By STEVE FRYER STAFF WRITER
Valencia’s administrators tried to talk him out of it. Of course they would. No school wants to see its football coach, who won more than 300 games while having the respect of coaches throughout Southern California, walk out the door. Mike Marrujo announced Monday that he is retiring as football head coach at Valencia, where he was head coach for 35 seasons.
Marrujo, 64, coached Valencia to three CIF-SS titles and 15 league championships. Only John Barnes, who last week announced his retirement at Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo’s Bob Johnson and Mater Dei’s Bruce Rollinson have won more Orange County league titles. His record at Valencia is 284-131-6. Including four years coaching at Pius X of Downey, Marrujo’s career record is 306-131-1. Barnes and Johnson are the only other county coaches with 300 or more wins.
Marrujo said coaching finally had become a grind. “It was wearing on me physically this last year,” he said. “It’s a lot tougher to coach when you’re older than it is when you’re 26 years old, which I was when I started.” Marrujo is unsure if he will also retire as a U.S. history teacher at Valencia at the end of this school year.
He is very sure he is finished coaching, although Valencia administrators would love to keep him around. “They asked me if I wanted to walk on if I retire from teaching,” said Marrujo, referring to the “walk-on” label applied to a coach who is not a full-time faculty member. “I said no. Valencia needs a full-time, on-campus football coach.”
This season’s teams was among Marrujo’s better ones. The Tigers won the Empire League championship with a 5-0 league record and were undefeated overall until a loss to Villa Park in the second round of the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs. They finished 11-1. He coached many outstanding teams and many outstanding players at Valencia. “I enjoyed all of it to the very end,” Marrujo said.
ONE MORE YEAR
Mission Viejo's Johnson said he plans to coach the Diablos in the 2016 season. That would be his 18th season coaching at Mission Viejo. Johnson previously coached at El Toro and Los Amigos. If the Diablos beat Vista Murrieta on Friday in the West Valley Division championship game, it would be a second-straight undefeated run through the regular season and CIF-SS playoffs. Johnson’s grandson, Brock, the starting quarterback, is in his senior year. So it sets up perfectly that this would be a great way to call it a career.
“No,” Johnson said. “I am coaching next year.” As for this year’s team, there was no single game or event that convinced Johnson this would be a great season. He was confident from the start. “I really liked this team from the beginning,” Johnson said Monday. “We had a tough schedule. Three teams we played are still playing in the finals. Five of our opponents went to the semifinals. We knew from the get-go we had something special here.”
NORTH VS. SOUTH
When La Habra plays San Clemente in the Southwest Division on Friday, the game matches Orange County’s northern-most school, La Habra, against the southern-most school, San Clemente. The Highlanders and Tritons have played each other before, in a pair of nonleague games a few seasons ago.
La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta likes the north-south angle. “I expected if we did our part,” Mazzotta said, “they would be there, too, because they’re so good.” Mazzotta figured the Highlanders had what it takes to get to the championship game because of the way they prepare for every game. “It’s been a great practice team,” he said. “There’s been a high level, every day.”
There can be drama about where CIF-SS championship football games are played. This season is no different.
The Southern Division championship game, Canyon vs. Brea Olinda, is Brea’s home game. Brea has selected its on-campus stadium for the game, which is the school’s right. The stadium holds 4,000 spectators. Canyon representatives spoke with CIF-SS leadership Monday, requesting that CIF-SS consider a change of venue. Canyon administrators said Santa Ana Stadium or Orange Coast College would be preferred venues.
Orange Coast has been the site of the Southern Division final in five of the past six years. The exception was the 2012 game that was played at Angel Stadium as part of a CIF-SS finals tripleheader. The San Clemente vs. La Habra game, the Southwest Division final, will be at Cerritos College. La Habra, the home team and in charge of securing a venue, attempted to work with Cal State Fullerton so that the university’s stadium could be the site, but it had made no progress as of Monday evening.
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