Wilson makes it official: Zavala takes over

After agreeing to become Wilson High School’s next head football coach more than a week ago, the Wildcats made it official on Monday by hiring Northview High assistant Brian Zavala.
He replaces Greg Hoyd, who resigned after one year and a 1-9 record. Hoyd butted heads with the school’s boosters and administration and never was well-received. He resigned after being transferred to another school in the district.
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Zavala, a San Gabriel Valley product who played high school football at Temple City, has been an assistant for 11 years with stints at Workman, El Rancho and Rosemead before being Northview’s defensive coordinator the past three years.

Northview had one of the area’s best defenses in 2008, which led to a Valle Vista League title and quarterfinal appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

The Vikings allowed an average of just 14 points a game and held opponents to less than 10 points in eight games.

Zavala was an all-conference linebacker at the University of La Verne, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in movement sports science and a master’s degree in education.

In addition to coaching, he also will teach physical education.

“I’m really excited,” Zavala said. “I felt a head coaching job was in my near future. I had other opportunities earlier in my career, but I didn’t want to be a head coach just to have the title. The time is right, I feel I’m ready and want to be at Wilson a long, long time.

“This is a school with a great football tradition. They’re coming off a tough year, but I believe in the type of kids they have. I see a lot of similarities in those kids and the type of kids I’ve coached throughout my career.”

When he first learned he was losing his defensive coordinator, Vikings coach Jim Arellanes said the Wildcats were making a great hire.

“They’re (Wilson) getting a hard-working coach and an excellent motivator,” Arellanes said. “He’s very well-organized, prepared and the kids absolutely love him.”

Wilson loses standout running back Tim Gilmore and does not have a lot coming back. That will make it hard to compete in the Miramonte League, where league champion Charter Oak beat league foe Diamond Ranch for the Southeast Division title last season.

But the CIF-Southern Section is expected to finalize re-leaguing for 2010 in the next couple months, and Wilson is a strong candidate to be moved to a league where it will be more competitive.

“I know that’s floating around,” Zavala said. “We’ll see what happens with that. But first and foremost, we have next season and we want to prepare ourselves as much as we can.”

Zavala, who thanked Wilson athletic director Dave Merrill for showing so much confidence in him, knows the previous coach had problems with the administration and was heavily criticized. But Zavala said he’s ready to handle what comes his way.

“I don’t know everything that went on, but I can tell you that I’m a straight shooter. I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” Zavala said. “I will be under the microscope more than I ever have.

“That comes with the territory. You have to accept it.”

Merrill, who will retire as athletic director after the school year and join Greg Gano’s football staff at Damien next fall, wanted to leave the program in good hands and said Zavala was the perfect fit.

For the first time, Merrill had finalists meet the players and Zavala left a good impression.

“That played a big part,” Merrill said. “He interviewed well, he’s been in the district before having coached at Workman. We just felt he filled out the check list better than anyone. We’re lucky to to have him.”

Those who know Zavala rave about his ability to motivate.

“I’m big time on building character and building relationships,” Zavala said. “I want them to learn a lot of things they can can take from football and be successful down the line. I’m here for the kids, and the more I get to know them and they get to know me, they’ll find out I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”

As far as his coaching philosophy, Zavala said he always thinks defense first.

“I played defense, I coach defense, and that’s going to be a big part of who we are,” he said. “Obviously you have to run and throw the ball to be successful. But you have to hang your hat on defense, because that’s the (hallmark) of any team that’s successful.”


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