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Sonora football coach will leave inspiring legacy

Spring is here and it’s time to talk ... football.

The Final Four are about to square off in Detroit and Major League Baseball will open its 2009 season next week. But the big sports news in these parts is the impending departure of longtime Sonora High School football coach Robert Cendro.

The Wildcats’ head coach for 15 seasons, Cendro last week announced he will leave to become head coach at San Marcos High School in northern San Diego County. He departs as the winningest coach in Sonora High history, with a record of 108-55-1. His teams won three Valley Oak League championships, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs 10 times and made two appearances in the section championship game.

For some who knew Cendro, his decision was no surprise. He and his wife, Betty, had reportedly been thinking about a move ever since their son, Marcus, graduated from Sonora High three years ago. The younger Cendro is now a student at San Diego State, and the job at San Marcos will bring the family closer again.

For the community, the news is bittersweet.

Wildcat football fans, team members, friends and fellow teachers will not only miss the exciting brand of football Cendro brought to Dunlavy Field, but the positive impact he has had on players, the great job he has done as a P.E. teacher and his dedication to the Sonora High community.

“It will be a huge loss, not only for the football program, but for our school,” said Sonora High Athletic Director Rick Francis, also the school’s longtime basketball coach and a 19-year colleague of Cendro’s. “He such a quality man.”

Cendro, characteristically, thanked others — fellow teachers, administrators, assistant coaches and the community — for making his unprecedented success possible.

Like Francis, Coach Cendro practically bleeds green and gold: He is a 1975 Sonora High graduate who starred in football, basketball, baseball and track. He then went on to play football for Modesto Junior College and the University of the Pacific in Stockton before returning to his alma mater in 1990 for what would be a run of nearly 20 years.

And his success was not limited to football: Cendro-coached softball and track teams also won league and section championships.

His teams were disciplined and inspired, but he was no slave driver. “He knows when it’s time to be serious, but he let us have a lot of fun,” said a starting lineman for Cendro’s 2008 team.

But now it’s 2009 and the Cendro era, sadly, is ending. He leaves firmly enshrined among Sonora High’s best grid coaches, and we wish Robert Cendro well in reviving the San Marcos High football program. Any skeptics among the Knights’ faithful are welcome to come up to Sonora and ask around. They’ll leave as believers.

Meanwhile, the school board has the unenviable task of hiring his replacement. Choosing a new head football coach is not an easy decision and, right or wrong, often involves a lot more politics and pressure than does recruiting, say, a new math teacher.

But trustees might start by looking for the same inspiration and strength of character Coach Cendro brought to the job.


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