Inland Empire: Bray will remain football coach at Colton

After another 24 hours of twists and turns, Rick Bray is back as head football coach at Colton High School.

Don Markham, meanwhile, is staying at Compton High.

Bray took over the Colton program last May and led the Yellowjackets to their first Southern Section championship in 32 years, but the job was re-opened following the season to satisfy the Rialto Rule, which gives hiring preference to on-campus teachers.

Before taking over as head coach, Bray had been an assistant at the school for 21 of the previous 25 years but wasn’t a certified teacher.

Markham, who has amassed 309 career victories while coaching at eight high schools, was teaching at Colton when he threw his name in the hat for the head coaching position, even though he had accepted the same job at Compton two months earlier.

According to reports, Markham began looking at the Colton position because he wasn’t guaranteed an on-campus job at Compton. That changed this week when the Tarbabes placed him on staff as a weightlifting instructor.

With his employment at Compton secured and Bray the popular choice to retain his job, Markham reportedly pulled his name out of the running for the Colton position, leaving Bray as the only remaining candidate.

Bray was confirmed as head coach by a 7-0 vote during Thursday evening’s Colton Joint Unified School District meeting.

For one of those rare occasions, it appears all sides came out a winner.

The situation at Colton had the potential to be the second hotly debated coaching change in the I.E. this offseason.

In late January, Temecula Chaparral decided not to retain Tom Leach as head coach, only a year after Leach had led the Pumas to the Inland Division title, the most competitive division in the region.

His firing generated strong reaction from players and parents, who petitioned the school and demonstrated on campus in the days following his dismissal.

In a written statement Chaparral principal Gil Compton would cited “a desire to move the Chaparral football program in a new direction.”

Leach generated controversy during the 2009 season when he directed his players to point at the scoreboard following a victory against rival Murrieta Valley, causing a heated exchange between coaches and players at midfield. Leach was suspended for the following game against Vista Murrieta, a 32-13 loss that prevented the Pumas from winning the Southwestern League title.

The Pumas obtained revenge by defeating the Broncos in the section final two months later. They entered last season as one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, stacked their nonleague schedule with powerhouse opponents and then stumbled to a 1-5 start.

The Pumas squeaked into the playoffs but then lost in the first round to Upland, 40-35.

Ryan Tukua, the defensive coordinator at the school the last six years, was promoted to head coach in March.

Catching up on other notable head coaching changes:

*Ken Mushinskie left Riverside King after five seasons and was hired last month at Beckman High in Irvine. Mushinskie went 23-31 in his stay at King, highlighted by a trip to the Eastern Division semifinals in 2007.

The Wolves hired Kevin Corridan to replace Mushinskie. Corridan was the offensive line coach at King last season after spending the previous five as head coach at Riverside Patriot.

*Tom Pike learned this week he’d be returning to the helm at Fontana High. Pike, 61, was an assistant coach for the Steelers in 2002-04 before spending the 2005 season as interim head coach. Fontana went 0-9 that season and Lance Ozier took over.

Ozier resigned after finishing 0-10 last season, opening the door for Pike to return. Pike, who teaches history at Fontana, spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Citrus Valley.

*John Marquez has taken over at Barstow High. Marquez was previously an assistant coach at Victorville Victor Valley.

Marquez replaces Jose Rubio, who led the Aztecs to the 2008 Eastern Division championship game in his first season, but stumbled to a 1-9 record last fall.

*Joe Szczepanski will try to turn things around at Alta Loma, which has lost 24 consecutive games dating back to 2008. Szczepanski was the head coach at Bloomington Christian the last three seasons. Before that, he was defensive coordinator at Alta Loma in 2004-07. The Braves qualified for the playoffs three of those four seasons.

Szczepanski replaces Jose Fuentes, who was winless in his only two seasons.

*Scott Fisher was promoted to head coach at Coachella Valley High. He spent the previous nine years as an assistant coach and driver’s education teacher at the school. Fisher replaces Ramon Ruiz, who was 15-26 in four years at the school, but led the Arabs to winning records in his final two seasons after 20 consecutive losing years.

*Tom Wallace is the new head man at Hemet West Valley. Wallace will replace Jason Thornburg, who was 12-12 in two seasons and will remain on staff as the linebacker’s coach. Wallace is a former athletic director at West Valley.