The Duarte High School football program continues to give every indication that it’s on the verge of something special and new head coach Travis Brown is confident he’s the man who will get the Falcons over the top.
Brown, a former standout receiver at Los Altos in the early 2000s, is conducting his first fall camp as a head coach and the excitement is starting to build that the beginning of something big for both the Falcons and their rookie head coach is about to happen.
“We have a lot of guys that not too many people know about,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t expect us to be anybody’s favorite. But I will say that we’re going to turn some heads this year and we’re going to make a lot of noise.”
Brown did just during his playing days. He was a receiver on Los Altos’ 2002 and ’03 CIF championship team and earned Tribune All-Area honors in ’03. He then starred at New Mexico where he was an all-Mountain West selection in both his junior and senior seasons.
The success continued into the early days of what he hoped would be an NFL career. Brown was atop the depth chart for at one wide receiver spot for the Cincinnati Bengals entering the preseason in 2008.
After spending time on the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams practice squads, Brown’s pro football days were officially over in 2010. That’s when he decided the next chapter of his football life would be in coaching.
Brown started as an assistant coach at Diamond Bar in 2009 and then worked under his high school head coach Greg Gano at Damien for three years before eventually winding up at Ayala after Gano’s stint at Tustin following his resignation from Damien lasted only four games.
After trying to land a head coach job at other schools in the area, Brown finally got his chance earlier this year when Duarte hired him to replace the departed Jason Martin.
Duarte isn’t exactly a bad place to start for Brown. The Falcons were 7-5 last season, picked up a playoff win over Maranatha and it’s not like the cupboard is empty this fall.
Despite the mild success, Brown has had to implement some changes in the way the Falcons do business.
“It took a little longer to change the culture than I initially anticipated,” Brown said. “When I got here, consistently for the first two months, there were about 15 guys. We have about 65-70 guys in the program now.
“In the past, guys came and went as they pleased. I had to crack the whip and let them know that if you’re going to be a part of this program you’re going to be all in or not in at all. There’s not going to be any ‘I show up for a week, I miss a week.’”
With a consistent base of players, Brown can now turn his attention to Xs and Os. He has hired former 2002 co-Tribune Player of the Year Randall Brown, who also played at Los Altos, as his running backs and defensive backs coach.
Former Los Altos and Monrovia standout running back James Davis is the defensive coordinator. Brown hopes to add more to his staff and promises that by next season it could be quite a collection of former Los Altos greats.
In the meantime, Brown and his staff have the pleasure of fine tuning an offense that could be a force thanks to an offensive line whose lightest player is 240 pounds. Quarterback Isiah Scott is also back and receiver Kamar Watson is expected to do big things.
But getting Duarte over the hump will probably require even more talent than what’s on hand now. And that means not bankrolling other teams around the Valley, including nearby Monrovia, with Duarte talent.
Brown knows he must keep the city’s top players home, but that’s been easier said than done for previous Duarte coaches. Playing and beating Monrovia might help. Brown is hopeful to do just that soon.
“For me, it’s Los Altos-Wilson type of deal,” Brown said. “They’re (Monrovia) just right up the road kinda like how we (Los Altos) were right up the road from Wilson but we just so happened to be the more talented team on a consistent basis.
“Monrovia’s in the driver’s seat right now, but I think that just takes one season to turn around. This is an ideal time for that to happen. This is a game that will be scheduled in the next couple of years if I’m at Duarte. And when I say the next couple of years, the sooner the better.”
Before Duarte can think about taking back local supremacy from Monrovia, it must figure out how to get past Azusa in the Montview League, and even more dauntingly new league foe Baldwin Park, who most believe is the Montview’s new favorite.
Brown is confident about not only that happening but also continued postseason success. If he’s right, the potential of Duarte football is scary.
“The only people that beat us this year will be ourselves,” Brown said. “There’s not a team in our league, with all due respect to everyone, that I see being able to stop us.
“I believe in our players wholeheartedly. And I don’t think that if we come out and play our game that there’s a team that we play that can stop us.”