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Coach of the Year: In his first year, Dennis Stubbs turned CCC doormat into playoff contender

LOS BANOS -- When Dennis Stubbs decided to make the move from Golden Valley to Los Banos, he was asked the same question a lot.

What are you doing?

"I got it all the time," Stubbs said. "It's something where there were a lot of things going on at Golden Valley.

"I needed a change. I needed to get excited about coaching. I thought about getting out.

"It was my wife that reminded me, 'That's what you do.' It got me fired up. I looked forward to going to work."

It showed.

For leading previously struggling Los Banos to a 5-5 season, Stubbs is our choice as the Sun-Star Football Coach of the Year.

"The first challenge was to get the kids to believe we could be successful," Stubbs said. "It makes it tougher when the players and the kids on campus expect not to be successful.

"The advantage I had was they knew the success I'd had at Golden Valley. It wasn't like someone coming in brand new. It definitely helped."

How bad was it?

Los Banos hadn't won more than two games in a season since 2001, and was 12-48 in the six years before Stubbs came aboard.

Under Stubbs, LB was still fighting for a playoff spot during a Week 9 game against Pitman.

"It was awesome," Stubbs said. "As a high school coach, you want to be playing meaningful games at the end of the season.

"It was fun watching the kids. They knew they had had some success, and the position that was in front of them. It was a lot of fun."

The season started shakily for Stubbs, when Los Banos lost its first two games.

However, Los Banos responded with three straight wins, including two Central California Conference games over Turlock and Buhach Colony.

"After we lost the the first two games, it was a challenge to the kids to see if they would buy into the program we were trying to build," Stubbs said.

"We found out they were. We ran off three straight wins and that's more than they've won in a while.

"They started feeling good and we kept it going."

Just like that, Los Banos was a player in the Central California Conference.

After going just 1-15 in its first three seasons in the conference, Los Banos found itself near the top of the standings.

"Dennis brought consistency," Atwater coach Bob Valladao said. "He's a good coach that has always got the best out of his guys.

"The kids have always been (available) in Los Banos, and Dennis brought his system with him."

The goal now is to build on this year's success.

The schedule will be tougher with a match-up against Stockton St. Mary's.

"We know we have to work hard and do it the right way," Stubbs said.

"We want to build off what we started this year. We want to compete in the league again and we've beefed up our schedule."

It sounds like Stubbs is excited about football again.

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

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