Here are the choices from among those schools considered large-size and medium for the 2018 season. Our medium schools honoree started out at a small school, but has now won two CIF state titles in the last three seasons. Since this year’s overall State Coach of the Year is from a school we classify as small for postseason honors, we have a large schools choice for this year and that has gone to someone who has led school more than 100 years old to historical section and state titles.
Congratulations to the following two California coaches for joining Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year Michael Peters from McClymonds of Oakland as additional honorees for accomplishments by their teams during the 2018 football season. To read more about Coach Peters, CLICK HERE.
Large Schools State Coach of the Year
Ryan Partridge (Liberty, Brentwood)
It’s only been two years since Partridge moved over to Liberty from Livermore and he was only the head coach at Livermore for one year after coming over there from a three-year stint as an assistant at Dougherty Valley (San Ramon).
The former player at Amador Valley (Pleasanton), the University of Kentucky and University of Northern Arizona has definitely made the most of his two years so far in Brentwood. In his first season since taking over for former head coach Jeff Walters (now at Del Oro of Loomis), Partridge guided the Lions to an 11-2 record and to the CIF North Coast Section Division I title. That also was the first section title at Liberty since the school opened way back in 1902.
All of that success from the first season for Partridge, though, turned out to simply be a launching point for 2018. The Lions won their first outright league title in 53 years, went unbeaten in the regular season and gradually moved up into the top 10 of the state rankings. They eventually suffered the same fate that many in the NCS do when challenging national powerhouse De La Salle (Concord) in the NCS Open Division championship (lost 42-7), but instead of wallowing in self-doubt the team dusted itself off and got ready for a CIF D1-A state title run.
Partridge’s team accomplished that feat first by going to the hilltop stadium in South San Jose to play CIF Central Coast Section Open Division 2 champion Valley Christian of San Jose. The Lions won 33-21. That put them in the CIF D1-A state championship against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, a team that came in with a 2-0 record in previous CIF state finals. Despite playing in Southern California, though, and despite being down 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter, Liberty came back for a 19-17 victory.
Partridge, who previously has been selected as the Bay Area News Group Coach of the Year, will now go down in Brentwood history for directing Liberty’s first-ever CIF state title team. He’s not the first state coach of the year from the school, however. The all-time Cal-Hi Sports state list for medium schools shows that the honoree for 1965 is Jack Ferrill, whose team went 9-0 that season. We also featured Jack in our book “High School Football in California” since he’s still teaching part-time in the Liberty Joint Union High School District at age 92.
Recent Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools
State Coaches of the Year
2017 – David Griffiths (Big Bear, Big Bear Lake); 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).’
Medium Schools State Coach of the Year
Mark Cooley (Pleasant Valley, Chico)
The Pleasant Valley football program in recent years has become synonymous with its most famous alum, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but that could be changing. Under Cooley’s leadership, winning section and state titles could be just as much an immediate connection.
The Vikings made it two CIF state titles in the last three years with their 43-14 triumph last month against Central Valley Christian of Visalia for the CIF D4-AA state crown. Cooley’s team won in 2016 in D4-A with an overtime triumph against St. Anthony of Long Beach. This year’s win also made him the first CIF Northern Section coach in football to win two state titles.
It wasn’t an easy path for Pleasant Valley after a tough non-league schedule. The team then suffered a third loss to arch-rival Chico High, but forced a three-way tie for the Eastern Athletic League title with a win over Paradise. The Vikings then won in a rematch with Chico to decide the Northern Section D2 title and then faced CVC after being given a bye in the NorCal regional bowls.
Special teams play were a crucial aspect of Pleasant Valley’s championship season. Dalton Walker, just 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds, returned the opening kickoff for a score vs. CVC. The second touchdown was then set up by a successful fake punt. One of the top players for this year’s team was senior receiver-defensive back Caleb Cooley, Mark’s son.
Cooley came to Pleasant Valley in 2011 after serving as an assistant coach at Butte College (where Aaron Rodgers also attended). He was a head coach previously at Hamilton of Hamilton City from 1999 to 2009 where his teams went to the Northern Section playoffs for 10 years. In 2008, Cooley’s team at Hamilton was selected to play in the CIF small schools state bowl game where it played St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano and lost by a lopsided margin.
Rick Prinz of Paradise, who is the coach who had to make the tough call to end his team’s season this year after the devastating Camp Fire broke out and destroyed most of the town, was the last Medium Schools State Coach of the Year from the CIF Northern Section. He received that honor in 2011.
Recent Cal-Hi Sports Medium Schools
State Coaches of the Year
2017 – Josh Henderson (Grace Brethren, Simi Valley); 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).