By Chris H. Sieroty
The Beverly Hills High School football team began fall practice on Monday with a new head coach for the first time in 19 years. Donald Paysinger, a longtime assistant coach with the Normans, replaces his older brother Carter Paysinger.
Carter Paysinger, who coached Beverly Hills since 1990, resigned following an 8-4 season to concentrate on being an assistant principal at the school. He has said he will continue to help call plays during gams and develop game plans on the weekends.
Donald Paysinger, a 1977 Beverly High graduate, was Santa Monica High School’s football coach from 1998 to 1999, leading the Vikings to a 2-8 record each season.
Paysinger was also a graduate assistant coach at San Jose State University and coached with the San Francisco 49ers during training camp in 2004 in connection with the National Football League’s Minority Fellowship Program.
“The reason I applied for the job was simple, we needed a head coach,” Paysinger said. “If I’m going to be involved with the team, I thought I could do a good job as head coach. I’ve been coaching for 29 years.”
The Normans aren’t the only Ocean League team adjusting to a new coach. Jahmal Wright takes over for Tom Salter at Culver City and Travis Clark succeeds Zach Cuda at Santa Monica. Wright was an assistant for Salter, who declared him his designated successor before he step down at the end of the last season.
Culver City was 7-3 last season and captured the 2008 league championship with a 57-27 win on Nov. 14 over Beverly Hills. The Centaurs lost to Alemany of Mission Hills, 31-15, in the second round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Clark prepared by being an assistant to Norm Lacy on CIF championship teams at both Santa Monica and St. Monica. Lacy is now Santa Monica High’s athletic director and hired Clark over the summer. Cuda, who coached Santa Monica for three years, resigned following an 8-3 season and remains as a teacher at the high school.
Santa Monica’s only losses last season were to Culver City and Beverly Hills in league games and Warren High School in Downey in the first round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Santa Monica has lost four straight games to Beverly Hills. Last year, the Normans defeated the Vikings, 26-10.
The 2009 schedule is almost the same as last year’s. The only difference is that Beverly Hills plays Hamilton High School this year instead of Marshfield High School from Massachusetts. In non-league play the Normans will also face Long Beach Jordan, Santa Barbara, West Ranch and Desert Hot Springs.
Last year, Beverly Hills defeated Santa Barbara, West Ranch and Desert Hot Springs but lost to Marshfield and Jordan.
In Ocean League play, the Normans main competition for the league title will probably come from Culver City and Santa Monica. After a 5-5 season last year, Inglewood was expected to challenge for a CIF playoff position despite the loss of several key players, Morningside was expected to be in the middle-of-the-pack and Hawthorne is in the middle of a 32-game losing streak and hasn’t won since 2005.
“It’s going to be a tough league again this season,” Paysinger said. “Santa Monica and Culver City are going to be tough, while Inglewood always plays us hard. Morningside gave us a tough game last season. It’s going to be a coin toss again to see who wins the league. There are four or five teams shooting for three playoff positions.”
According to preseason rankings compiled by Calpreps.com, Culver City was expected to repeat as Ocean League champions, followed by Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Morningside and Hawthorne. The high school sports website ranked Beverly Hills 13th overall in the CIF Southern Section’s Western Division.
On the field, Paysinger said the Normans will be led by four key players. Junior Josh Newman replaces Dex Lucci, who graduated last year, at quarterback. Last season Newman was 13 for 25 for 166 yards and three interceptions in two games.
Kenny Bassett, who rushed for 1,414 yards as a junior, and senior wide receiver Daniel Bradbury were expected contribute heavily to the Normans offense, he said.
On Defense, junior defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. was expected to improve on last season’s 38 tackles.
“Both Josh Newman and Kenny Bassett started for us last year and played very well,” Paysinger said. “We are a young team, but the good thing is a host of kids played for us at some point last season. I think with Newman, Bassett, Bradbury and Townsend we’ll be alright this season.”
Beverly Hills will play its opener Sept. 11 at Nickoll Field against Long Beach Jordan. The Panthers, who tied for second place with Compton and Lakewood in the Moore League, defeated Beverly Hills, 28-13, in the opening week of the 2008 season.