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  • José Luis Villegas /

    Senior Preston Davis, a four-year starter for Bella Vista, says the Contreras brothers have contrasting personalities but are consistent in their coaching.

  • José Luis Villegas /

    Bella Vista coach Zack Contreras, left, and his brother, assistant coach Matt Contreras, are sustaining their family's soccer tradition at the school.

Preps Plus: Brothers oversee success of Bella Vista boys soccer

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 8C

It seems only fitting that Matt Contreras knows what happened to one of Bella Vista High School's original soccer goal posts after a new field was built at the Fair Oaks school several years back.

"I planted it in my back yard," Contreras said. "Whenever my kids looked out the window, I wanted them to see a soccer net.

" … I tell my wife (Diane) all the time that she married a soccer ball. It's my passion."

Matt is the elder statesman of Bella Vista's first family of soccer.

Contreras, 51, played on Bella Vista's first boys soccer league championship team in 1978. After starring at Cosumnes River College and Sacramento State, he became the Broncos' boys coach at age 24 in 1984. In his 12 seasons, Bella Vista lost three times in Sac-Joaquin Section championship matches.

Matt now assists younger brother, Zack, 47, on Bella Vista's defending section Division II championship team, which is undefeated this season.

Zack also is a former Bella Vista standout (he played on the Broncos' first section runner-up team in 1981) who played at Pacific, moved to North Carolina briefly and lived for 13 years in Rohnert Park before returning to Sacramento in 2001.

Matt and Zack have coached sons at Bella Vista.

Matt's son Anthony, who played on the brothers' first section championship team in 2008 and was an all-Capital Valley Conference MVP, is a starting sophomore defender at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College in Southern California. Daughter Melina played for Bella Vista's girls team nearly a decade ago.

Zack's oldest son, Zack Jr., who played goalie on their D-III section runner-up teams in 2006 and 2007, played at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., and Zack Sr.'s youngest son, Jackson, is a star freshman center back on the Broncos' 16-1 JV team.

When Zack was offered the freshman boys job at Bella Vista in 2004, he agreed, so long as he could bring along his brother. They had never coached together.

"It's really fun coaching with my brother," said Zack, a pharmacist. "Our personalities mesh so well. The boys really respond to Matt. His heart, passion and personality come out in the game.

"I'm more serious. I push and push and hammer away to keep them in line, to keep them focused. I'm the worrier."

In playing for four years for the brothers, senior center back Preston Davis said their personalities are like night and day.

"Matt's funny, Zack's a lot more serious," said Davis, who will play at Sacramento State next fall. "But over the four years, they've been really consistent in their coaching. They're both great coaches."

Senior forward Tyler Miguel, Bella Vista's other four-year player, says what makes the brothers unique from other coaches he has had through the years is their attention to the mental aspects of the game. Each season, players receive a written handout titled "Developing a Winning Attitude."

"It's one page – front and back – but it's pretty detailed," Miguel said. "It talks about food, rest, mental thoughts. It emphasizes having a 'big dog attitude' – that you come into a match knowing you are going to win."

Bella Vista has been a perennial boys soccer power, collecting three section titles and seven runner-up finishes. Since the Contreras brothers took over the varsity team six seasons ago, Bella Vista has reached the section final five times and is on the precipice of emerging from the shadows cast by nationally recognized programs Jesuit, Davis and Granite Bay.

This week, Bella Vista debuted in the Region VIII poll at No. 13. The poll ranks high school teams from across the Western United States. Jesuit is No. 1.

Beating then-nationally ranked Granite Bay 4-1 on penalty kicks for the D-II championship last season was a huge confidence builder.

Now the Broncos want more.

They are 14-0-2 after beating Oakmont 7-1 Tuesday and have most of their key players back from last year's team, plus a couple of new wrinkles.

Davis and Miguel are team captains along with senior midfielder Justin Childs, a three-year starter and the team's cerebral leader. Mathew Waldron, Mark Caliguire, Stefan Sarkovich and Galen Herron are other standout seniors.

The team's leading scorer is senior midfielder Trevor Jackson (18 goals, nine assists), a transfer from Arizona. The goalie is 6-foot-3 freshman Drake Callendar (nine shutouts).

"To get us to the next level, it would be big to go back-to-back," Davis said of a section title repeat.

While Matt and Zack Contreras have spent most of their adult lives coaching competitive youth club soccer teams, they prefer the high school game.

"Playing for your high school is like playing for your country," Zack Contreras said. "There's pride and opportunity to play with your buddies from the neighborhood. And because these kids also play club, a lot of their friends are on rival teams. So there's always bragging rights."

A nursery store manager, Matt has been coaching soccer teams in one form or another since he was 15.

"I love coaching high school because it's such a challenge," said Matt, who also is an assistant to Bella Vista girls coach Christie Wheeler. "You bring together 24 different personalities who play in different systems and for five days a week in three months you try to get them to play as one to win a league title, a section championship."

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