Good Sports: New Central High coach has big ambitions

August 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A little more than three years ago, as the head football coach at Reedley high, Justin Garza spoke openly about his dream job.

"I absolutely loved my days in Reedley," said Garza. "But you just get opportunities and you have to take them, especially when you get to come back to a school where you once were.

"My goal was to come back here as a head coach one day and I knew it wasn't going to be easy."

The road back to Central began after leading the Pirates to the playoffs, when Fresno's Sunnyside high School offered Garza a challenge: Lead the Wildcat football program to the postseason for the first time.

"Stops like Sunnyside were a great two years - very rewarding," said Garza. "That's why we do these things: to have all those memories with those kids."

Even though the Wildcats had only 30 players when Garza arrived, they flourished, making the playoffs in both seasons whole overcoming a lack of numbers with strong fundamentals. Garza's methods, and eventually his success, caught TRAC power Central's eye.

"It was just one of those timing issues where this job was open," said Garza. "I had no interest in any other jobs but this one. So I couldn't say no."

And so far his new players are glad he didn't.

"It's been great," said Central Defensive Back LJ Moore. "Coach Garza brought in a new sense of urgency, a sense of toughness, getting everything straight, everything's filed, and everything's just going well."

"Before he was here I had always been told about him," said Central Defensive back Johnny Johnson. "But now to actually have him here it's excellent."

And now the 37-year-old San Joaquin Memorial graduate has his most talented roster yet, loaded with Division I recruits - players that could help him make history.

"I have a purpose here," Garza admitted. "I know that Central's never won a section title since the founding of the football program in 1930. I want to be that guy. I want to be the guy to carry the torch."

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