Brandon Ford, whose move to Redlands East Valley High’s softball program from rival Redlands, won’t forget those years of memories. Ford, the longtime Lady Terriers’ coach, says he can’t.
“Two years ago,” he said, “we beat REV in the last game of the season.”
The final out was a blur hit toward junior third baseman Makyla Leyvas, who could only deflect the ball to sophomore shortstop Lindsay Cabral — whose rifle-armed throw got the final out in a 5-4 win.
“We won the Citrus Belt League championship,” said Ford, that win-avoiding a co-title with Yucaipa. Nine years ago, a rain-altered 2011 doubleheader against nationally-ranked No. 13 Westlake Village Oaks Christian on Redlands’ field turned into a history-making sweep.
Junior Amanda Weis not only delivered a bottom-of-the-seventh game-winning HR, but her shot bounced into the school district’s bus barn across Citrus Avenud for a 1-0 win behind Kendall Apodaca’s one-hitter.
Game two was a similar conclusion, a 2-1 win that included Weis’ two-run shot. Ford had turned Narissa Garcia loose in the circle to hold off the Lady Lions.
During a 2009 CIF playoff run, Ford’s Lady Terriers beat Long Beach Poly, 3-0, Chino Don Lugo, 8-0, before holding off Irvine Beckman, 3-0, in the CIF semifinals — 10 combined hits in three straight wins by Kimberly Bruins.
“We lost one to Yucaipa,” he said, “when (Yucaipa’s All-CIF pitcher) Esperanza Coe homered. We lost, 1-0.”
It was near darkness in that 15-inning showdown.
All those memories, coach. So why the move?
“It’s time for a new challenge,” said Ford, whose coaching has led the Lady Terriers to unprecedented heights. “It’s appealing to me to build something new, something like what I did at Redlands.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Ford, 271-139 since 2004, has been courted by other programs. Courted by REV? No, he said.
New Redlands Athletic Director Estevan Valencia, who recently stepped aside as Terriers’ baseball coach, begged Ford to stay.
“It’s going to be a big hole,” said Valencia. “He built a lot for not having much there. I tried to talk him out of it. It was a surprise. Usually, a move like this comes in the middle of the summer.
“This is the middle of October.” Ford said he received a district email detailing that no one from within Redlands Unified Schools had applied for the opening.
“There was one day left to apply,” he said. “Things have been happening in my family, a lot of changes. We moved. We had a baby. I’d been offered chances to move before.”
Contact with longtime REV Athletic Director Rhonda Fouch, he said, came over discussing the two schools’ hosting of a softball tournament.
“All she told me (about the opening) was to keep an eye out for someone,” he said.
That someone turned out to be Ford himself.
Ford turned Redlands into a CIF powerhouse. Moving to REV, he said, “is me seeing an opportunity to build it again.”
The longtime coach has been known to create a pathway to the Lady Terriers’ field at the corner of Citrus Avenue and University Street by holding summer camps and winter clinics on that site.
Ford, who was a star running back at the University of Redlands around 2000, started his coaching career in football under longtime coach Jim Walker. He emigrated to the softball diamond eventually, settling in as the Lady Terriers’ coach.
“The whole decision (to leave Redlands) was really hard, really emotional,” he said.
Past Lady Terrier players, he said, have called to support the move.
Ford, they would tell him, is a “Terrier for life.” They’re a Ford fan first, however.
“I feel that support.”
On Thursday, Oct. 8, Ford said he’d been taking calls since the previous Monday. His mother got to him, he said.
“She found out from my wife,” he said. “That didn’t go over well.”
Despite Redlands’ dominance under Ford, consider that the Lady Terriers have never reached a CIF championship game.
REV lost in the 2018 CIF finals.
Citrus Valley, under current coach April Finazzo, is 1-2 in CIF championship games.
A case could be made that Redlands has been the most consistent program over the past decade.
As for intra-district coaching transfers, it ranks up there with football coach Kurt Bruich’s move from REV to Citrus Valley.
Ford replaces Sandy Crumrine, who has apparently retired after spending decades teaching and coaching across Redlands Unified, including spots at Clement Middle School, Redlands and REV.
A successful program under Ford usually includes a highly disciplined program, especially during the off-season, including weight room performance.
“It’s a passion I have,” he said. He takes pride in that former Redlands assistant Debbie Garcia moved over to REV, taking the Lady Wildcats to a CIF championship game, losing in 2018 in West Torrance. Garcia retired after the season.
Asked if Garcia might rejoin him at REV, Ford laughed. “No,” he said, “we’re not bringing the gang back together.”