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Friday Night Lights: Previews & Predictions of Week Zero Games

Season opens with Rick Candaele's coaching career turning big 5-0

Rick Candaele Click to view larger
Rick Candaele of Carpinteria enters his 50th year as a football coach. (Bill Swing photo)

The Friday Night Lights still shine bright for Rick Candaele.

Candaele, 71, is celebrating his 50th season of coaching football. He begins his second year as the head coach at Carpinteria High on Friday night, when his Warriors play host to Rancho Alamitos, a large school from Garden Grove, in a Week Zero game at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium.

All eight area schools are playing Week Zero games. 

Each week, Noozhawk's Friday Night Lights column will preview the weekend prep football games and predict the winners.

In doing the math, Candaele says this season at Carpinteria gives him 25 years in high school coaching, adding to the 25 years he's worked in the college ranks. 

“When you put them all together, it all balances out,” he said. “I coached in college in the middle, high school at the beginning and high school now.”

He actually started as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, College of Idaho, where he was a standout defensive back and return man. He still holds the record for longest punt return (95 yards vs. British Columbia in 1968) and is the career leader in punt return yardage (482 on 24 returns) and pass interceptions (13).

He also played basketball in college.

An all-around athlete at Lompoc High, Candaele got his first taste of high school football coaching at one of the big public high schools in the Boise area. He recalls the excitement of the crosstown rivalry games, where more than 20,000 fans attended at Boise State’s stadium.

He returned to California and got an assistant coaching job at Cabrillo and later became head coach at Armijo High in the Fairfield area. In 1985, he got a call from his friend Mike Warren, who used to coach football at Lompoc High and knew the Candaele family very well. Warren was hired as the head coach of the resurrected football program at UCSB.

"Like a lot of coaching friends, we had a deal where if one of us got a college job the first one we would call would be the other guy," Warren said. "I told him, ‘OK, I got one.’ He pretty much dropped everyting. From that moment on, we spent most of our lives together. It was a lot of fun. We had a great time together."

Candaele made roots in Carpinteria, taught at the junior high and coached with Warren at UCSB. Warren stepped down in 1988 and Candaele ran the program for the next three seasons before the school dropped football.

That's when Carpinteria High came calling the first time.

"We saw him after (the UCSB stuff) happened and we asked him, ‘Why don’t you come coach with us at Carp,'" retired Carpinteria coach Ben Hallock recalled.’ And he said, ‘Are you serious?’ And we said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’

"He was defensive coordinator for a couple of years and we just had a great time coaching with him," Hallock continued. "He’s a really insightful person and he’s really creative. He comes up with creative ideas about how to do things. Sometimes in coaching you design rules that can run kids off,  but the way Rick thinks, he finds ways to get kids back into the fold."

Warren said Candaele was always seeking out new ways of doing things when they coached at UCSB.

"He is a terrific innovator," said Warren, who marvels at how Candaele has adapted to continue coaching.

"He is by far the finest football coach I’ve known personally,  and that covers a lot of ground," Warren said. "He absolutely loves it, and what he does he does it very well."

And he's done it in many places.

“When I was first coaching, I was moving every 4-5 years,” Candaele said of all the different jobs.

Fortunately, his wife understood the life of a coach.

He and Maren have known each other since they were kids in Lompoc.

“We lived six houses away from each other by the time we were 12 years old, so she knew what she was getting into,” he laughed. “The Candaele brothers were always into sports and that wasn’t going to change. The natural segue was coaching. She was well aware.”

As parents, they watched their son, Coley, quarterback Carpinteria to three CIF championships (1987, 88, 89) and win the CIF State Meet mile in 1990. 

Daughter Kirsten was a basketball star at the school and went on to earn 12 varsity letters as a Warrior athlete. She was named Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 1994.

"His kids were one of the best gifts we ever got at Carpinteria," said Hallock.

Candaele got hired at NCAA Division 3 Claremont McKenna College. He was there for 17 seasons (1993-2010), 15 as the head coach, and turned the program around before retiring.

Hallock brought him back into the fold at Carpinteria as his defensive coordinator in 2015. 

“After I was done at Claremont I wanted to give something back,” he said of his decision to return to coaching at Carpinteria.

It was like Candaele followed the Carpinteria High motto: “Warrior Spirit Never Dies.”

Hallock retired in 2016 and Candaele stepped up to become head coach of the Warriors.

“I’ve been around good people: Ben Hallock, Henry Gonzalez, Van Latham, Lou Panizzon and before that Mike Warren,” he said of his relationships with the coaching brethren of the area. 

In his first year at the helm, he guided the Warriors to the Frontier League title game, where they fell short in the last few minutes.

Although it will be tougher this year in a new seven-team Citrus Coast League, Candaele hopes the Warriors can come together and bring home their first league title since 2002.

That would be a great anniversary present.

Here's a capsule look at Friday night's games:

Rancho Alamitos at Carpinteria, 7 p.m. — Rancho Alamitos is a bigger school but it is in the same CIF playoff division (12) as the Warriors. Carpinteria’s experience in the skill positions, at linebacker and in the secondary give it the nod. The pick: Carpinteria.

Cabrillo vs. Bishop Diego, at SBCC, 7:30 p.m.  (Radio: AM 1290)— The defending state-champion Cardinals begin a brutally tough schedule against an experienced Cabrillo squad. Bishop’s experienced playmakers like quarterback Jack Engel, running back / linebacker Adrian Soracco and wide receiver / safety Luke Knightley, and big, physical line are the difference makers in this one. The pick: Bishop Diego.

Foothill vs. Dos Pueblos, at San Marcos, 7 p.m. — The Chargers’ big offensive line and stable of solid running backs give them the edge against a Foothill team that is coming off a 1-9 season. The pick: Dos Pueblos.

Santa Barbara at Buena, 7 p.m. — The pass-happy Dons open against a former Channel League rival that is in a rebuilding mode. Playing behind an experienced offensive line, quarterback Frankie Gamberdella should post some big numbers. The pick: Santa Barbara.

Santa Ynez at Nipomo, 7 p.m. — This is a tough opener for the Pirates, as Nipomo returns several starters. Returning all-league running back Cash Transeth and receiver Jasper Kadlec should help new starting quarterback Anthony Gillis get settled in, but Nipomo’s advantage in overall experience will make the difference. The pick: Nipomo.

Lompoc at Simi Valley, 7 p.m. — Initially, Lompoc would have been considered a heavy favorite in this game. It’s a different story now as Simi Valley is being coached Jim Benkert, who guided Oaks Christian and Westlake to CIF championships. Lompoc still has too much going for it in a season opener. The pick: Lompoc

San Marcos at Santa Paula, 7 p.m. — This is a competitive opener for the Royals, who are coming off an injury-filled 1-9 season.  Ben Partee is a talented quarterback and Tommy Schaeffer is a hard-nosed running back who can make things happen. If the San Marcos defense can control Santa Paula running back Tim Luna, the Royals have a good chance of starting the season with a W. The pick: San Marcos.


Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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