The cost of living in the Bay Area has claimed yet another promising coaching mission.
Will Maddox has stepped away from the varsity football head coach position at Jefferson, leaving California to take an assistant coaching job in a Tampa Bay, Florida suburb at East Bay High School. Former Jefferson assist Sergio Portela Jr. has been promoted to varsity head coach.
When he arrived at Jefferson in 2014, Maddox — a disciple of San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame coach Bill Gray, having played and coached for Gray at Terra Nova — had the task of changing the football culture at the Daly City campus, and a team that had won just three games in the three previous seasons.
“My heart’s still at Jefferson,” Maddox said. “But I think I left it in pretty good hands. When I first got on campus, Friday mornings, kids would kind of have their heads down like we were going into the lion’s den. And when I was on campus we expected to win. That’s the way the culture changed when I was on campus.”
Maddox served as an assistant coach in 2014 before taking over the program in 2015. In four years as head coach at Jefferson, he recorded a 26-15 overall record, including a trip to the Central Coast Section playoffs in 2017, the team’s first since 2010.
Hand-in-hand with reinvigorating the football culture was his successful campaign to change the school’s mascot. Previously known as the Indians, Jefferson switched to the non-controversial Grizzlies in 2015.
Long wanting to see Jefferson earn a promotion out of the Peninsula Athletic League Lake Division, Maddox never quite got there in Daly City. The Grizzlies will play in the “C” league for the seventh straight year in 2019. He will be part of a league promotion at East Bay-Gibsonton, Florida, though, as the program debuts in the “A” league 7A District 8 League this year.
“I already miss it out there,” Maddox said. “But it’s good out here.”
Portela said he was shocked when Maddox announced in March was stepping down at Jefferson. The two met when Portela returned to the program in 2014. A graduate of Jeff in 2006, Portela initially coached under former varsity head coach Ako Poti, but departed with the longtime coach after the 2011 season.
This will be Portela’s first varsity head coaching job. He served as junior-varsity head coach at Jeff from 2014-17.
“Me personally, I expected Will to return,” Portela said. “Will and I had begun preparing (for 2019) … so I didn’t sense it. I know Will, like a lot of people, a lot of teachers, was struggling to make ends meet. But I never got the impression he was leaving.”
Portela is a link to Jefferson’s prominent past on the gridiron, which wasn’t too long ago. Under Poti, the team moved out of the PAL Lake Division after 2009, and promptly dominated the Ocean Division, winning the league title in 2010, and just missing out a berth in the CCS Open Division playoffs.
“I’ve seen the program go from Ako Poti turning it around and getting within one win of playing in the Open Division (playoff bracket) as an Ocean Division school, which is extremely hard and extremely rare,” Portela said, “… to Coach Maddox coming up and turning it around.”
Portela has reason to be optimistic this season. While Jefferson graduated star lineman Paul Matavao Poialii — the 2018 co-PAL Lake Division Most Valuable Player who is now on roster at Baylor University — the Grizzlies return first-team all-Lake Division wide receiver Tariq Byrd along with junior Brooks Daniels, a second-team all-Lake Division running back as a sophomore last season.
While Maddox is serving as an assistant coach at East Bay this season, he said the plan is to take over a new program at a new school next year, one that is still under construction in the Tampa Bay area.
“The plan when I was hired on was that they’re opening up a brand new high school in 2020 and they want me to coach there,” Maddox said. “So, now I’m just assisting to get my feet wet.”
Two other PAL Lake Division schools have announced new head coaches for the 2019 season. At Mills, Kevin Thorson is listed as the Vikings’ new head coach, replacing Mike Dozier after three seasons. At South City, Taulaga Elisais is listed as the new coach, replacing Jerome Lee after one season.