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Operation Start-up

Unusually High Number of First-Year Coaches Face Daunting Tasks at Region High Schools


Rob Swartz's knowledge of the beleaguered Hoover High football program was, at best, minimal in the beginning.

But since the Bay Area native was named the Tornadoes' coach last spring, Swartz has a much clearer picture of what he inherited.

He learned Hoover last won a league title in 1954.

And he learned the Tornadoes, with only 23 players, went the entire 1999 season without a touchdown pass.

There have been 21 coaching changes since last season among the region's 72 11-man high school football teams.

None have a bigger mountain to climb than Swartz, who is embarking on his first head coaching assignment after being an assistant the past five seasons at San Jose Fremont.

Hoover won only 15 of 100 games in the 1990s, and the decades before that weren't much better.

But none of those unsettling statistics have discouraged Swartz.

"As they say, we can only go up from here," he said.

The program already looks promising under Swartz's guidance.

His No. 1 goal was to increase interest and player participation.

With the help of first-year assistants who are teachers at Hoover, Swartz coaxed 45 players to come out for the varsity team.

Although young and inexperienced, the Tornadoes have impressed Swartz with their ability to listen and learn.

"I'm not used to working with kids who are so easy to work with," Swartz said.

"They're kids and they're optimistic and they dream about winning."

Hoover, which snapped an 18-game losing streak last season and finished 2-8, is by no means the only program in the region in need of a booster shot.

Of the 21 schools with new coaches, 14 had losing records last season. Eight of those teams won three games or fewer.

But while teams with first-year coaches are usually underdogs, they come with a built-in advantage.

For example, when veteran Coach Rudy Lugo of Canoga Park and the Hunters face Birmingham tonight, they won't know quite what to expect.

Studying videotape from last year's Canoga Park-Birmingham game--or any Birmingham game--is somewhat pointless because the Patriots have a new coach, Ed Croson.

"You can't really call a coach and say, 'Hey, what [offensive or defensive scheme] do you run?' " Lugo said.

Because Croson was previously the coach at Chaminade, Lugo tried to get a tape of the Chaminade-El Camino Real game last season to study Chaminade's schemes.

But Lugo and his staff concluded that Croson might run a different scheme at Birmingham because of different personnel.

"It's pure speculation," Lugo said.

So Lugo is basing the Hunters' strategy on what they saw of Birmingham in summer passing leagues.

Lugo is not alone. There will be more than a dozen coaches in the same predicament tonight against teams with first-year coaches.

However, a few games involving first-year coaches won't create a preparation advantage.

New coaches Troy Jackson of Lancaster and Bill Culpepper of Chaminade will square off tonight, as did Chris Johnson of Harvard-Westlake and Donnie Rea of Channel Islands on Thursday night.

Likewise, no team in the Alpha League will have much of an advantage in league play because Kilpatrick, L.A. Baptist, Pasadena Marshall, Paraclete and Village Christian all hired new coaches.

Sid Ware, Kilpatrick's coach last season, is co-coach with Scott Faer, the team's offensive coordinator the past three seasons.

Although the Kilpatrick coaches will probably employ the same schemes, they have all new players. Kilpatrick is a school for juvenile offenders, who are housed at the facility no longer than one year.

Hopefully, it won't be more than a year for the region's first-year coaches to get their first victory.



A look at schools with new football coaches


School New Coach Old Coach Alemany Craig Schuler Jim Bonds Birmingham Ed Croson Dave Lertzman Chaminade Bill Culpepper Ed Croson Channel Islands Donnie Rea Jack Willard Fillmore Curtis Garner Matt Suttle Frazier Mountain Jason Fayter Ron Witham Glendale Loi Phan Pete Smolin Harvard-Westlake Chris Johnson Dave Bennett Hoover Rob Swartz Mark Bitetti L.A. Baptist Gregg Frazer Mark Bates Lancaster Troy Jackson Ray DeShane North Hollywood Brad Ratcliff Jason Garrison Paraclete Jeff Cortez Steve Hagerty Santa Clara Dave Gutierrez Eliseo Miguel Santa Paula Ed Gomez Robert Mumford Simi Valley Steve Carroll Ron Veres St. Francis Jim Bonds Bill Redell Thousand Oaks Mike Sanders Mike Kelly Vasquez Doug Miller Craig Cieslik Verdugo Hills Darren Fitzgerald Don Scott Village Christian Jim Yencarelli Mike Plaisance




* Channel Islands 10, Harvard-Westlake 6

* St. Bonaventure 51, Paraclete 0


* Among season openers tonight, Buena takes on Westlake, Highland challenges Valencia, Sylmar hosts Dorsey, San Fernando visits Alemany and Taft travels to Banning. Page 15

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