Each day, we’re profiling a different high school football team in the valley, leading up to the first day of the 2015 high school season on Aug. 28. Today, we take a look at the Indio Rajahs, who made a coaching change in the offseason and hired girls’ basketball coach Marty White. The first-year coach has a long football background, but does he have what it takes to turn this program around and regain respect in the community and the valley?
Coach: Marty White, first season
Last League Title: 1995
Last Season: 1-9
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 4 on defense
Overview: Indio won just four games in four seasons prior to making a coaching change during the offseason, and new head coach Marty White wasted little time attempting to turn the page and go about restoring the once-proud tradition at one of the Coachella Valley’s oldest high schools. White installed a new offense, a new defense, he even changed the logo on the helmets and the direction of the practice field, all to give the program a fresh start.
Despite the changes, White inherits some of the challenges that faced his predecessor, George Thomas. He takes over at a school that is still roughly two years away from completing a major renovation that began in 2010, which has reduced enrollment at the school and led many of their athletes to neighboring schools and athletic programs. Fortunately, a chunk of the renovation has been completed, including a new gymnasium and weight room, and the number of students playing football has experienced a boost, White said. Whether that will carry over and lead to success on the field is anyone’s guess.
Indio lost its top offensive threat in tailback Ryan Reyes, and its starting quarterback, Seth Morales, transferred to Shadow Hills. However, a few key players have returned to help with the transition, including Fernando Meza, who’ll captain the team from the quarterback position and again play some cornerback. Miguel Fabian will start at fullback and middle linebacker and Carlos Nuno will anchor the offensive line. Sean Cunningham will provide the speed out of the offensive backfield.
White played college football at Penn and then coached in college before moving to the valley, becoming an assistant at College of the Desert and Indio and becoming one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in the valley.
White said his schemes will employ an edgy, attacking mentality with an eclectic mix of packages he’s used throughout his playing and coaching career.
Breakout player: Fernando Meza. Quietly one of the top cornerbacks in the league a year ago, White moved him to quarterback for his senior season because he is the leader of the team who has built trust among his teammates. He makes good decisions, is a great athlete and is a smart and heady player who White believes can be the guy to implement his schemes to perfection.
Magic word: Change. New head coach Marty White said he hopes to instill a change in the culture around the Rajahs’ program. With declining attendance at the school and performance in Indio’s athletic program, the school and community is in need of reinvigoration. The football team went 6-44 in five seasons under George Thomas, but White is looking to buck that trend — starting with 2015.
Quotable: “I want to be known as a group that attacks. I want to be known as a group that plays hard, and trying to bring a spirit back. We may not beat you, but you’re going to know you played us. At the end of the day, we may not have won, but we will have at least won and earned your respect.” — Marty White, head coach
Projected record: 1-9
Aug. 28…Desert Mirage
Sept. 4…Twentynine Palms
Sept. 11…Yucca Valley
Sept. 18…@ San Jacinto
Sept. 25…@ Xavier Prep
Oct. 2…La Quinta
Oct. 9…@ Palm Desert
Oct. 23…Cathedral City
Oct. 30…@ Palm Springs
Nov. 6…Coachella Valley