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Ralph Molina Steps Down as Football Defensive Coordinator at Bishop Diego

On eve of 2017 season, move is a big shakeup on what has been a stable coaching staff

Ralph Molina, a fixture in Bishop Diego High School athletics for decades, has stepped down as an assistant football coach at the Santa Barbara school, Noozhawk has learned.

Ralph Molina was the defensive coordinator at Bishop Diego High School. Click to view larger
Ralph Molina was the defensive coordinator at Bishop Diego High School.

Molina served as the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals and has been part of head coach Tom Crawford’s staff during Crawford’s entire 18 years at the helm.

“I can confirm Ralph informed me of his decision to step down from coaching football last week,” Crawford said in an email. “I cannot and prefer not to get into a discussion or speculation as to the reasons for his decision.

“At this point, we have refocused out of necessity, and our efforts and energy are directed to our preparation for the season, which is upon us.”

The Cardinals had a scrimmage Friday at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria. They open the regular season Aug. 25 at Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium against Desert Pines of Las Vegas, the defending Division 3 state champions from Nevada.

The following week, Bishop plays at perennial power Arroyo Grande.

Also stepping down was Molina’s son, Gabe, an assistant coach on the football team.

Molina told Noozhawk it was a personal decision to leave the program.

The coaching shake-up is a stunner in the local high school football community.

In the yearly merry-go-round of assistants moving from school to school, the staff at Bishop Diego has been able to remain intact. Long-time local prep football followers believe it’s been a key factor in the program’s success.

Bishop Diego has been a perennial CIF-Southern Section playoff qualifier this decade. The Cardinals made the championship game in 2007, losing to Santa Clara and its Notre Dame-bound running back Cierre Wood, in overtime.

In the last seven years, the Cardinals have reached the semifinals three times.

Molina’s defense played a huge part in those deep playoff runs. In 2015, the Cardinals stunned a potent Newbury Park team and its highly touted quarterback, Cameron Rising, in the Northern Division quarterfinals. They lost to Camarillo in the semifinals.

The Cardinals have held opponents under 200 points in five of the last six playoff seasons. Their low was 132 points allowed in the CIF semifinal year of 2013.

Molina, a retired Santa Barbara police lieutenant, has held various coaching positions at his alma mater for more than 30 years, including interim head football coach in 1985. This past spring, he coached the Bishop Diego baseball team to the CIF-Southern Section semifinals.

His status as baseball coach in 2018 is unclear, he said.

Molina is as fiery and intense as they come on the football field. He often lost his voice by the end of a game.

In pregame speeches, he’d asked: “Whose time is it?” And the players responded: “Our time!”

He followed with: “What kind of football are you gonna play?” And the players belted out: “Bishop football!”

While Molina’s departure has been a shock to the football program, Crawford said his players have handled it pretty well.

“I will say that I’ve been really pleased with the focus of our boys and appreciated their maturity in dealing with the adjustments that we have made,” he said. “Obviously, I thanked Ralph for his years of service and commended him for his work on behalf of the program.”

On filling Molina’s role, Crawford said the focus has been on “adjusting various roles and responsibilities so that everyone is contributing and coaching their guys hard. Fortunately, we have a group of very experienced defensive coaches, including Steve Robles, John Hazelton, Ron Heller and Larry Urzua — all of whom are expected to help make various calls and rotations for their position groups, depending on the situation.”

“I anticipate that, because he served as a defensive coordinator before, John will be signaling in the various alignments with the calls and input from others,” he said. “Again, we are working through all of this, so the scrimmage was good for us as a staff to work out the mechanics.”

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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