Paul Lopez, who stepped away from coaching last May to stay closer to home, said he felt his actions “were a letdown to the kids.”
“I told the kids, ‘I’m sorry about that,” said Lopez, “but I don’t regret the decision one bit.”
Beaumont High School’s five-year coach (2008-2012) said he couldn’t have put the Cougars in a worse situation. His resignation, forcing a district/interdistrict search, then hiring a football coach just a couple months before the season started is no way to approach a highly competitive schedule.
Lopez, however, had strong personal reasons – his son had made marching band at Vista Murrieta High School. His Friday night performances would conflict with Beaumont High School’s Friday night football schedule.
There was, he said, no way to work it out to do both.
When Perry Jones eventually resigned after his lone season, most likely under pressure from a non-supportive administration, the position was re-opened.
“The kids kept asking me,” said Lopez, who reflected that Jones was placed into a tough spot. Lopez received telephone confirmation during the winter break that Jones had resigned.
“I didn’t expect (coaching football again) at Beaumont would come so soon,” he said.
Back in Murrieta, Friday night football game performances are usually just warm-up for weekend band competitions, said Lopez. “I’ll work it out so that I’ll be there for those.”
Lopez, for his part, saw just one Cougar game last season – Banning’s win over Beaumont.
A veteran coach, having spent seven seasons as a Monte Vista (San Diego Section) assistant before taking over as head coach at Poway High School, Lopez was a dream pick-up for Beaumont that was in need of new blood after a succession of 2-8 seasons.
By 2010, Beaumont had tied for the Mountain Pass League championship with perennial powerhouse Perris Citrus Hill. Two years later, a 9-3 Cougars’ team reached the CIF quarterfinals before losing to Phelan Serrano.
It turned out to be Lopez’s final game as Beaumont’s coach. Six months later, he resigned. Eight months later, he’s back.
Lopez cracked, “We’re young and we’re inexperienced but we’ll make up for it by being small and slow.” Seriously, he said, “We’ve got some work to do.”
A resident of the Murrieta community, Lopez said he was contacted about the opening at Murrieta Valley when first-year coach Vinny Fazio resigned. Lopez said he wasn’t interested in the least. Instead, he watched his son’s school, Vista Murrieta, play its way into the CIF, Central Conference championship behind quarterback Coltin Gerhart.
“They scored a lot of touchdowns,” said Lopez, “and I heard my son playing the school fight song a lot.”
Lopez’s reflection was simple: “They play some of the best football in Southern California.”
But he had his eyes on the marching band.
“When the Vista Murrieta band marched into the game, my son marched by me and looked right at me,” said Lopez.