Del Oro High School football coach Jeff Walters will not be with his team on Friday night as the Golden Eagles continue their quest to three-peat as Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champions.
The first-year coach who played for the Golden Eagles in the early 2000s and got his coaching start with the Loomis school has been suspended for one game by Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo as fallout from an emotionally charged opening-round playoff win.
Del Oro beat visiting Lincoln 16-14 on a 53-yard field goal by Ryan Whalley as time expired in a contest that included the Golden Eagles being penalized 26 times for 305 yards. Del Oro coaches fumed throughout, and Walters was called over by a referee after the game to talk about it. Video clips show Del Oro coaches barking at referees during and after the game.
Del Oro plays at 11-0 Inderkum on Friday, the same team it beat for the program’s 11th section championship last December. Five of those banners are from this decade, one in which the Golden Eagles have gone 24-2 in the section playoffs.
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“That’s what we should be celebrating, the field goal,” Gayaldo said Tuesday morning. “When you are who you say you are as a program, it is about integrity and sportsmanship, and the decision was easy to (sit Walters). It was kind of his suggestion.
“No one feels worse than Jeff and our coaching staff. There are no excuses and no one made any. They all agreed that our coaches behaved poorly. It was unacceptable behavior and that starts with the leadership, and that includes me and our head coach. I don’t want to blame the officials and I had that discussion with our coaches (Monday night).”
Gayaldo added, “We incited bad emotions on the field and the stands, and it’s our responsibility to own up to it. Jeff and I knew we had to do something to hold ourselves accountable, a message to ourselves that we’re not above any of this. Jeff not being on the sideline Friday is a reminder that we’re not above our responsibility of setting the right example.”
Gayaldo said he is “absolutely” behind Walters as the coach moving forward. Walters will coach Del Oro this week in practice and has assigned assistant coach Bill Sherman as interim coach. Walters got his coaching start at Del Oro under Casey Taylor, who left after last season’s section title for Capital Christian. Walters has called his job “a dream come true.”
Walters said Tuesday, “It’s about the kids, and instead of talking about the valiant effort it took to win that game, it’s been overshadowed by something that should not have happened. I wear it, and we as adults have to. Our sideline wasn’t what we have come to expect at Del Oro.
“The thing I learned here before was that we win with class and lose with class, and, unfortunately, that didn’t happen. As much as I hurt on a personal level, deep down, this is the right move for our program and I think we’ll grow from it.”
Walters emailed parents of Del Oro players after meeting with Gayaldo on Monday night, stressing that it’s never good when adults take away the achievements of youths.