More State Football Coaches of Year

Here are the choices from among those schools considered medium-size and small. Our medium schools honoree for this year won a CIF state title for the school he once played for while our small schools pick made history for becoming just the second coach in CIF state history to win state titles at two different schools.

Congratulations to the following two California coaches for joining Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year Dave White from Edison of Huntington Beach as additional honorees for accomplishments by their teams during the 2016 football season. To read more about Coach White, CLICK HERE.

Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon had one of his youngest teams in 2016 but by the end of the season was one of his best. Photo: oakdalefootball.com.

Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon had one of his youngest teams in 2016 but by the end of the season was one of his best. Photo: oakdalefootball.com.


Medium Schools State Coach of the Year
Trent Merzon (Oakdale)

If there was a high school version in California this season of USC, then Oakdale might be a good pick. The Mustangs struggled in their first game in a 27-13 loss to Sonora and lost toward the end of the regular season to Manteca. They turned it around completely after that, however, beating four-time CIF state champ Central Catholic to end the regular season and then went on a tear in the postseason.

With senior running back Will Semone piling up chunk play after chunk play, Oakdale’s postseason run included a 29-0 win over Christian Brothers of Sacramento in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D3 final and then wins over two previously unbeaten teams – Sutter and Bishop’s of La Jolla – to win the CIF Division 3-A state title.

In his 17th season as the head coach of the Mustangs, Merzon already has been named by the Modesto Bee as its Large School Coach of the Year. He is the first Medium Schools State Coach of the Year from the SJS since Eric Reis of Manteca in 2006, a coach that Merzon is very familiar with since the two schools routinely battle it out for supremacy in the Valley Oak League.

A graduate of Oakdale, Merzon played from 1982-1985 before returning back to the school to start coaching after playing in college. Starting in 1992, he was an assistant coach for baseball and football before becoming the head varsity coach in 2000.

According to our own Oakdale all-time football scores archive, which was turned into the school prior to the 2015 season, Merzon has piled up a 176-43 record in his 17 seasons. This includes a 12-2 record from last year to go along with 14-2 for this season. Merzon’s team in 2014 also won the CIFSJS D3 title but lost in the NorCal D2 bowl game to Clayton Valley of Concord. In 2012, the Mustangs beat Clayton Valley in that bowl game but then had to fast super-fast Serra of Gardena in the D2 state final and lost 42-15. Merzon’s first section title came in 2007 when Oakdale beat Whitney of Rocklin 34-27 to wrap up a 12-1 season with an SJS D4 crown.

Recent Cal-Hi Sports Medium Schools
State Coaches of the Year

2015 – Mike Moschetti (La Mirada); 2014 – Kevin Macy (Campolindo, Moraga); 2013 – Scott Meyer (Corona del Mar, Newport Beach); 2012 – Rick Jackson (Madison, San Diego); 2011 – Rick Prinz (Paradise); 2010 – Paul Cronin (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa); 2009 – Sean Doyle (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego); 2008 – Lou Farrar (Charter Oak, Covina); 2007 – Ray Fenton (Cypress); 2006 – Eric Reis (Manteca); 2005 – Robin Luken (Lompoc); 2004 – Rob Gilster (Valley Center); 2003 – Tony Martello (Colfax); 2002 – Tom St. Jacques (Lassen, Susanville); 2001 – Butch Cattolico (Los Gatos).

Small Schools State Coach of the Year
Jim Kunau (Rancho Christian, Temecula Valley)

Well known for his career coaching at Orange Lutheran, Kunau has quickly turned around the football program at Rancho Christian as he led the Eagles to a CIF Southern Section Division 13 title and a CIF State Division 6-AA title in his third year at the school.

Jim Kunau has proven before that he can take a small school program and build it up to the highest level. Photo: ranchochristian.org.

Jim Kunau has proven before that he can take a small school program and build it up to the highest level. Photo: ranchochristian.org.


Also named by the Riverside Press-Enterprise as the HSGametime Coach of the Year, Kunau became just the second coach to lead at least two schools to a CIF state football championship. He did it the first time with the CIF D2 state crown in 2006 at Orange Lutheran. The only other coach to win state titles at more than one school is Harry Welch, who won at Canyon of Canyon Country, St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano and Santa Margarita of Rancho SM.

With the Lancers, Kunau won 182 games and last season he notched his 200th career win. Kunau also had a stop at Anaheim Canyon where he went 5-5 before taking over with the Eagles.

Rancho Christian is a school that had its first varsity season just four years ago, which was canceled after the first game but in just five seasons the Eagles have become a state champion.

The last Small Schools State Coach of the Year from the Inland Empire is Dan Finfrock of Redlands Arrowhead Christian, who was honored in 2001.

Recent Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools
State Coaches of the Year

2015 – Tom Crawford (Bishop Diego, Santa Barbara); 2014 – Roger Canepa (Central Catholic, Modesto); 2013 – Matt Oliver (Christian, El Cajon); 2012 – Pete Lavorato (Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton); 2011 – Jon Ellinghouse (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth); 2010 – Mark Louriero (Escalon); 2009 – Jack Moyer (Fort Bragg); 2008 – Frank Marques (Hilmar); 2007 – Kim Jorgensen (Ferndale); 2006 – Travis Brackett (Novato); 2005 – Matt Hunsaker (Central Valley, Shasta Lake); 2004 – Rich Cotruvo (Justin-Siena, Napa); 2003 – Mike Glines (Central Catholic, Modesto); 2002 – Coley Candaele (Carpinteria); 2001 – Dan Finfrock (Arrowhead Christian, Redlands).

Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens also contributed to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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