Dennis Stubbs accomplished three major feats in his third year at Los Baños High.
One, he vaulted his program into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. The last time that had happened MC Hammer was still making hit records.
Two, he and his coaching staff guided the South to victory in the Lions All-Star Football Classic, snapping a six-game skid.
And three, on just three days practice, he led the North to a blowout win in the Chowchilla Rotary All-Star game.
How do you top a groundswell of momentum like that? You sit down with The Burn List, silly, and answer five hot-topic questions.
1 TBL: Coming off the program's first playoff berth in years, have you noticed a tangible difference in the summer workouts? Are kids sweating a little more, pushing more weight? ... Maybe cursing St. Mary's under their breath?
DS: These have probably been our best summer workouts we've had since I got here. I don't know if it's directly related to getting into the playoffs or if we just have those types of kids. They work hard.
I'm sure some of it has to do with the excitement that has happened the last two years. You can definitely see they want to continue, to keep it going.
(As for St. Mary's...)
I'm always realistic. We basically lost to the team that should have won the state championship.
We scored more points on St. Mary's in our first meeting than anyone did all year long. We take pride in that. You don't want to go out of the playoffs that way, but I've had numerous people in the community come up to me and say, "Hey, what an atmosphere that night."
2 TBL: Running back Darron Brown was limited with an ankle injury down the stretch last season. Can he become the punishing back you had envisioned he would be?
DS: He's one of our hardest workers and one of the strongest in the weightroom. He's faster, bigger and more of a leader. We're looking forward to big things from him. There's not a player on the team, or a student on campus that doesn't like Darron Brown. He's just one of those guys.
We feed off him.
You know, these last two years, we really haven't had a prototype fullback. This year, we've got two -- big kids, too, that can run you over. We're excited to see how much that improves our inside running game.
3 TBL: Who will you miss more: lineman Damon Bragner or wide receiver Rubal Sangha?
DS: That's not fair.
It's going to be hard to replace Sangha's touchdown production, but we got a very good receiver coming back in Max Ornales. He's the real deal. One of the best in the league. Whether he can put up the numbers that Rubal did, well, that remains to be seen.
I'd probably have to go with Bragnor, because we're replacing three starting offensive linemen. So right now, it's Bragner.
4 TBL: When Pacheco High School opens in 2010, besides splitting the talent pool in town, what other impacts will it have on your program?
DS: Probably the biggest change is that we'll go to the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) with Patterson, Central Catholic, the two Ceres schools and Livingston. And we'll be Division IV with teams like Oakdale.
Part of me is excited because I've never had the opportunity to play Central Catholic and Patterson. I look forward to that. Central has won a lot of football games and they're always one of the best teams in the state.
But another part of me looks at it like it's bad. I've been in the CCC forever. It seems like that's where I belong. I'm going on my 15th year as a head coach in the CCC. That's what I'm used to.
Personally, I'd like to stay in the CCC but I don't have any control over that.
So I guess you could say that I have mixed emotions about it all.
5 TBL: Were you interested in the Merced College football position? Did you apply?
DS: I applied and didn't get an interview. I don't have my Masters, but I'm enrolled in a Masters program so I applied.
I really wanted it, to be honest. I'm getting up there in age and it seemed like another opportunity to get going, get energized.
I thought I had things I could offer that I was hoping, out of courtesy, they'd at least give me an interview so I could sell myself. But I wasn't even offered an interview.
I've been coaching in the county for so long and I've got assistants and connections everywhere. I've been fundraising in the county for as many years as I've been coaching. And I can put a staff together.
I've got those kinds of resources. I thought I was a good fit. Because I didn't have a Masters, it was a stretch. I knew that. I was just hoping they'd give me an interview. I'm only disappointed that I didn't get that opportunity.
If the opportunity came up again, I'd probably pursue it. But for right now, I like where I'm at. I think we've got a good thing going and there's a ton of support out here."
James Burns is sports editor of the Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.