At an age when many retire, El Diamante High’s Mark Rogers is happy exactly where he’s at, doing exactly what he’s been doing longer than most of the other football coaches in the Central Section.
The 66-year-old Rogers is set to launch his 13th varsity season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Visalia Community Stadium where his No. 17-ranked Miners host No. 14 Tulare Western in a nonleague game. It’s one of 50 season openers across the section over the next two days.
Rogers, who has dealt with Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade, said he has no plans anytime soon to end a career that’s produced a 94-48 record, seven West Yosemite League titles and two section championships.
“I always say I’ll do it until I stop having fun,” said Rogers, the section’s fifth-longest tenured coach at one school behind Tehachapi’s Steve Denman (35 years), Sanger’s Chuck Shidan (27), Tulare’s Darren Bennett (22) and Bullard’s Don Arax (17). “I enjoy it every year and I keep having fun, so I’ve stayed at it.
“You have days where things happen that wear on you, but getting out on the practice field and coaching kids, I feel good about that. I enjoy it an awful lot.”
Rogers remains as committed to coaching as ever for three reasons:
▪ The kids he coaches (a group Rogers expects to be in the hunt for league and section Division II titles this season).
▪ The coaches he works with (including two assistants who have been with Rogers since he launched the El Diamante program in Brian MacDonald and Brad Pendergast, two former Miners players in Aaron Sing and Greg Story, his son, Casey, and longtime staff members Nic Hawkins and Devon Ramos).
▪ And the administration he works for, including athletic director Greg Flenory, who hired Rogers.
“It’s a classy situation to be in,” Rogers said. “I’m working with great people and great kids at a great school.”
Rogers’ Miners are looking to rebound following two down seasons by program standards.
El Diamante has gone 9-12 overall and 4-8 in the WYL the past two seasons after winning league titles in seven of nine seasons and playing in four section finals between 2005 and 2013. Lemoore (12-0) and Hanford (10-2) have emerged as the class of the WYL over the past two seasons.
“I think all high schools are going to have good years and years where you are down,” Rogers said. “The last couple of years we’ve had some kids hurt, and it makes a difference. Just like a couple of times when we’ve won Valley championships, if we had a key kid hurt, maybe we don’t win Valley. We try to compete every year, but some teams do better one year and maybe don’t have as good of luck the next year.”
Rogers expects the Miners to be very good defensively this season behind tackle Gerry Hernandez and linebackers Jake Garbani, Alec Pierce and T.J. Wheeler.
Offensively, dual threat Andrew Valdez takes over at quarterback, moving last year’s signal caller, Joey Vink, to receiver. Kymonte Williams will open the season as El Diamante’s primary ball carrier until Tyler Youngblood gains his eligibility Oct. 3 following a transfer from city rival Mt. Whitney.
“We’re probably not a team with a lot of guys going on to play major college football, but we’ve got a lot of kids who work hard and will be good as a team,” Rogers said. “Our goal is the same every year: Win league, win the city championship and compete for a Valley championship – and we think we can do that if we play well.”