Getting Off the Ground

Times Staff Writer

Don't bother searching for a manual on how to build a successful high school football program from scratch. There is none.

But examples abound and this season can be found at Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro and Chino Hills high schools, where each program is enjoying a successful start in only its third year of existence.

Tesoro began the season 3-0, including a stunning 25-22 victory over Irvine on Sept. 25. However, the Titans have lost their last two games to Placentia Valencia and La Palma Kennedy.

Chino Hills is 5-0 after defeating San Juan Capistrano Saddleback Valley Christian, 41-0, on Friday.

Before both schools opened in 2001, they hired head coaches familiar with the effort needed to build successful programs.

Tesoro hired Jim O'Connell, who was an assistant at Fountain Valley before becoming part of the original Aliso Niguel football coaching staff that guided the school's first group of seniors to the Southern Section Division VIII title in 1996.

Chino Hills hired Terry Roche, who was Diamond Bar's first coach in 1983. In his first three seasons, he led the Brahmas to the Southeastern Conference finals, winning in 1984. During a second seven-year run at Diamond Bar, he won three more section titles between 1995 and 1999.

Both coaches immediately pushed to hire a committed coaching staff, whose members also taught on campus, and worked to develop a supportive booster club. They also had to learn to be patient again.

"We only had freshmen our first year and I felt like I needed to go to detox everyday," Roche said. "I wasn't used to dealing with freshmen."

Tesoro, which opened two years ago with only freshmen and sophomores, has nine seniors — five of them starters — on the varsity.

While Chino Hills played only two varsity games last season, Tesoro played a full schedule against established programs and finished 1-9. "We wanted to build a program that could compete in [the Pacific Coast] league and go on to CIF [playoffs] and do well," O'Connell said. "To do that, you have to play competitive nonleague games so the kids know what it's like to play against stronger teams."

Both teams' success this season has not been lost on other coaches, who voted Chino Hills No. 8 in Division II last week and Tesoro No. 9 in Division IX.

"I don't know what's a bigger joke," Roche said. "Us playing in Division II or being ranked."

That's why Roche doesn't mind playing a relatively light nonleague schedule. He knows the road becomes more difficult when Sierra League play begins Friday with a game at Chino Hills Ayala.

Tesoro opens league play on Saturday against Santa Ana Calvary Chapel.

Diablos Set Record Mission Viejo's 35-14 victory Friday over Tustin gave the No. 2 Diablos the record for consecutive victories in Orange County with 33. Chane Moline's 19-yard touchdown reception and 94-yard scoring run, and quarterback Mark Sanchez's 10-for-21 performance for 238 yards and two touchdowns helped make history.

"It's a fantastic thing for our school, our kids, our staff," Coach Bob Johnson said. "It's quite an accomplishment. [Huntington Beach] Edison did it in 1981, so it must not be easy to do."

Concord De La Salle holds the national record at 143 games, which is currently active. To reach that mark, Mission Viejo would have to go unbeaten through the third game of the 2011 season.

Staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this report.

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