Expectations Greet Scott at Buena
Few high school coaches have arrived at a new school amid as much expectation, anticipation and pure delight as did Rick Scott when he took over the football program last spring at Buena High in Ventura.
Scott long before had won over the Ventura athletic community with his good ol’ boy manner and earthy sense of humor as a basketball referee. Suddenly, he was in their backyard. Coaching their football team.
Before May, however, Scott was the football coach at Hart--a program as steeped in winning tradition as Buena’s is stooped in losing. Scott’s numbers at Hart were exceptional: 41-9-2 overall record, 20-0 in the Foothill League, a Northwestern Conference title in 1986.
Yet more than four months removed, on the eve of his first game at Buena, Scott hopes for one thing: Avoid the eve of destruction. Buena opens the season Friday night against Westlake at Larrabee Stadium in Ventura, and the pressure of rebuilding a program against a tight deadline tugs at Scott.
“I guess the thing is, I don’t want to be embarrassed,” Scott said. “I don’t want it to look like we’re not well-coached.”
When Scott took over at Hart four years ago, he inherited the defending conference champion. Buena, which has not made the playoffs since 1982, has won five games in the past two seasons.
“It’s a funny feeling,” he said. “When I went to Hart, I had something to prove: that I could be a good head coach. And there was some anxiety. This is a little different, because everybody’s looking at me, thinking, ‘Well, you could win when you had the horses . . .
“When I first took over, I thought ‘we can’t go anywhere but up.’ Now, I’m definitely wishing I had a few more practices. At first I thought two or three wins would be a step up, and five wins would be very good. And that if we made the playoffs, they’d name a street after me. And now, hell, I want to win them all.”
He will try for win No. 1 first. He will walk the sideline at Larrabee Stadium across the field from George Contreras, the coach at Westlake for 11 years. And for the first time in five years, he will miss his annual duel with Harry Welch, his counterpart in the Hart-Canyon rivalry in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Scott will be watching a new batch of players, many of whom have had difficulty grasping his complex offense. So complex, in fact, that there is no playbook.
“This time last year, we were picked to win the conference,” Scott said. “This year, we’re not even picked to finish in the top half of the Channel League.”
For Contreras, Buena is not the same team the Warriors beat, 13-12, in their opener a year ago.
“Rick is an outstanding coach,” Contreras said. “He’ll be very successful at Buena. He’s very charismatic, and I think the kids will rally to his personality.”
At this point, Scott would be pleased to have them rally out of the blocks for a win or two. It is quite a different situation for a coach who not too long ago seemed to have high school football by the neck.
But Scott’s move to Buena was less for professional reasons than it was for his personal welfare. He recently was divorced. His 6-year-old son Jake lives with Scott’s former wife. His daughter, 11-year-old Megan, lives with him in the Ventura townhouse he bought recently.
It has been a difficult time for Scott and his family. Football helps, as did the reception he received at Buena.
“The people at Buena have been super,” he said. “I really hope I can give them the things that they want. They want a team that’s winning. A team they can get behind and support. I’m nervous. I don’t walk on water.”
Mike Shanahan (not the Raider coach), Buena’s principal and the man who hired Scott, said Scott’s influence on campus has extended beyond the boundaries of the football field.
A charismatic speaker, Scott stood before Buena’s incoming freshman class last week and gave each one something to tuck into his binder: “His message was to get involved,” Shanahan said. “To share yourself, to take a risk, and you’ll get more out of the high school experience.
“I think it had an impact. They were a little surprised. A couple of them came up to me afterward and asked, ‘Was that really the head football coach?’ ”