There were about 50 football players that showed up to meet Banning High School’s new coach on Thursday, March 30.
That new coach, Que’Sand Lewis, 27, was surprised to see so many.
When he asked how many seniors were in the group, about 14 or 15 raised their hands. It was a great sign.
“It has to start with the seniors,” said Lewis, whose football background includes playing at Fordham (N.Y.) University after a prep career at both Rancho Cucamonga and city rival Los Osos.
“You lead by example. My plan is very simple. It starts with every single older person that’s played.”
In other words, the returning senior players better lead the younger core of Bronco teammates, he was saying. “It’s their legacy that’s on the line,” said Lewis.
He was a freshman coach at Riverside North High School in 2016 with a background in playing collegiately, has been tabbed as Banning’s new head coach. He said the two-month process included interviews with the principal, assistant principal, athletic director and district compliance personnel.
If they heard the same type of enthusiasm he exhibited with the Broncos’ players in the school library last week, it was an easy hire.
The school, he said, “was very welcoming.”
The move has concluded a lengthy search for a successor to John Stockham, who stepped down as coach following the 2016 season. It also came after an offer was made to another applicant, J.R. Reilley, an assistant at Fontana Kaiser, who turned down the chance to lead the Broncos.
It could be a better situation than Banning even dared hope.
Banning stuck out to Lewis, he said. “My goal was to become a head coach, somewhere, this season. I did a lot of research, a lot of homework on this.”
His first reaction on being hired was to reach out to his wife, Jazmin. “She’s done nothing but support me, to give me the love I need to do this.”
Steve Bernard, the athletic director at North, said Lewis spent last season coaching in the Huskies’ program.
“His brother’s on the team here,” said Bernard, “and Que’Sand wanted to do something to help out. Coach (Doug) DeBois found a place for him.”
DuBois, the former Perris Citrus Hill football coach who led the Hawks to a pair of CIF championships before stepping down to raise his family, returned as a coach at North last year.
DuBois, said Lewis, “turned that program around. He taught me that if you treat your players the right way, you’ll get immediate rewards.”
Throw in his Rancho Cucamonga-based area connections – Nick Baiz and Tom Martinez – and Lewis has a background of highly successful training for a position like Banning.
North, like Banning, is in the process of rebuilding a football program that has had past success with hopes to regain a competitive edge.
Banning, under Stockham, barely missed the playoffs last season after finishing third in the Mountain Valley League, posting a 5-5 overall record.
Two of those losses came in overtime against league champion Jurupa Valley Rubidoux and San Bernardino Pacific.
“That was a decent season,” said Lewis. “You don’t have to be around very long to know you’re close to going 7-3, maybe 9-1.”
He’ll hit the ground running with team workouts commencing on Monday, plus interviews with potential assistant coaches. He hinted that the first couple of workouts won’t even include a football.
“All the battles are won,” Lewis said, “before you even step on the field.”