After last season, Coast Union High was in need of a head football coach for its eight-man team after Chuck Garcia stepped down to pursue a full-time teaching position.
The players liked the idea of assistant coach Charlie Casale, who had helped with the program off and on for eight years, to fill the role.
But Casale was contemplating taking a break from football.
“We love him,” defensive and offensive lineman Alejandro De Alba said.
“So, a bunch of us decided to go down to his real estate office and see if he’d coach us. He said he’d think about it.”
Casale talked it over with his wife and realized that if it meant that much to the players to come to his office to convince him, he might as well accept the job.
Casale’s head coaching experience includes 20 years at Mt. Whitney High in Visalia.
He also had a stint as an offensive coordinate at the College of the Sequoias, the junior college in Visalia.
“Here I am back in the saddle,” Casale said. “For me, this isn’t about the wins and losses as much as it is giving these kids the experience of playing football.”
Yet for those keeping track, the Broncos are off to a good start — winning their first contest 57-47 in a shootout against Kings Christian of Lemoore.
One of the Broncos’ standouts is senior quarterback Angel Avina, who took a year off from football last year but “picked up right where he left off,” Casale said.
In the season’s first game, Avina threw for 205 yards on 7-of-12 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 120 yards and scored twice on 11 carries.
“I was missing football,” Avina said. “It felt good to get back in the pads and feel that soreness that you get after a game. I remember watching the Cate game here last year when Cate destroyed us (a 62-15 loss). Just watching that game made me feel like I wanted to be out there.”
If this year is anything like last, Coast Union will face its toughest league challenge against Cate, which won the Condor League with a 5-0 record and 8-2 mark overall. Thacher (9-2, 3-1) was second in the league, followed by Coast Union (7-3, 2-2).
“Cate did a really good job of reading our defense and calling audibles,” fullback and defensive end Chuy Nuñez said. “This year, we want to win league. That’s what we’ve been working for.”
Casale said in his time at Coast Union as an assistant, this is among the school’s most talented teams.
The roster includes 29 players, which is a high number for 8-man football, Casale said.
The Broncos also have the ability to balance their running and passing attacks. They had 314 rushing yards last week, including 95 from sophomore running back Lane Sutherland against Kings Christian.
Receiver Emmany Godinez caught six passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the opener.
“Angel and I have played sports together since grammar school, so we have a really good connection,” Godinez said. “I think we have a nice mix of routes and we can burn people by setting up the long ball with shorter routes.”
Providing protection up front, center Grant Magnuson said that he has muscled up over the off-season and weighs in at 221 pounds at 5-foot-10.
Like others on the team, Magnuson plays both sides of the ball and doubles as a defensive lineman.
“This is my second year of varsity, but we have a group of us that have played together for four years going back to JV (now the school has just an 8-man varsity team),” Magnuson said. “We worked hard in the offseason to get stronger.”