Here are the choices from among those schools considered medium-size and small for the 2017 season. Our medium schools honoree is more known for his work at small schools, but since his team this year was in the CIF D2-A state final we can pick him for medium. Our small schools honoree has done an outstanding job for nearly 20 years in a mountain community mostly known for its winter sports.
Congratulations to the following two California coaches for joining Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year Kris Richardson of Folsom as additional honorees for accomplishments by their teams during the 2017 football season. To read more about Coach Richardson, CLICK HERE.
Medium Schools State Coach of the Year
Josh Henderson (Grace Brethren, Simi Valley)
For taking a team with only five seniors to make it to the CIF D2-A state championship game, Henderson had to get the nod for this category. Until this year, Grace Brethren would have had to be considered Small Schools, but getting moved up in the CIF regional playoffs after winning the CIF Southern Section Division 8 title also moves up the program to Medium Schools.
It also was a season of redemption for the Lancers, who were kept out of the CIFSS playoffs in 2016 and had wins taken away in 2015 due to player eligibility issues. In the CIFSS final, they took on an Antelope Valley of Lancaster team that had just scored 70 points in knocking out unbeaten Rio Mesa of Oxnard and won that game 63-27. Up next was 14-0 Aquinas of San Bernardino in the regional final in a matchup that brought Henderson back to the school he was the head coach from 2000 to 2009.
“Their current head coach Jordan Brusig played QB for me in 2001-2004,” Henderson recalled. “His brother played safety and his dad was our booster president. Four of their current coaches played for me, including my brother, Jake Henderson, my nephew Jim Jones, and George Anagnostopoulos. They had a great season, much respect, but it was good to win and earn the state berth.”
Grace Brethren won that game 24-8 and then took on St. Francis of Mountain View for the state final. Some compared that as if the Lancers were stepping up to play a very solid team out of the Mission League in Southern California (like Loyola or Notre Dame) and although they lost 22-13 they were in the game at 15-13 until late in the fourth quarter.
“Coming off of a two-year sanction, our guys believed they were playing for those guys all year and they were,” Henderson said. “The season was about a lot more than our team. It was about all the guys they played with and looked up to, about all of us – the sanctioned teams, our community, our alumni. We had all worked so hard to build a program at Grace Brethren. We wanted to tell our story.”
In addition to the loss to St. Francis, the Lancers also fell early in the season to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and Rio Mesa (by one point). They also posted a double-overtime win over eventual CIF D3-AA state champion Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara.
Not counting forfeits, Henderson’s teams the past four seasons at Grace Brethren have gone 13-3, 9-1, 12-2 and 13-1. His last five teams at Aquinas from 2004 to 2008 went 10-2, 7-5, 904, 13-1 and 10-2. He’s been a head coach for 19 seasons and still credits playing for the legendary Dick Bruich at Fontana as a reason for his own success.
“I’m proud to have played football in Fontana from seven years old on,” he said. “The pinnacle was playing and learning from the best coach I’ve ever known, Dick Bruich. Fontana was a true football town and the Inland Empire football mecca in the 80’s and early 90’s.”
And with the type of players Henderson may have for the next two or three years, a Grace Brethren mecca also may be in the works.
Recent Cal-Hi Sports Medium Schools
State Coaches of the Year
2016 – Trent Merzon (Oakdale); 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).
Small Schools State Coach of the Year
David Griffiths (Big Bear, Big Bear Lake)
Up at Big Bear, the start of ski season in early December is always a big deal, but this year attention by the locals was diverted to a championship run by the Big Bear High football team.
Griffiths has been the leader of that program for nearly 20 years and he had a team this season that won the CIF Southern Section Division 11 title before losing to Golden West of Visalia in the CIF SoCal D5-AA regional final. Griffiths won his 150th game in the CIFSS semis and then took his team on a five-hour, 257-mile road trip to Santa Maria for the final where the Bears won 37-23.
The head coach that Griffiths replaced in 1998 at Big Bear, Mike Clifton, was the small schools state coach of the year in 1992 when the team went 14-0. Griffiths also has a 14-0 team on his ledger, which was accomplished in 2006.
This year’s team was a bit unproven coming off of a 6-5 season, but ended up being a CIFSS champion behind the one-two rushing punch of QB Chase Dowty and RB Jesus “Chuy” Castro.
Recent Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools
State Coaches of the Year
2016 – Jim Kunau (Rancho Christian, Temecula); 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).