Coach of the Year: Jeff Freitas, Washington

The Fresno BeeJanuary 13, 2012 

Season: Won North Sequoia League with a 5-0 record and went 14-0 overall, including Central Section Division IV and CIF State Championship Division III Bowl titles. The bowl appearance — a 21-16 win over Campolindo of Moraga (14-1) — was the first for a section team in the six-year history of the event at the Home Depot Center in Carson. The Panthers outscored the opposition 599-118, giving up only seven touchdowns in their final 10 games.

Career: Washington has gone 119-50 (.704) with one losing season in his 14 years at the school, including additional section titles in 1999 and 2010. The Panthers have won 20 straight dating to last season and are 34-5 in the past three, averaging 41.2 points a game.

Background: Has bled Panthers purple all along, playing football and baseball at the school, graduating there in 1981 and coaching youth football in the district and 10 years as a junior varsity and varsity assistant before taking over the program in 1998. “I went to work for a meat company after high school and I thought I knew it all,” he says. “That helped me grow up a little bit and get my life together. Then I started coaching lower levels in the district and that’s where I established the love for coaching — I knew I had a passion for it. When you lay awake hours and hours, thinking what are you going to do at the next practice, you know you’ve got something extra.”

Kingsburg the key: Easy to remember the historical win over Campolindo; easy to forget the Panthers — no doubt needing an unbeaten record to receive the bowl invitation — would have never been there if not for a riveting 20-16 nonleague win at home against rival Kingsburg in their second game of the season, on Sept. 16. And that one required a 65-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-18 from backup quarterback Dashown Fletcher to Deontay Greenberry with a little more than 3 minutes remaining. Starting quarterback Chris Cain didn’t become eligible until the third game of the season. “The win over Kingsburg told me a while lot about the character of the team,” Freitas says. “We didn’t have our quarterback the first two games and a lot of teams would have tanked, crumbled. This group seemed to handle adversity better than any team I’ve had. Our kids just seemed to rise above those things and overcame anything in their way.”

What now? Freitas says his coaching future is uncertain: “I don’t know, I just don’t. It’s been one year at a time for the last three. I am happy where I am and working for administrators who are very supportive. But it’s kind of wait and see.”

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6336. Follow him on Twitter: @beepreps.

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