HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

ST. MONICA — St. Monica’s new head football coach may be young, but he betrays his years.

Adam Guerra, 25, comes across like a coach who has stalked the sidelines for years to those who selected him to replace Larry Muno as the new leader of the football program.

“He’s got an old soul, or what ever you want to call it,” Athletic Director Rick Bruce said. “You can just tell when you talk to some people that they mean what they say.”

That seasoning may have come from Guerra’s time at Los Angeles Loyola High School. After playing on the Cubs’ heralded football team, Guerra wasn’t recruited to play ball and decided to study history at nearby USC. While still just a college freshman, Guerra was asked in 2004 to be the head coach of the freshman team by his legendary former coach and mentor Steve Grady.

Under the tutelage of Grady, Guerra worked his way through college and up the ranks of Loyola’s coaching staff. After graduation in 2007, Guerra wound up teaching history at Loyola as he worked his way from the freshman team to becoming defensive coordinator on the varsity squad in 2009 under then coach Jeff Kearin.

But, just four games into the 2009 season, Kearin, Grady’s successor, left the program for unspecified personal reasons thrusting Guerra, then 23, into the role of interim head coach.

He finished out the 2009 season in the position, only to learn that he would not be tabbed to be the permanent head coach. Incoming coach Mike Christensen decided to turn over the previous staff including Guerra, sending him to decide to leave the school and take a job with his father’s government affairs company.

During his year off, Guerra said he visited with other college and high school football teams to get a feel for what they did successfully.

“I was able to sit down and do that and build from it,” Guerra said. “After that I heard that St. Monica was looking for a coach.”

The pool of replacements to succeed Larry Muno, who rebuilt the struggling program in just two seasons at the helm, culminating in a return to the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section playoffs last season, included a number of assistants from his staff, but Bruce said that Guerra stood out. Bruce quickly moved to select Guerra as the new coach, while retaining Muno’s staff in the process.

“He was the best candidate,” Bruce said of Guerra. “We have some terrific assistant coaches remaining, but he has more varsity experience at a big Catholic high school, which is a plus.

“He gets what we’re all about.”

Guerra steps into a program revived after a number of dismal seasons. Muno was able to instill a new attitude at the school that Guerra said he hopes to capitalize on while adding his own touch.

“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Guerra said. “We have to be workman-like.”

He said that he wants to build on the players in place, but knows that more work is needed if St. Monica is to return to the days that saw it win a CIF-SS title in 1998.

“We need to build a program that has all the details taken care of,” Guerra said. “I’m ready for that challenge.”

daniela@smdp.com