Joe Davidson

Sheldon shocker: Cattolico steps down as football coach as area programs add coaches

Sheldon football coach Joe Cattolico, left, walks with Kris Richardson, then the coach at Folsom, before a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game Nov. 18, 2016. Cattolico is stepping down to spend more time with his family. Richardson is now coaching at Sacramento State.
Sheldon football coach Joe Cattolico, left, walks with Kris Richardson, then the coach at Folsom, before a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game Nov. 18, 2016. Cattolico is stepping down to spend more time with his family. Richardson is now coaching at Sacramento State. Special to The Sacramento Bee

Having spent years leading teams of players who felt like sons, Joe Cattolico called a personal timeout on his own life this week.

He wants to spend more time with his most beloved team - his family.

Cattolico met with Sheldon High School football players Wednesday to announce his decision to step down as head coach, never an easy task when the momentum is so strong.

The Huskies produced seasons of 8-4, 9-3 and 10-2 under Cattolico, including a Delta League championship in 2018..

Cattolico for years has been known as one of the area’s exceptional coaches, a throw-back sort who prefers a simple approach to offense while expertly blending in life lessons of what teamwork, achievement and adversity can teach.

Cattolico left nearby Pleasant Grove in the Elk Grove Unified School District following the 2012 season as that school’s winningest coach with a string of championships to catch his breath. It’s ringing true again.

Team Cattolico includes young sons Joseph, 12, Dominic, 9, and Giovanni, 1 1/2, and team leader wife Natasha.

Cattolico’s father, Butch, assisted him at Pleasant Grove and Sheldon. The older two Cattolico sons were Sheldon ball and water boys.

“It was something that was brewing,” Cattolico said of his decision. “The demands of being a head coach are significant, and the timing we felt as a family was to down shift and have more time with our own kids.

“Kids grow up fast. I think this will be good for us as a family, and I think things will continue to be good here, too, because it’s been fantastic here - good kids, school support.”

The timing is key, Cattolico said. He wanted to give Sheldon principal Paula Duncan plenty of time to find a replacement.

Cattolico said he hasn’t given much thought to when or if he will coach again. Coaches are lifers, and sometimes a year or two away is needed to recharge. Cattolico stressed he is not immediately looking into other teaching or coaching jobs.

The Sheldon gig will attract attention. The coaching staff includes Jason Tenner, the one-time Ponderosa coach, who seems like a logical interview. So would former Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon, whose son Sean was the junior varsity quarterback at Sheldon in 2018.

Cattolico won four league titles at Pleasant Grove and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship. His 2011 Pleasant Grove team remains the last group to beat Folsom in a league contest.

Max’d out

Max Miller has a convenient memory. The famed retired Cordova football coach was reflecting on his South team’s 24-21 victory over the North in the 61st Optimist All-Star Classic on Saturday and just how rare it was that a player would block two kicks.

Burbank star Levelle Bailey blocked a punt that led to a South touchdown, and his blocked field-goal attempt as time ran out secured the win.

“That has to be some sort of record,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen a kid do that. Amazing.”

Well, actually, it’s happened before, and it happened to Miller. In a 1990 playoff game, unbeaten and top-ranked Cordova lost 21-18 to Roseville when Tedy Bruschi blocked his third kick of the day, a winning field-goal attempt in the closing seconds.

Bruschi went on to stardom at Arizona and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

“Oh, wow,” Miller sighed Saturday. “I wanted to forget that.”

Miller is hosting his 39th Clinic of Champions on Friday and Saturday in Sacramento, where a who’s-who of coaches will have seminars on blocking, tackling and leadership.

Area coaches who will speak include Larry Cunha of Roseville, T.J. Ewing of Monterey Trail, Jack Garceau of Rio Linda, Casey Taylor of Capital Christian, Jeff Walters of Del Oro, Dano Graves of Cal Poly and Robert Tucker and Mark Speckman of UC Davis.

For more information: clinicofchampions.com.

Reber a Bronco

Bella Vista has tasked Justin Reber with the challenge bringing the Broncos out of football decline.

With three successive 0-10 seasons behind them, Bella Vista will look to the one-time star receiver and coach at Capital Christian, Sacramento, Rio Linda and El Dorado to change their fortunes. Reber was the offensive coordinator at Hartnell College in 2017.

In seven seasons as an area head coach and two at Saddleback Valley Christian High, Reber won six league championships and was voted by his league peers as Coach of the Year five times.

Wiley return

Christian Brothers named John Wiley as its next football coach, bringing the one-time Auburn player back to a school in which he worked for 12 years as a coach, assistant athletic director and teacher.

Wiley replaces Tyler Almond, who led the Falcons for two playoff seasons before accepting a coaching post at Dixie State in Utah. Wiley was the head coach at Davis High from 2014-17, leading one playoff team before stepping aside following an 0-10 season in 2017.

Golder a Maverick

Mesa Verde hired former Liberty Ranch offensive coordinator Bryan Golder as its next football coach.

The Mavericks were a regional power in the 1990s under coaches Mike Gebhardt and Ron Barney but last fielded a winning season in 2004 and went 1-9 in 2014 and 2018.

Golder was the Liberty Ranch head coach in 2012, leading the team to the playoffs.

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.

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