“I’m happy with all the things I have and it would be hard to even think about leaving in our economy today, even if it is Glendora,” said La Puente Brandon Rohrer.
By Tyler Drohan, Correspondent
The city of La Puente has been home to a rich tradition of football excellence. Five CIF football championships adorn the halls of Bishop Amat High School in La Puente.
However, head just five minutes away from the Bishop Amat campus to La Puente High School, where the Warriors have struggled on the gridiron for so long.
When former Glendora High School assistant Brandon Rohrer took over at La Puente High School in 2009, the program was coming off of a 16-36 record over the previous five seasons which included a 1-9 finish the year before.
Since then, Rohrer has led a turnaround that has seen La Puente match the 16-win total in just two seasons, amassing a 16-6 overall record and two CIF playoff appearances. “From the beginning, we knew we had to start with the basics and that was lifting, getting bigger, faster, stronger,” Rohrer said. “We made a commitment as a coaching staff to making sure we were working hard in the weight room, so we could physically keep up with teams, especially in our league and our division.”
The 28-year-old Glendora graduate was an assistant for six seasons under Mark Pasquarella and also served as an assistant basketball coach under Mike LeDuc.
“When you become a head coach, you really don’t know what you’re getting into,” Rohrer said. “You think you’re ready, but it’s almost like having a kid.”
The La Puente coach does Sudoku puzzles before games to stay relaxed.
“You can prepare as much as you can, but when you become head coach there’s tons of little stuff,” said Rohrer.
In addition to Rohrer being a Glendora grad, his offensive coordinator Jacob Crook was a star quarterback at Glendora High and his defensive coordinator Jim Maloney played and graduated there as well.
“A lot of our credit goes to the coaching staff, it’s not just me; I know my name gets thrown in there a lot, but its really my coaching staff that deserves a lot of credit,” Rohrer said.
“The adjustment we had to make with the kids was them having faith in us coming over there,” added Maloney. “Coming from Glendora, they called us the ‘Northerners’ which was kind of funny. It took a little time for each of us to get to know each other.”
The previous head coach at La Puente, Ray Hernandez, resigned amid differences with the school administration. Since then, both Rohrer and the administration have developed a great rapport with each other.
“We’re a community that is filled with pride and we believe that our students can compete academically and athletically with anyone and that we can get there with consistency,” said La Puente High School athletic director Andrew Candelaria.
Rohrer said he has received a large amount of support from the administration.
“We have a lot of big football fans and a lot of teachers pulling for us. So, I know the support is there in the community as well,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you, the parents have been fantastic over there.”
When Rohrer took over at La Puente, he was billed as a young, bright offensive mind. Rohrer’s Wing-T offense has been incredibly successful in his first two seasons.
“We run a lot of different formations from the Wing, but that’s kind of our bread and butter,” said Rohrer. “I learned a lot from coach Pasquarella and the Wing. He’s a great X’s and O’s guy. We know there are a lot of other offenses out there, but we want to stick with what we’re good at and run the ball.”
The offense averaged 126.6 passing yards, 221.3 rushing yards and 30.4 points per game in Rohrer’s first season. In their second year, the offense averaged 132.4 passing yards, 252.8 rushing yards and 35.2 points per game showing consistency and an improvement across the board.
“Our foundation is set no matter who steps in now. One of our best players last year, Jose Perez, had a big year and played only seven games because he had a concussion at the end of the year,” Rohrer said.
“That’s how we know our program is on the rise and it’s in place because we put our backup in and he averaged 150 a game. So, we have accountability there for our starters and our backups.”
Despite strong Glendora ties, Rohrer decided to stay put at La Puente this off-season instead of taking over at Glendora following Pasquarella stepping down as head coach. Rohrer’s stepdad, Paul Lopez, is the principal at Glendora and former head coach.
“I’m happy with all the things I have and it would be hard to even think about leaving in our economy today, even if it is Glendora,” said Rohrer.
Candelaria said the school is happy Rohrer is staying too.
“His staff has a great work ethic and we see great things for our kids and our football program in the future and for a long time to come,” he said.
Expectations for next year remain high. La Puente is looking to improve on consecutive second-place finishes in the Montview League.
The team also has their sights set on winning a playoff game. La Puente has won only one CIF playoff game in its school history.
Azusa, led by coach Joe Scherf, has beaten the Warriors three straight years. Scherf has compiled a remarkable 19-0 record in the Montview League en route to three consecutive league titles. Rohrer has compiled an 11-2 record in Montview having lost both times to Azusa.
“I think our teams have gotten too nervous,” said Rohrer. “They’ve always looked at Azusa as the team they couldn’t beat and we want to get over that hump not just to compete, but to beat them.”
Azusa and La Puente figure to decide the league title again this year with a highly anticipated Nov. 4 game at Citrus College.
“People knock us a lot, but there are still a lot of talented kids in the league,” said Rohrer. “We want to prove people wrong. Every year when we go to the playoffs, we want Montview to be a league that people know.”
Pasquarella is also satisfied with Rohrer.
“I think he’s done a great job,” he said. “I think he’s put together a good staff and they’ve done some good things over there; he has probably exceeded my expectations in terms of wins and losses.”
The former Glendora coach added, “I think it’s a good place over there and it couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’s having a big impact on kids today and I hope that people appreciate him and appreciate what he’s doing and where he is at.”
Rohrer said he is proud of the program’s consistency.
“You’re not going to see too much fluctuation with where we’re going to be 8-2 one year and 2-8 the next year,” he said. “The kids understand when they come in that there’s expectations, there’s responsibilities. I think that’s what I’m most proud of, and kids graduating, too. The best feeling as a coach is when kids come back and say what a good job they’ve learned and how much fun they’ve had; how much they miss it.”