Coaching high school football at your alma mater can be a mixed blessing. The job can provide fun and pressure.
The Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs include six teams with coaches who once wore those schools’ colors. The Division IV championship game Saturday in Stockton features an all-alum showdown. Placer coach Joey Montoya not only graduated from the Auburn school, he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Bill Miller, who coached the Hillmen to five section titles between 1975 and 1981. Placer will face Manteca, coached by onetime Buffalo Eric Reis, who wears a Manteca letterman’s jacket but admits it’s a newer version, adding, “I wish I could still fit into the one I had in 1987.”
Placer reached its third section final under Montoya.
“It was always my dream to come home to coach at Placer,” Montoya said. “There is a lot of pressure to do well. My grandfather and father (Joe, a former assistant) coached at Placer. But no one puts more pressure on me than I do. Fortunately, we’ve had a pretty good run.”
Colfax, which meets Capital Christian in the D-V final Friday in Stockton, is coached by Falcons alum Tony Martello. He was a lineman, graduating in 1982. Martello, in his 21st season as coach, is in his seventh title game, seeking his fourth blue banner. He champions the cause for small-roster teams. Colfax, with its smallest enrollment in decades, 595 students, has 25 players.
“It’s funny because back in the day, when we were winning championships, I really thought I was great at this, a real bad (dude),” Martello said. “The game humbles you. We’ve got nine players left from the guys who played on their freshman team. It’s been neat to see them enjoy this success. They got their butts kicked as freshmen and sophomores and last year (going 3-7). Now they’re winning, and we all love that.”
St. Mary’s of Stockton in D-I is coached by Rams alum Tony Franks. Christian Brothers and Oakdale in D-III are coached by alums – the Falcons by Dan Carmazzi and the Mustangs by Trent Merzon.
Jesuit rising – In its D-II playoff wins over Tracy and Central Catholic of Modesto, Jesuit recorded eight interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and nine sacks. The Marauders also have not allowed Calvin Brownholtz to be sacked in the last six games, a credit to linemen Connor Bellinger, Kyle Estipular, Dylan Ford, Joe Marchant and Cayetano Pestana. That line has played together since middle school with the Junior Marauders.
Taking Pride – Drew Rickert on Friday earned his 100th victory in 11 seasons as the only football coach in Bradshaw Christian history. The 34-29 victory over Argonaut put the Pride in a section final for the seventh time. Bradshaw Christian seeks its sixth championship when it faces Amador on Saturday for the D-VI title in Stockton. The Pride (12-0), who have only five seniors, have rushed for 4,615 yards (384.6 per game) and 61 touchdowns. Mateo Bromstead has 1,327 yards and 24 scores, and Gerrett Robbins has 1,201 yards and 14 touchdowns. They’re juniors. Senior Kyle Swinford leads the defense with 14.5 sacks.
“Running the ball is what I learned as a player in Southern California,” said Rickert, whose team has attempted 68 passes. “Running the ball is what I believe in, what the kids believe in.”