If Canoga Park High has a winning football season this autumn, first-year coach Rudy Lugo, an unassuming sort, undoubtedly will point to the six coaches whom he's assisted as the reason.
"I've been blessed to have worked with gentlemen coaches, and I want to give them credit for the things they've taught me," he said.
Lugo also wants to use what he's learned as an assistant. His philosophy is a synthesis of ideas imparted from his mentors--a little offense here and some defense there. Studying his mentors at Canoga Park High, he has become the embodiment of the past generation of Hunter football.
Lugo, 38, attended Canoga Park in the early 1960s and has coached there since 1969. Name a former coach and Lugo will tell you what he's learned from him.
On Jack Matheson, for whom Lugo played in 1964 and '65 and assisted in '69: "Practice organization and the fullback option. Also, everyone was running the 6-2 and 5-3 back then and Matheson was the first coach in the Valley to use the Okie 5-2 slant defense."
On Bob Bender, a former Valley College All-American center who suffered a fatal heart attack after coaching Canoga Park in 1970: "Bob had a beautiful quality of dealing with players on an individual level. And he was Mr. Fundamentals."
On Jim Fazio and Al Calce, who were co-coaches from 1971 to 1973: "They sold me on using multiple defenses. Fazio was a great defensive strategy person, able to make adjustments in the middle of a game."
On Jerry Hayhoe, a former Detroit Lions tackle who coached the Hunters from 1974 to 1978: "I learned a lot of offense from Jerry, especially advanced line techniques."
On Ed McCarthy, who coached from 1979 to 1985 and led Canoga Park to a City title in 1981 and a 7-3 record last season: "Ed was a real scholar when it came to game plans. His play-calling during games was excellent."
What, then, will Lugo add to the legacy of Canoga Park coaches?
"Whether the bleachers are jam-packed or empty, I'd like to see my players enjoy themselves. Football is fun even without all the glitter stuff. It's staying out in the street until 10 p.m. playing touch football, banging into cars. That's how I want my players to feel when they take the field."