La Serna football coaches surprised with drive-by celebration
WHITTIER — A drive-by parade set up by the La Serna High School football Touchdown Club led to a surprise of boosters, fans and players in front of head coach Andy George’s home Monday afternoon.
George, along with nine of his assistant coaches, sat out on his front lawn in chairs being interviewed by this reporter.
“I thought I gave some good answers in my interview and then I find out it was all fake,” defensive line coach Chris Perez was heard saying.
Of course, he wasn’t a bit upset when he saw the parade of over 50 cars.
At the school when the cars were forming, only about four were lined up and coach George’s brother, Chris George, was worried about the turnout.
Not to worry, the La Serna family came through.
The “interview” session was suddenly interrupted by a Whittier police car, with its siren blaring, followed by a long line of honking cars with players, parents and boosters leaning out of the windows and greeting every coach.
“It’s been a while since we have all been together and it’s something that I miss dearly and these guys are not only great coaches, but great men and great friends of mine,” said George, who suddenly stopped talking when the siren started blaring. “We miss being out there together.”
With his two-year-old daughter, Camdyn, in his arms, all coach George could say was “what” when he found out the interview would be interrupted by a parade.
His nine assistants, that were calmly sitting in their chairs, all stood up in unison and the fun was on.
“That’s pretty good,” defensive coordinator Brian Mustain said. “The La Serna community never ceases to amaze you, that’s for sure. This is unique and probably not a lot of schools are doing that.”
It was a real surprise for the coaches, as they haven’t seen any of their players since mid-March when the schools were closed down.
High fives and shouts of joy by each coach greeted every vehicle as neighbors also came out to watch.
In one of the first few cars was coach Georges’ nephew, sophomore Jake George, who is also a star wide receiver. Jake hopped out and saw the La Serna team flag, which was displayed on coach Georges’ house.
The sophomore grabbed it and handed it to his uncle, who held it and waved it as the cars drove by.
“This is surreal and it’s great to see our team get together like this and we’re excited for the season and hope it shows the coaches that we’re ready,” Jake George said.
Behind the whole idea of the surprise for the coaches was the La Serna Touchdown Club.
“Not only are we a team, but we are a family,” Touchdown Club Vice President Alina Otero said. “It’s remarkable. The love and compassion is breathtaking. That’s why a lot of our alumni come back. I’m very proud to be part of the program.”
Otero and the rest of the touchdown club got exactly the reaction they were hoping for from the coaches.
“It was unbelievable to see the reaction of the coaches and we wanted them to know we were here for them.”
Standing in the background was coach George’s wife, Jenna George, who was holding their youngest daughter, Chandler, and keeping an eye out for their oldest girl Kinsley (4), who was greeting everyone.
“Erin (Verstegen) and I are both standing here crying,” said a very emotional Jenna George. “Our coaches, talk about courage and character, they spend so much time doing what they can for our boys. To bring out this support for our coaches….. it’s our family. It just means the world.”
Prior to the surprise parade, the coaches talked about how different it was not seeing the players on a daily basis.
“I’ve been communicating with a few of them and they ask me all the time, when they will be starting back up,” coach Perez said. “I just said to keep working and getting in a good workout.”
Wide receivers coach Andrew Canales added, “……..We’ll be having a zoom meeting in June and just wanted to open up a conversation.”
With Monday’s surprise, the conversation has opened up for everyone at La Serna.
What the coaches said:
Coach Rudy Jordan, Cornerbacks, Safeties: “(The drive-by) was awesome and actually a little emotional and just to see how bad the kids want it and it kind of got to me. Even the neighbors came out and you couldn’t see the end of the car line. The support has always been in this program and will continue. Since I played here it’s been that way. There’s unfinished business and we want it and they want it.” Jordan played for La Serna from 2007-09.
Coach Dash Verstegen, Offensive line, Strength coach: “Communication has been difficult lately,” said coach Verstengen, who recently became a father of twins. “One of our seniors reached out to me about physical training. It’s frustrating not being able to help them closely.
“(The parade) was disbelief at first and the huge line of cars and can’t see where it ends was pretty special. It just made me feel like this thing might actually happen as far as the season. Getting to see all of the kids lined up and how happy everyone is and all of the signs. I got real motivated right after seeing that. First thing I did was make fun of them, which is what I do. I haven’t been in the classroom for six weeks.”
Coach Andrew Canales, Wide Receivers: “The kids haven’t seen us (coaches) in about 2 ½ months. We have a great relationship with all of them. That was a showcase with everybody involved and we have a great relationship with the senior class and that four-year run and the championship run. (The players) did a pretty good job at keeping (this surprise from us). Even though it’s shocking to see everyone here, it’s not surprising that they would do something like this because the love is so mutual between the coaches, parents and athletes.”
Coach John Caballero, Offensive Coordinator: “I walked over to the street and saw the balloons. It was truly a surprise. These kids have done so much for me. Most of these players were there for me when I had my heart surgery. The bond that we have here is truly amazing. Being around for as long as I have, we always believe that they can win. This is a great staff. In my 49 years (of coaching), I just couldn’t believe it, that the parents would do that. It was amazing.”
Coach Bob Perumean, Quarterbacks: ”It’s very special and (La Serna) is a special place. (The Touchdown Club) is 100 percent behind the boys. This is a great group of guys and the guys (seniors) that are leaving us are definitely one of the best we’ve had since I’ve been around. Even compared to our championship years, I think this class is very special. This will be my 30th year coaching and I love it. I’m ready to get going to practice tomorrow.”
Coach Josh Martinez, Assistant: “I was pretty confused to be honest. I thought I had to put the mask on or something,” Martinez said of the siren. “Then I saw all of the cars coming and said that was pretty cool. It’s great to see all of the players and seeing everyone stay tight together. “This is the first football-strong celebration drive-by I’ve seen. It was great to see everyone and how they’re doing. And watching Patrick (Silva) was great. He has always had a fire since his freshman year. It was great to see him off the field showing his love to La Serna football.”
Coach Luis Cruz, Linebackers: “When I heard the siren, I was looking back and thought something was happening. It was unbelievable. It literally brought tears to my eyes and I had to keep my glasses on. It warms my heart to see these kids come out to pay tribute to us. This is what we do it for. Of course we want to win and be successful at what we do, but more than anything else, we want to see these young men as they get older. We’d be starting our third week of spring ball this week, but we’re home and taking care of our families. To come out here and see these kids is just very emotional.”
Coach Chris Perez, Defensive line: ”This is awesome,” he said referring to the parade of parents and players. “I wasn’t expecting this. To see everyone come out and support our football program, you could tell it’s a big family. We’re all in this together during these difficult times. It’s great to see everyone come together.”
What the players said:
Dylan Long, quarterback: “It’s pretty cool to get everyone together again, safely of course. Being able to see everyone and it feels like the season just ended. You get that feeling that football is right around the corner and that’s a real good feeling to have. It’s good that it brings a little bit of happiness to everyone. Some people might be dealing with this a little harder than others. It’s good to get everyone together. Wait to our senior year and get ready to go and get out to practice.”
Derek Cruz, wide receiver: “We have a big group chat going on, so we keep each other updated between all of us and we’re planning on a season coming up. Hopefully, when we get a season, we’re going to tear it up. It was cool to see all of the coaches and it warms our hearts to see all of them. We’re just one big family out here. It goes beyond football to us. They (coaches) are like another father to us.”
Jake George, wide receiver: “I didn’t expect to see that many people. It was really motivating. It’s a very tough time right now. The reaction of the coaches was great to see. We are ready and they are ready to get started.”
Touchdown Club board members:
Kim Cruz, Secretary: “This was very emotional, especially being a coaches wife. They are family. This is a tough time and they (players) should be preparing for the spring game. As soon as I heard the siren, I got goose bumps. They (coaches) needed that.”
Patty Michel, Treasurer: “That’s how La Serna rolls! The La Serna family will always come out and we are very family-oriented. The coaches mean so much to these kids. We felt these coaches needed this. It was also for the parents and all of the seniors.”