Inland Empire: Colton's coaching position takes another turn

Some of the juiciest high school football stories always seem to happen in the offseason.

Take, for instance, what’s going on at Colton High School.

First, a little background:

The Yellowjackets were searching for a head coach this time last year, and the most obvious candidate to take the reigns from Harold Strauss was right in front of them, Rick Bray, who had been an assistant at the school for 21 of the previous 25 years.

The only snag was, Bray was a security guard at the school and not a certified teacher. His hiring prospects put him behind the 8-ball in relation to the Rialto Rule, an education code stipulation that gives preference to certified teachers.

After six months of hand-wringing by the Colton Joint Unified School District, and with no better qualified candidates stepping forward, board members went ahead and approved Bray’s hiring in May of last year.

Bray then went out and made everyone look like geniuses, leading unseeded Colton to its first Southern Section football championship in 32 years.

But now Bray is back on the outside looking in, his job re-opened courtesy of the Rialto Rule, and this time there’s competition for the job, very well-known competition.

Don Markham, 71, is not only an on-campus teacher at Colton, but he owns 309 career victories and five section titles during stints at eight different high schools.

A gruff, iconic figure in the Inland Empire, Markham became well known for his creation of the tightly-bunched double-wing offense, which he used season after season to churn out thousands of yards and hundreds of points, despite not always have the best talent on the field.

In 1994, he inherited a team at Bloomington High that finished 1-9 the previous year. He installed his bulldozer offense and the team went on to set a single-season national scoring record of 880 points while going 14-0.

Markham will be officially recommended for the job at a district meeting Thursday night, according to the meeting agenda, and Markham must feel good about his chances because he already resigned from the head coaching position at Compton High that he accepted less than two months ago.

Markham hasn’t coached since guiding Bloomington to a 6-5 record in 2007. He was hired by Rialto High in January 2010, but resigned three months later amid allegations of mistreatment of players.

Some believe Markham’s no-nonsense coaching style has run its course, same as his variations of the wing offense. Because of his ultra-thin playbook that usually relies on just a handful of offensive plays, Markham is known to have little use for hands-on assistant coaches, particularly ones as popular and knowledgeable as Bray.

Colton has grown accustomed to churning out blue-chip athletes as well.

Three seniors on the 2005 team were selected last week in the top six rounds of the NFL draft, cornerback Jimmy Smith in the first round to the Ravens, cornerback Shareece Wright in the third round to the Chargers and running back Allen Bradford in the sixth round to Tampa Bay. All were coached by Strauss.

Colton had three seniors sign Division I letters of intent in February.

None were coached by Markham.

If Markham’s hiring goes through, it will be interesting to see if he shows any adaptation to his playbook or personality, and what effect he'll have on the talent pool at Colton.

At 71, changing ways is easier said than done.