Union-Tribune Boys Coach of the Year: Marlon Gardinera
High school: Scripps Ranch
Middle School: State of Oklahoma
Strong points: The Gardinera Falcons finished the season 13-1, losing only to Mira Mesa. Scripps Ranch cruised through the San Diego Section’s Division II playoffs, beating Central Union (27-7), Rancho Bernardo (28-7) and La Jolla (42-0) in the championship game. From there, the Falcons took on a physically superior Valencia team in Southern California’s 2-A Division title game and rallied for a 45-38 victory. In the state championship game at Saddleback College, Scripps Ranch scored with 27 seconds left to beat Santa Clara Wilcox (31-28).
Quotable“I looked across the pitch and Valencia had 50 massive linemen, and they were trying to intimidate us with a push-up thing they do,” said Gardinera, 48. “Our guys did things that were out of body. They relied on each other. We were physically out of our league, but our kids, with guidance from my assistants – (offensive coordinator Chris Blevins and the defensive coordinator John Taylor) – have succeeded.
let them play: When COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 football season, Gardinera — along with Ron Gladnick and Brad Hensley — was at the forefront of the Let Them Play movement, which called on local and state leaders to let athletes play. The result was a 5-game spring football season.
Training history: Gardinera was a Pop Warner coach when he applied for the freshman coaching job at Scripps Ranch. The administrators liked his career so much that they offered him the post of university. The Falcons had gone 23-52 in the 6 years before Gardinera, and he was 2-8 his first year. Since then, the Falcons are 34-8 with a 12-1 season in 2019.
Citable II“I wanted to get involved at the lower levels because my son, Nicholas, was coming up,” Gardinera said. “I coached Nicholas and then Noah, my other son, was on the state championship team. Through Let Them Play, Nicholas got a great lesson in civics. He learned how to lobby senators, and he sued the governor on behalf of California’s 2.8 million high school athletes.
successful brothers: Nicholas Gardinera rushed for 1,783 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior on the 12-1 team. His senior season was cut short by COVID-19. Noah was a second year last season and was picked up late in the game at Valencia.
Game days: Gardinera was a football-baseball star at Mission Bay High, where he played baseball for legendary coach Dennis Pugh, and was a late-round draft pick of the Houston Astros. Gardinera went on to play baseball at San Diego Mesa College and Oklahoma State, where his last college game at bat was a home run against future major leaguer Mark Kotsay, who was Cal State’s closest at the time. Fullerton.
Citable III“Our success at Scripps Ranch is a direct reflection of my time with Dennis Pugh,” Gardinera said. “His attention to detail was second to none. Dennis’ philosophy was, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the team.’ From there, I developed the philosophy that my work is not was not to teach young men to be great players, but to teach them to be great people, students, husbands and fathers My job is to teach young men how to thrive after high school. is about building human beings. Our run through the playoffs was the culmination of everything I learned from Dennis Pugh.
The future: Gardinera plans to coach for five more years. He will then assess his situation.
Health problems: In 2008, Gardinera was diagnosed with amyloidosis where the protein mutates and attacks organs in the body. He underwent a liver transplant in 2009 and donated his healthy liver. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the anti-rejection drugs he takes are known to cause cancer.
Final quotes“So my longevity is at stake,” Gardinera said. “I get scans every 6-12 months, and there’s no sign of cancer. I’ve never done anything in my life that’s as fulfilling as coaching. And I want to honor my organ donor doing the best job possible.