Fit for a King: California coach leads team to championship after 1-6 start
The King’s Resume:
Coach: Kelly King
Championship: Won the 5-A CIF state championship
Record at Milpitas (1990-2019): 224 career wins, two California state championships (2017, 2019), two Northern California championships (2017, 2019)
Honors: Oakland Raiders Tom Flores High School Coach of the Year (2019), Central Coast Section Coach of the Year (2018), Calif. State Coaching Association Coach of the Year (2017)
Forget talking to his players about a state championship. With his team sitting at 1-6 through seven games this season, Milpitas High (Calif.) coach Kelly King talked to his players about simply playing out the rest of the season.
“We took them out for pizza at 1-6, and said, ‘Hey, there’s three weeks left,’” King said. “No matter what, we’re going to finish the season. No matter where it ends up, we’re committed to that.”
Milpitas did much more than just finish; the team went on a miraculous eight-game run to the 5-A CIF state championship. Milpitas clinched their title with a 34-0 rout of Reseda.
It marked the second state championship for Milpitas in the last three seasons, but this one was far different from the one in 2017, when the team went 14-1.
“You battle against (frustration) when you’re 1-6,” King said. “Our thing has always been about playing to our standards. Obviously, wins and losses take a toll. We realized what was going on, and kept seeing positive things on film. With some teams, you can see some quit at the end of the season, but these kids played hard and committed to it.”
Star running back Josue Torres epitomized the team’s Cinderella story. In the state championship rout of Reseda, Torres carried the ball 37 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns to bring his season total to 1,784.
“It’s not the most talented team we’ve had at Milpitas but as far as grit, determination and all that, they’re second to none,” Milpitas assistant Vito Cangemi said. “It’s definitely different than our state title two years ago. Probably more sweet because of what we went through.”
Milpitas finished off its season with eight consecutive wins, including two overtime victories in the CIF Central Coast Section Playoffs. Back-to-back overtime wins against Hillsdale and Branham set the stage for the state-championship push.
“They stayed together the whole year,” King said. “We worked hard in the offseason and had great senior leadership. We talk to them about leadership. We’re all leaders and accountable to each other. It wasn’t one thing, but as a group, we decided we could make it happen. We focused on getting better each day and having a great day at school.”
King, who has 224 career wins at Milpitas, was named Oakland Raiders Tom Flores High School Coach of the Year. It was the third straight year in which he won a significant coaching honor. In 2018, he was named Central Coast Section Coach of the Year. In 2017, he earned Calif. State Coaching Association Coach of the Year.