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Scott Donegan brought a Valley championship to Chowchilla, but now he's affectionately known as 'The Enemy Within'

MADERA -- Scott Donegan picks up his coffee at Starbucks every morning just before he leaves Chowchilla.

It's been his daily routine for the last two years.

He'll often chit-chat with the usual 5:30 a.m. crowd while he waits for his morning pick-me-up.

On Monday, everybody wanted to talk about one thing.

"They were waiting for me," Donegan said. "Everybody was fired up. I hadn't even thought about it. It was just a normal Monday and then it's like it hit me right in the face."

For the first time, Donegan will be across the field when the Chowchilla team travels to Madera South on Friday night.

Donegan spent five years patrolling Chowchilla's sideline.

He quickly turned a program that was a North Sequoia League doormat into a Central Section power.

With just 19 players in 2001, Chowchilla finished just 3-7 in Donegan's first season.

Three years later, Donegan led Chowchilla to a 12-1 season and its first Valley Championship since 1967.

Donegan had Chowchilla back in the section title game in 2005.

In his five-year tenure, Chowchilla compiled a 38-20 record.

It would be no stretch to say he was a town hero.

"It was pretty nice," Donegan said.

"For about five or sixth months after we won the Valley Championship, I didn't have to pay for golf. I didn't have to pay in a couple restaurants.

"They make me pay for golf now. I do get a cup of coffee every once in a while for free."

Friday night, he'll face the monster he helped create.

"Sunday night, I went to buy groceries," Donegan said. "All the baggers, checkers and people in the store talked to me.

"I had three baggers help me bring my groceries to the car. They said, 'Did you see our score against Livingston (55-0)? We're going to kill you guys.' "

It's a well-known fact that Chowchilla grocery baggers know their football.

Chowchilla has reached the section title game three straight seasons and is off to a 3-0 start this year.

Madera South -- just two years after opening its doors -- is playing its first varsity season without any seniors.

As expected, it's been rough -- Donegan's squad has been outscored 76-6 during an 0-3 start.

Donegan knows he'll likely be watching another blowout on Friday.

"Chowchilla hasn't given up a touchdown in two weeks," Donegan said. "We've scored one touchdown in three weeks and that was against Yosemite's third-string guys.

"We're struggling and they're on a roll."

Donegan takes pride in Chowchilla's success.

Why wouldn't he?

He built the foundation. He was rooting for Chowchilla in last year's section title game. He still talks to many of his former players.

"What he brought to the school and the program -- from what I noticed -- was a level of intensity, preparation and organization," said Chowchilla coach John Henson, who served as Chowchilla's junior varsity coach for four years under Donegan.

"I took over a program that was in really good shape."

So why did Donegan leave?

Well, it wasn't easy.

"I remember sitting in my garage on a rainy day asking myself what do I do?" Donegan said. "Madera South just made the offer better every time I said no."

In the end, it was an offer and a challenge Donegan couldn't pass up.

"It was a chance to improve the quality of life for me and my family," Donegan said.

"That was the bottom line for me. There were some financial benefits, there were some time benefits at certain times of the year and the job is bigger.

"This school is going to be Division I someday. I want to find out if I'm good enough to coach at that level.

"I don't know. Right now, I'm 0-3. Time will tell. I don't want to have any regrets."

Building a program from scratch was not what drew Donegan to Madera South.

He's had to do everything from raising money to finding people to work the chain gang on Friday nights.

"I'll tell you this, I'm not going to do it again," Donegan said. "I'm not going to go to a school and build a program from the ground up.

"It's just a tremendous amount of work."

It's very similar to the challenge he faced when he took over at Chowchilla.

Except Madera South is the second high school in Madera.

"Everyone in Madera is a Madera High School graduate," Donegan said. "It would be like a second high school coming into Chowchilla.

"That high school would be treated like the red-headed stepchild. That's exactly how it is for us. I didn't anticipate that."

Donegan does know what to anticipate Friday night.

"If it was going to be a competitive game, it would be a lot of fun," Donegan said. "If they crush us -- like they should -- it's going to be another tough night.

"I'm not one of those coaches that walks through and shakes hands with the other team. I like to stay with my guys.

"On Friday night, I'll walk through the line and give high fives -- win or lose."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com">sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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