Kurt Bruich

PREP FOOTBALL: Tessitore, Lium part of Citrus Valley’s coaching picture … Another QB will take Blackhawks’ snaps … tough lifting program … Will second season be any better?

Right around the time Jim Walker retired as longtime football coach at Redlands High, Redlands East Valley coach Kurt Bruich was reacting to the resignation of Citrus Valley coach Pete Smolin. 

That was quite an off-season between the 2017 and 2018 football wars in Redlands Unified.

“I’d been over to Citrus Valley to play games,” said Bruich, who coached REV from 2002 through 2017, “but I never really toured the campus. When I got here, I couldn’t believe it. The facilities were amazing.

“I thought ‘whoever gets to coach here, it won’t be fair to me.’ “Location and facilities. Someone’s going to get all of this. I’d be screwed if I stayed at REV.”

REV, which doesn’t have its own campus stadium, has long shouldered the burden of playing home games at either Citrus Valley’s Hodges Stadium or Redlands High’s Dodge Stadium.

Bruich has long been animated about that: “I hated it.” The football jobs were open at both campuses, Redlands and Citrus Valley.

Rather than apply at Redlands, his nemesis team dating back to his own playing days at Fontana High, Bruich went for the Citrus Valley job. He grabbed longtime assistant Chalen Tessitore and they completed a cross-city move.

About to start his 22nd season as a head coach, Bruich’s dropping hints all over the place that Blackhawks’ football will shine in his second season in the gold-and-black.

“I have a pretty rough (weight) lifting program,” he said. “I think people were pretty surprised to see how tough we ran it when I got here last year. It takes awhile to really get it going.”

Bruich won’t accept the notion that NFL-playing Kylie Fitts, or onetime NFL running back Chris Polk, or UCLA-transfer-to-Miami Jaelen Phillips, or any of his top-shooting quarterbacks just showed and started operating at high levels.

“They went through our program,” said Bruich. “We turned those guys into players. They worked at it. We worked them.” Right around February, says Bruich, “guys start looking at themselves in the mirror, looking at their muscles.

All that lifting gives them confidence.” He’s grown accustomed to telling people about those transferring away that it’s OK, “that I don’t have anything against anybody that leaves.”

Danny and Benny Lockhart, players off last season’s Blackhawks’ team, took a highly publicized detour to Bellflower St. John Bosco. Last year’s starting QB, Jonathan Calderon, has transferred to Cajon, perhaps to replace All-CIF star Jayden Daniels.

Another QB hopeful was lost to Yucaipa. It’s the second straight season CV has lost a starting QB. Jordan Pachot transferred to San Gorgonio, took over as Spartans’ shooter and won a CIF championship.

Another, Elijah Wilridge, moved on to Arrowhead Christian Academy. Pachot's transfer happened, said Bruich, “the first day I was here.” After one season, more departures were taking place.

“Five kids transferred,” says Bruich of this latest surge. “Three starters and two other guys.”

Speaking of QBs, there are a few candidates for 2019. He’s probably nowhere close to naming a starting QB yet, but consider this: Boyd Lium, the school’s athletic director, once coached QBs at REV upon Bruich’s early years on the Mentone campus.

“All those guys, Nate (Johns), Ronnie (Fouch), Tyler (Shreve), Boyd had those guys. He coaches technique. I coach the reads.”

Upon his move to Citrus Valley, Bruich nudged Lium into continuing that same coaching position. “We’re good,” said Bruich.

“Re-uniting with him is awesome. He was the secret to what we were doing at REV.” Spring ball lasts from May 13-31, culminating in a spring scrimmage. Plus, there’s Powder Puff play. Bruich gives his players the entire month of June off before returning.

“College coaches take July off,” he said, noting that colleges host their own camps in June. “That gives our kids a chance to go somewhere if they need to go to a camp.”

There are no 7-on-7 summer leagues, just four days of 90-minute lifting and field work.

“I quit doing 7-on-7s about 10 years ago,” he said. “Guys get into bad habits doing that.”

One curious note about Bruich’s REV-to-CV move: During most of his Wildcats’ years, he was coaching East Highlands kids at REV.

When CV came into being, the district shifted those East Highlands kids onto the newer campus. Said Bruich: “I’m back to coaching East Highlands kids again.”