For Rick Martinez, telling his Le Grand High football players he was leaving was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.
After 12 years as the head coach, four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championships and one state bowl berth, Martinez officially resigned as the Le Grand head football coach on Thursday. Martinez has accepted a teaching job at Golden Valley and will become an assistant coach for Cougars head coach Dennis Stubbs.
Martinez broke the news to his players last week when rumors started to spread. The move didn’t become official until he signed his contract on Wednesday.
“I called in our guys at lunch and I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get,” Martinez said. “Word had gotten around and I thought I might be the only one in the room, but the heart of our team showed up. Just seeing the look in their eyes and them wondering what would happen to them, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“I told them hopefully coach (Raul) Alvarez will get the job and they’ll keep on rolling. They were very respectful and they understood why I’m doing it.”
Moving to the Merced Union High School District will be a bump in salary for Martinez. Becoming an assistant coach will also give him time to go back to school to work on an administrative credential.
“The move is best for my family,” Martinez said. “The toughest part is leaving the kids. For some of these kids this is all they’ll have. When they go off and do things they’re still going to remember football and what we accomplished.”
Le Grand compiled an 81-37 record under Martinez, including a 45-5 record the last five seasons. The Bulldogs have won five straight Southern League championships. Martinez led Le Grand to six section title game appearances, winning the last four.
Winton graduated from Livingston in 1991.
Winton has taught 17 years at Merced, coaching baseball (9 years), football (6), girls golf (10) and boys golf (6) during his tenure.
“First and foremost, I’m making the move to be closer to my family,” Winton said. “Trish and I moved our family back to Livingston in 2005. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to my new commute, which consists of about a five-minute walk. With our twins in junior high and our youngest right behind them, it’s a move I’m really excited about. It’s special to be able to go back to not only my alma mater, but the alma mater of my brother, both parents and both sets of grandparents.”
Turlock’s Ashlen Kuntz was tabbed as the Goalie of the Year and Pitman’s Rayana Plancarte was named the Offensive Player of the Year.
Merced’s Jessika McCleskey and Anisa Saechao were selected to the all-CCC first team. They were joined on the team by Morgan DeLay (Turlock), Cayla Donahue (Turlock), Mariya Fefilova (Turlock), Katie Hanf (Pitman), Ashleigh Phelps (Pitman), Sadie Montague (Buhach Colony), Valerie Ruiz (Atwater) and Danielle Vigil (Golden Valley).
Elgin was selected to try out after attending a camp while competing with a local team at the USA Water Polo ODP regional championships in Moraga in March. El Capitan coach Kristie Dunham coached the team.
“Being invited to try out means she’s one of the top players at her position for her age group in the country,” Dunham said. “She plays center and there were probably only 12 centers invited out of the 200 to 250 people athletes who tried out.”
Elgin is one of about 70 players trying out for the national team. She was also picked to try out two years ago for the eighth grade and under team.
Dunham said it’s rare for players from the area to receive an invitation to try out.
“It means she’s an upper echelon center in the U.S.,” Dunham said. “She’s going to get the opportunity to be coached by national coaches and play against some of the best players in the country. It’s really going to raise her level of play to the next level.”