Despite having his work cut out for him, new Coach Pete Gonzalez is excited about rebuilding the Montebello High School football program and returning to the Montebello community.
The former St. Paul coach grew up in Pico Rivera, but attended Montebello’s Cantwell High School and La Merced Intermediate School, and played all of his youth sports in Montebello. He played football for the Montebello Indians, basketball in the Montebello Golden State program and baseball with the Montebello Baseball Association.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity and it’s great to be back in a community that has really made us feel welcome,” Gonzalez said. “Montebello High has always had strong ties to the community and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Gonzalez and his staff are working to field a team that will make the community proud and feels the Oilers, who have had five straight losing seasons, are on the right track.
“We’ve got some fantastic kids that have good manners and are hard workers,” he said. “They’ve been very receptive to the things that we are asking of them. Even though they struggled on the field last year, they were in a program that gave them some good direction.”
The program is healthy, he says. There are 165 players in a program that consists of three levels – varsity, junior varsity and freshmen.
“We tell the players that they have to believe in everything that we are doing out here and they are starting to believe,” Gonzalez said. “That’s really important. There’s a learning curve and once we get through it, we’ll be OK.”
The players are hungry and there’s a lot of competition, Gonzalez said.
“We’ve really stressed competition,” he said. “We tell the players that if they want someone’s job to go out there and get it. Competition is very healthy and very fair. We don’t care if you’re a sophomore, junior or senior, or 5-5 or 6-5, the best player is going to play.
“We’re getting better every day,” he added. “We’re starting to understand how little things mean a lot. No one can take a play off. All 11 guys have to play every down. The goal is to work hard on every play until the whistle blows.”
The Sept. 4 season opener at Bellflower is only a week away.
“It’s coming fast, it’s coming fast,” says Gonzalez, adding that a season-opening victory could be the key to how well the Oilers do in 2009.
“The year we won the title at St. Paul I told my players that it didn’t matter how they started the season, but how they finished,” he said, recalling the 2007 season. “We lost our first two games and then went on to win the CIF championship.
“But this year it’s going to be about how we start because a good start will help build a lot of confidence.”
Gonzalez spent the past nine seasons at St. Paul, the last three as head coach. Besides the CIF and Mission League titles in 2007, he also guided the Swordsmen to the CIF semifinals in 2006.
He’s also had assistant coaching stints at Cathedral, El Rancho and Cantwell.
Gonzalez was an all-league football and baseball player at Cantwell and played baseball at Whittier College.
He has 13 assistant coaches, including his son, Peter Gonzalez and two with the same name – Eric Gonzalez. There’s also Andy Guerrero, Butch Hernandez, Kevin Rivas, Xavier Vega, Jason Arellanes, Patrick Beltran, Gary Canales, Matt Saenez, John Gonzalez and George Villa.
“There are 14 coaches watching every down and every player is being watched all the time,” Gonzalez said. “The accountability is there.”