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Carter adjusting through pandemic as Cerritos High’s new head football coach

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By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter • Oct. 7, 2020


Brad Carter was excited in late February when Cerritos High made him the school’s ninth head coach since 2004. It was his first head coaching job at any level, but then the global pandemic hit in the middle of March and schools were shut down.

Fast forward to now and most schools remain closed for in-person teaching. But that hasn’t discouraged Carter, who has been doing his best to rebuild a program that has not had a winning record nor won more than three games in any season since 2004. And he has been doing this the past six and a half months online.

Carter, who saw the Cerritos opening on a website, recently was the defensive coordinator at Dana Hills High and before that, was the strength and conditioning coach and defensive back coach at Murrieta Mesa High. He also worked at Southwestern College in Chula Vista and Mt. San Jacinto College in between the high school stints and since Carter applied for the job, the rest is history.

“They liked the fit, I liked the fit and here I am,” Carter said. “The panel, when I interviewed, I was really impressed with. Mr. [Cerritos principal Patrick] Walker, you can tell, he’s a sports guy; he wants sports to be successful. I love the area. Obviously, there’s some major talent in Southeast L.A. County [and] north Orange County. So, I like that part of the possibility of being in the Cerritos area.

“Obviously, it’s a really good school; really high on academics which I feel like if you have smart kids on your team, you’re going to have a great chance,” he continued. “It’s a pretty awesome place to be. So, I’m excited.”

The San Diego native attended Granite Hills High in El Cajon and Southwestern College, the latter being where he started his coaching career. He said he was lucky to be able to spend a good month with his new team on campus before the pandemic hit. Even though he was still at Dana Hills, he would come to Cerritos in the afternoons every day and got the players in the weight room for four weeks in addition to practicing for two days a week. He added that he was excited to have that relationship with the kids before COVID-19 happening.

“Everybody right away was just kind of, ‘let’s make sure everyone is safe’,” Carter said of the middle of March. “We were doing some on-campus practices and we were obviously getting the weights going. That obviously got all shut down.

“I would say that they knew me, and I know them,” Carter later said. “Obviously. it’s not ideal that for any program to have a shutdown like this. But I think they bought in quickly. I was really impressed with what I saw in terms of the work ethics of the kids when I got there. They were really receptive to what I was asking them. I’ve had some great help from some assistants that were on the previous staff. I think the buy-in has been there.”

He added that the first two months or so was just a shelter in place kind of theory and he was sending the players workouts through Zoom as well as other activities to stay healthy. Now that the new school year has started, Carter has been able to see his players a little bit more consistently online.

“Every week is a new story in terms of what’s open and what’s not open,” Carter said. “We’re to the point now where a lot of schools are doing small group workouts. So, I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll be coming down the pipe soon as the [ABC Unified School] district allows some small group stuff and hopefully we’ll be all clear to go in January.”

Since everything for the time being has been virtual, for Carter, his emphasis has been on maintaining the player’s strength and conditioning. Four days a week, he will have the players do workouts from home, either by weightlifting if they have weights, or a bodyweight workout. Closer to summer, the team was doing plays, in which Carter would put plays on Hudl for the team to review as he would make a playlist. He said he hasn’t gone overboard with the online plays because he feels the best way for the players to learn football is by practicing, being on the field and having muscle memory on the field. As far as team building and similar things, he said players have been partnering up and they have been reaching out to each other twice a week.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s been an ideal situation. But I think we’ve done as good as we could. I feel like we’ve done as much as we can in this situation.”

Carter is not the only high school football coaching walking into a new program during the pandemic. He says he’s been lucky with a few things, the first being with the administration, which has been ‘extremely supportive’, from Walker to co-athletic directors Robert Adams and Todd Denhart, who have been, as he puts it, ‘really easy to work with’. Carter continued to say that anytime someone is becoming a first-year head coach, the administrative support is critical.

The second is the booster club, which has been another giant positive of getting the job. Cerritos had already had a ‘well-functioning machine’ in place, according to Carter. He has already been to a few meetings, but the booster club had already been fundraising prior to Carter’s arrival.

Carter has also received tremendous support from Demel Franklin, one of his assistants who is also the head coach of the freshmen/sophomore team. Franklin has been instrumental in getting a lot of youth support in the community with Carter being the new head coach and getting the incoming freshmen class involved in what he is going to bring to the table.

“I think having that support already has been a giant, giant plus,” Carter said. “That’s really helped me to get to where we are right now.”

Right now, the biggest thing that the team is working on is getting players cleared to play. The team already has a date set at a local clinic and Carter says they have been lucky enough for that clinic to open their doors for the players to take their physicals.

“Getting kids cleared right now is the emphasis because once we do get our dates to start small group conditioning, we need to have kids cleared so they can come on campus,” Carter said. “That’s definitely the emphasis right now. We’re kind of doing a lot of academic checks right now to make sure kids are staying on top of online learning. So, we want to make sure their academics are solid before we do get them some extracurricular activities after school.”

The one thing that Carter hasn’t been able to set in stone yet, has been putting together a practice schedule to where the players can be in small groups. He says there are a lot of specifics that go into doing small group workouts, from how many players can be on the field to if they can be in the weight room and if there needs to be a staggered schedule. Those details haven’t been given to Carter because Cerritos hasn’t received any word back from the district, let alone the county.

Carter said some of the positives that have come out of the pandemic have been the fact that all his players have been safe and that he and the players have had more time to gel as a group.

“I think everyone is so anxious to just start football and start regular school,” he said. “We have to realize that this is unprecedented, a once every 100-year pandemic. We’ve been really lucky; we’ve only had a couple of kids who have had family members impacted. So, I think having kids safe is a positive.”

Carter concluded by saying a silver lining for him has been that the program is trying to build something, and they really haven’t started the building process yet. He added that he would have been depressed if he was with a program for five years and had a team that he thought could compete for a league title or make a run in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and the pandemic was happening.

While coaching at Southwestern College, Carter was lucky enough to work with Ed Carberry, who was the head coach at Spring Valley-based Monte Vista High in the 1990s and early 2000s. Monte Vista was one of top five programs in San Diego County at that time, winning seven league titles and the 1995 and 2003 CIF-San Diego Section Division II championship. Monte Vista was also a runner-up in the 1999 Division II title game and Carberry has won over 65 percent of his games in 13 years at Southwestern College.

“Carberry essentially brought his high school program in and started that foundation at Southwestern Junior College and they’ve been extremely successful the last 15 years,” Carter said. “I really learned, in my opinion, from one of the best coaches in the state. And I’ve learned from other coaches since then. But that’s kind of always been my foundation where I’ve fallen back on…in terms of player development, in terms of scheme, in terms of how to treat your coaches and your assistants and other teachers. I just feel like I got an inside look of how a top five program in the county should be run when I worked with Ed and I definitely used those traits as I continued through my other high school journeys.”