meant a career in coaching.
“I got a chance to learn a lot of stuff,” Algattas said.
Before he knew it, Algattas was back at Mt. SAC as an assistant coach. Soon, he also had a day job at the junior college, a position he still maintains while being a walk-on coach at Baldwin Park.
When Baldwin Park’s varsity football head coach job came available after Chris Williams left following a 7-4 season in 2013, Algattas jumped. After spending the 2008 season as the Braves’ offensive coordinator under then-head coach James Heggins, Algattas knew what he was getting into.
Now, there’s nothing left to do but build the Braves’ program back into an area power. That’s something Algattas is laying the groundwork for by hiring a mostly young staff that features former Glendora standout Mike Edwards as the receivers coach. Former record-setting Walnut quarterback Brandon Roach is the quarterbacks coach.
Even Mario Rodriguez, who was a top player at the school in 2010, is on Algattas’ staff despite being just a few years from graduation. There’s also a veteran presence in associate head coach Tom Roach and defensive coordinator J.T. Niuamata.
Despite the abundance of youthful energy on the staff, Algattas’ style is part old school and part new wave. The Braves are toning down their uniforms this year and won’t wear excessive extras like wrist bands. Players’ legs will also be fully covered by their uniforms.
Algattas will call the offensive plays and says not to expect any elaborate schemes. Baldwin Park will shun the ever-popular spread offense for the West Coast offense, which Algattas learned while at UCLA and Mt. SAC.
“The offense I brought to Baldwin Park is probably more complex than what we used at Mt. SAC,” Algattas said. “I feel our kids are so dedicated that they can learn it. They grow up playing football in this town. You know, they’re not all soccer kids.
“I get many a text message in the middle of the night asking about what’s on the script for tomorrow’s practice. I’m not happy about it a lot of times because it’s late, but they want to know.”
Algattas inherits a program that appears to be on the upswing after some down years following the departure of Heggins following the 2011 season. Standout receiver Raymen Barraza, who put up dazzling numbers last season as a sophomore, is back. So is receiver/defensive back Jayson Miller, who coaches think will play on Saturdays.
Baldwin Park opens the season on Aug. 29 against El Monte. After that, there’s a somewhat shocking date with Orange County power Fountain Valley. Later, an emotional night looms on Sept. 26 when the Braves host Algattas’ alma mater Walnut.
But don’t expect any warm and fuzzy feelings when the Mustangs come to town. Algattas felt shunned by the program he won so many games for after he was passed up for varsity coaching staff position at Walnut at the outset of his coaching career. He was told he could volunteer instead.
“For me, that game was on the cherry on top when I got hired,” Algattas said. “I wanted to coach there and they decided they would pay everybody else and if I wanted to, I could volunteer. I guess I wasn’t worth it, so I’ll remember that.”
After the Walnut game, the Braves begin their first season in the Montview League where they look like heavy favorites to sweep the league. If that happens, Baldwin Park could be looking at a high seed in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs and possibly some postseason magic to really kick start Algattas’ vision for the program.
“There’s tremendous pressure,” Algattas said. “But at Mt. SAC, if we ever lost a game, somebody would say ‘They’re going to get fired because they went 12-1 instead of 13-0.’
“I think we’re a sleeping giant. There’s enormous potential here. There’s over 100,000 people in Baldwin Park and it’s split between two schools. Without saying any names, I think we all know who the perennial powers are. Hopefully, one day we can be recognized as one of those.”