Mendoza won three Channel League football titles at DP before becoming an administrator at SBHS
Nate Mendoza, the son of Santa Barbara High School alumni, came full circle on Tuesday when the Santa Barbara Unified Board of Trustees voted to approve his appointment as the Dons’ new head football coach.
Mendoza, whose football journey took him to stardom as a player at Lompoc High as well as to three Channel League championships as Dos Pueblos’ head coach, has served for the last three-and-a-half years as an administrator at Santa Barbara High.
“It’s in my blood,” he told Noozhawk when asked about his desire to return to the football sidelines. “The juices are flowing and I can feel the extra pep in my step.
“It’s a different feeling when you know you’ve been tasked to lead these teenagers into battle on Friday nights. It’s a big challenge that I take seriously. I’m definitely excited to get that started.”
He succeeds JT Stone, who resigned and moved his family to North Carolina after leading the Dons to a 9-2 record and a share of last season’s Channel League championship with Pacifica and Rio Mesa.
“JT really left his imprint,” Mendoza said. “I have a lot of respect for what JT did.”
Mendoza’s appointment will have him transition from the position of Assistant Principal to that of Dean of Student Engagement and Teacher/Coach.
“Anyone who has met Nate Mendoza knows that he loves motivating students,” Principal Elise Simmons said in a district release. “Whether it is serving as an administrator or a coach, he develops long-lasting and impactful relationships with our students.
“His positive presence in the hallways and in our classrooms now will be felt on the field. With Nate leading the program, I am confident that our student-athletes will thrive and perform at their highest level.”
His parents, Andy and Jody Mendoza, graduated with Santa Barbara High’s Class of 1972.
“I can tell they’re extremely excited,” Mendoza said. “They’re always proud of me, but I can definitely feel it a little bit differently now given that it’s their alma mater.
“There’s a special feeling here. I can feel it when I’m working there on Friday nights. The alumni are very prideful, as they should be.
“It’s a special venue. Peabody Stadium was always a great place to play and now, given the renovations, it’s just an awesome setting on Friday night.”
His wife, Jamie Carpio, works as an administrator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. They have three children: son Lukas, 12, and daughters Luna, 6, and Lola, 1.
“I’m very fortunate that I have my wife supporting me through this whole process,” Mendoza said. “I’m really excited to have my three children part of it, as well.
“Luckily for us, JT allowed Lukas to be the ball boy over the last three seasons. It was pretty cool. They had a really great relationship and Lukas was really sad when he learned that JT was leaving.”
Mendoza, an All-CIF linebacker for Lompoc High when it won a CIF championship in 2002, initially served as the head baseball coach at Dos Pueblos from 2009 to 2012. He guided the Chargers into the CIF-SS playoffs during all four of his seasons, winning a pair of Channel League titles. He was voted as the league’s Coach of the Year after both those baseball seasons.
He also served as defensive coordinator for DP’s football program before taking over as head coach from 2012 to 2017. His three Channel League titles included a school-record 12 victories during his final season when the Chargers advanced to the CIF-Southern Section finals for only the second time in school history.
“Nate brings a wealth of experience that will help our program hit the ground running and continue the success that has been built these past few seasons,” SBHS athletic director Todd Heil said.
Mendoza stepped down as DP’s head football coach to become Dean of Student Engagement in 2018, although he also assisted his successor, Doug Caines.
“I just tried to be his eyes up top in the booth,” he said. “It was fun, and that was where I needed to be — in the booth — because it would’ve been too hard for me to be on the sideline.”
He took the same administrative position at Santa Barbara High in 2019 before his promotion to assistant principal.
“I feel like it’s perfect timing,” Mendoza said of his return to football. “Here I am in my fourth year (at Santa Barbara High), and now get this opportunity.
“I’ve been able to form a lot of relationships with the community, staff and students. It’s a different school than DP, so it takes some time to get acclimated.”
He did keep his hand in football the last five years by coaching his son on the Youth Football League’s Santa Barbara Saints. Lukas, a running back and linebacker, is now a seventh-grader at Santa Barbara Junior High School.
“It was good for me to step away and coach little kids,” Mendoza said. “It changes your perspective on stuff.”
He will inherit a Santa Barbara High varsity that returns most of its star offensive players. Junior quarterback Abel Renteria passed for 2,158 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall while rushing for another 446 yards and nine TDs.
Also returning are the Dons’ top four receivers (juniors Winston Bartley and Jack Holdren, as well as sophomores Kai Mault and Tomas Gil) and one of their leading rushers (junior Koa Herrera).
“We want to build off the really strong foundation that JT built, especially in the passing game,” Mendoza said. “I’d be a fool to not continue what he started with the strong passing game, given the third-year quarterback with Abel returning, and also with all the returning receivers.
“The defense was lights out, too. David Stott has been the defensive coordinator, and he’s done an awesome job with his coaches.”
Mendoza said he plans to meet with the team during fourth period on Wednesday and hold his first zero-period workout on Thursday.
“They haven’t done zero period before, but we’re really excited to get that going and get in our workouts and football training before school starts,” he said. “There’s a great group coming back, with a strong sophomore class that will be juniors and a strong junior class that will be seniors next year.
“I’m chomping at the bit to get started.”