WATSONVILLE — John Montante sees potential in the Watsonville High football program.
He’ll get his chance to work with the program, as he was officially announced Tuesday as the new head football coach at one of the oldest high schools in the Pajaro Valley.
“I’m champing at the bit to get started,” Montante said. “Watsonville has a lot of potential.”
Montante replaces Tom Sullivan, who stepped down in February after six years at the helm, citing a need to take a break from coaching.
This will be Montante’s first head coaching gig in terms of 11-man football. He coached Marina’s final eight-man football team in 2009; the Mariners went 5-1-2.
His roots are not that far from Watsonville.
He’s a 1999 Monterey High grad; in his senior year, the Toreadores went 8-2 in the regular season and went on to win their second Central Coast Section championship.
He’s been an assistant to several longtime coaches, including Buck Roggeman and Pete Noble, both who have won league championships.
Montante found out about Watsonville’s opening as it became available.
“They were one of the most athletic teams in the area,” Montante said. “If I had an opportunity at a school with so many athletes, I wondered about the things I could do with it.”
While hopefully leading the Wildcatz to wins, he said he wants to make sure they’re also learning life lessons that can be carried on after they graduate.
“I look at football as a way to enrich the lives of student-athletes,” he said. “I want to use football to help them in the classroom.”
Montante takes over a team that bookended their 2011 season with victories as they went 2-8 overall. In between the two wins, there were plenty of ups and downs. The Wildcatz stayed close with Santa Cruz, were unable to put away North Monterey County and lost at home to Aptos.
Watsonville’s last winning season was 2009, the year it won the Monterey Bay League title and reached the Central Coast Section tournament.
Montante says he puts a focus on both sides of the ball; he’s been both an offensive coordinator and defensive assistant.
The new coach met with some of the players during an impromptu meeting Monday. He said there was excitement all around.
Principal Elaine Legorreta was also excited.
“He’s looking for a long-term place to be at, and that means a lot to us to have longevity,” Legorreta said. “He had all of the qualities we were looking for.”
Legorreta said more than 15 people applied for the position, adding that the school had hoped to fill the spot by the end of May.
The school offered Montante the job two weeks ago while he and his wife were in Mercer Island, Wash.
Potential job openings and layoffs within the Pajaro Valley Unified School District delayed the hiring from happening even faster than it did, Legorreta said.
Montante will be in the social studies department at Watsonville High, making him an on-campus coach like Sullivan, his predecessor. He’s living in Monterey at the moment and hopes to move to somewhere in the Pajaro Valley soon.
Although he hasn’t seen a bevy of Watsonville action, he knows about the two big rivalries involving Aptos and Pajaro Valley. The Wildcatz last won the Black and Blue Bowl in 2009 and have claimed all six Belgard Kup games, including last year’s 28-17 thriller.
“It’s really exciting to be part of those matchups,” Montante said.
Legoretta said the transition has been smooth so far. She had hopes of letting the student-athletes know as soon as possible so they can prepare for next season.
“I didn’t want the kids dangling,” Legoretta said. “But I had to make sure. It’s a sensitive time.”
Montante said the next step is to assess the coaching staff as well as potential players.
“I want to see who wants to be a part of the program,” he said.
For the complete article see the 05-03-2012 issue.
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