New Beginnings: El Capitan High football team gears up

First coach at new Merced high school sets up camp quick

slynch@mercedsunstar.comJuly 14, 2013 

In an ideal world, Rene Asencio said he would have been hired in January.

But it wasn't until mid-June that he got the nod to lead the football program at El Capitan, Merced's newest high school that's set to open in August.

With a program to build and the first game next month, Asencio has hit the ground running.

"It's a lot to squeeze in, but it's also exciting," said Asencio, who held his first practice on June 19. "We've got a great group of kids. We've been working on teaching them the offense and it's been going well.

"You always wish you had a little more time, but you have to just go with it."

Last year, Asencio coached defensive backs and wide receivers at Selma High, and has been the top guy at the freshman and junior varsity levels. His only varsity head-coaching stint was at San Jose's Yerba Buena High.

"I grew up playing in San Jose, so that was a really exciting opportunity for me," Asencio said. "The head coach out there knew me from my playing days and asked me to come out an help assist. It kind of turned into a full-time thing."

He led Yerba Buena to a 4-6 mark.

"When I first came on, we hadn't won a game in three years," he said. "The coach was older and looking to retire, and the kids seemed to take to me so well, he asked if I'd be interested in taking over.

"The next season I did. My family had already committed to moving to the Fresno area, so it was just the one season."

El Capitan principal Anthony Johnson acknowledged the coaching search took time, but said the school wanted to be sure of its decision.

"People were saying no one wanted the job," Johnson said. "But the truth is we were just making sure we made the right choice. It's a huge task walking into a program and building from the ground up. Rene is a good guy that we want around our kids and to build our program."

El Capitan will debut with freshman and junior varsity teams.

Victories will be nice, but Asencio is more concerned with the long-term goals.

"We just really want to get our offensive and defensive systems down, so that by the time they're juniors and seniors, it's second nature," Asencio said. "More than anything, I want these kids to go out and have fun.

"Once you move on to the upper levels, it becomes very business-like. High school is the last time you really get to enjoy just playing football."

Asencio's hiring almost completes the Gauchos' coaching ranks. Athletic director Lou Souza said the school still needs varsity coaches for wrestling, softball and cross country, but hopes to have those positions filled by next week.

Most staff members are well-known from their work at other district schools.

Rodd Parker and Kristie Dunham will handle water polo and swimming. Chris Tufts will coach the boys basketball team and Aaron Ruiz the baseball team, while Brooke Wilson heads volleyball and girls soccer.

Ray Abarca will be the boys soccer coach and help Asencio with the track and field teams. Jason Duyette will coach the girls golf and Justin Turney boys golf.

New faces include Michael Davenport (girls basketball) and Jennifer Daniels (boys and girls tennis).

"We were really pleased by the responses within the district," Souza said. "We got a lot of proven coaches. We're also excited about the ones we've brought in from outside the district.

"It's been a long process, but I believe we've got the right people in place to start building these programs."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at(209) 85-2476 or via e-mail at

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service