By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
The Centennial Corona (Calif.) football team had only 45 miles to travel for each of its five state title appearances between 2000 and 2014. When Centennial coach Matt Logan learned his team would have to travel 430 miles in 2015, he started saving.
The California Interscholastic Federation changed the location of its state championship games in 2015, marking the first time that all state-title games were hosted in Northern California. Corona is about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, so it helped that Logan received word almost a year in advance.
As the head coach of a perennial state championship contender, he decided to earmark a fundraising account specifically for the potential travel expenses his team of 125 players might incur if it achieved its goal of playing for a state championship.
“We knew if we had to raise funds in a short amount of time, we couldn’t raise it that quickly,” Logan said. “We did our normal Bingo fundraisers and things like that, and earmarked it for the state championship.”
Centennial athletic director Bill Gunn estimated that the Centennial’s travel expenses for the state championship game against De La Salle at Sacramento State came in around $50,000. The team traveled with 126 players, 100-plus band members, 40 coaches and support staff and approximately 30 cheerleaders.
The CIF-State office covered half of those expenses, and the Corona-Norco Unified School District agreed to lend some assistance, as did parents and members of the community. Centennial High covered the rest.
The Centennial football program’s last overnight trip was in 2008, when the Huskies journeyed up to Fresno Clovis West. The program turned down offers to play teams from Northern California and other states in recent years due to the expense.
The cost of travel was so high due in part to the fact that Centennial football coach Matt Logan does not make cuts to his roster. Players that tryout and follow the rules get to be a part of the program. Logan does not choose a selected portion of the roster for long trips.
“When we pull up kids from a certain part of the program, we want them all in,” Logan said. “Everybody is important. Everybody travels.”
Centennial traveled with a chaperone, and assistant coaches were assigned to their specific position groups. Centennial fell to De La Salle, 28-21, in the CIF Open Division Bowl.
Coach of the Year
Following the 2015 season, Logan was named USA Today High School Sports All-USA coach of the Year.
Logan, 49, coached Centennial to a 14-1 record, the No. 7 spot in the Super 25 football rankings, a second consecutive Pac-5 title and a runner-up finish in state Open Division. He has taken Centennial to 10 CIF Southern Section titles since 2000. He won his 200th game last season and boasts an overall record of 211-46 in 19 seasons.
When asked to reflect on the secret to winning state championships at a public school, he told USA Today, “The kids who come here know the expectations and obviously want to compete and that’s all we ask of them. Do the work, do what we ask and we compete every week. I always say, ‘We may get beat, but we always compete.’ I don’t care how tall they are, how fast they are, how big they are. We just want good football players.”
Although Centennial’s top recruits were rated as three-star athletes, the team competed for a state championship due to its depth. Players from last year’s team will attend Washington, Cal, Stanford, Arizona and Boise State.
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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at [email protected], tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.