Montgomery High school football coaching staff takes shape

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Montgomery High School’s new football coach means business.

Tony Keefer, a celebrated quarterback at Cardinal Newman High School and two-time All-American at Santa Rosa Junior College, has put together an expert coaching staff to help lead the Vikings back to their former glory.

After being hired in January, Keefer began making calls to men he’d played for or coached with to entice them to get on board.

The results are impressive: a former NFL player, an ex-Pac-10 lineman and a handful of former head coaches in high school or junior college in both Marin County and Sonoma County. Several names will be familiar to those who’ve followed prep sports in the area.

“I surrounded myself with the guys I wanted, who I know are very capable and have done things the right way,” Keefer said.

This is Keefer’s third head coaching gig, after turning Tamalpais’ program around in 2007 and 2008 and leading the school to the playoffs for the first time since 1994. He had a one-year stint at Santa Rosa High in 2009 before taking time off with his young family.

Among the stellar football minds Keefer brought in are Keith Simons, who was the Santa Rosa JC head football coach for 17 seasons and more recently the offensive coordinator at Analy under Dan Bourdon, who stepped down this year after leading the Tigers to five consecutive Sonoma County League titles.

Simons coached Keefer when the latter was a year removed from Cardinal Newman and became the Bear Cubs’ starting quarterback.

Under Simons, Keefer set school records in single-season pass attempts (466), career completions (432), career pass attempts (806) and total offense (5,310 yards).

“He had a bunch of different options, being the best offensive mind around here,” Keefer said of his mentor. “When I played for him we had a really good relationship, so we definitely wanted to bring him on.

“We have a challenge ahead of us, but he’s on board running the offense.”

Next up was Trent Herzog, who served as Casa Grande’s head coach for eight years and as player and assistant coach at the Petaluma school for a decade and a half. Herzog was unexpectedly released from his contract with little explanation.

Herzog will be the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

“He values a lot of the same things I do,” Keefer said. “Kids need good coaches, good role models, and he’s one of them.”

Keefer said Herzog, who is a private strength and conditioning coach as well, will bring a wealth of knowledge to the staff.

“He’s like me in the way that you always want to learn more. He wants to learn from me and we can learn from him,” he said.

Brad Muster will bring high-level football skills to the Vikings program, which has seen only one winning season in eight years under former coaches Marcelo Bautista and Jason Franci. (In 2013, the team went 10-3 under interim coach Dean Haskins, who is also the school’s athletic director.)

Montgomery won section titles in 1996, 2000 and 2004, but has had only five winning seasons since.

In the past three years, the Vikings were 10-22 overall and 5-16 in the North Bay League — including finishing 0-7 last year.

Muster played for coach Jack Elway at Stanford in the 1980s and played for Mike Ditka on the Chicago Bears.

In that time, Muster set a Pac-10 record for receptions with 78 in 1985. He was an All-American in 1986 when he became the second Stanford player to ever surpass 1,000 yards rushing.

He was a first-round draft choice of the Bears in 1988 and played seven NFL seasons, including in 1990, when he rushed for 667 yards and caught 47 passes for Ditka’s NFC Central division title team.

Muster was SRJC’s running backs coach during Keefer’s tenure and still coaches golf there.

“He was definitely a go-to guy for me to talk to and be a very steady voice. An intelligent guy, a humble guy,” Keefer said. “He’s who I model my life after: you listen to people, you’re nice to people, you give your input where needed, do your thing, just be good to people. He’s a great man.”

Chris Augusto will be Keefer’s assistant head coach and will oversee the offensive and defensive lines.

Augusto has decades of coaching experience, including at College of Marin and San Marin and Tamalpais high schools. Keefer worked for Augusto — or Augusto for him — at all of those stops.

“He’s my main guy,” Keefer said. “I learned a lot from him. He’ll make a huge difference, especially with the offensive and defensive lines. He’s a really well-respected coach.”

Another line coach will be Brian Kilkenny, who played at Montgomery and Oregon State before coaching a couple of years for the Beavers.

“He’s going to help with technique,” Keefer said. “He knows the Montgomery culture and how to play offensive line. He’s not necessarily going to be involved in the scheme, but he will help teach how to be an offensive lineman.”

Montgomery alum Jordan Borowicz, who followed Keefer at the JC and led the Bear Cubs to an 11-0 record in 2003, quarterbacked the Vikings to the North Coast Section 3A Redwood Empire title in 2000.

“He’s been coaching with me forever,” Keefer said. “We’ve always had a good relationship. He’s been huge for me, especially starting with a new program. He relates really well to the kids.”

A number of other coaches either worked or played for Simons at the JC or Analy and a couple of Herzog’s assistants came over with him from Casa. Chris Carr, a linebackers coach, remains from Bautista’s team.

Simons is impressed with the experienced staff.

“The guys we’ve got on the offensive side of the ball are real quality coaches. They came on early in the process,” he said. “Tony was scrambling for coaches on the defensive side. To get a guy like Trent Herzog is really a big one.”

Keefer was hired in part to bring more Ws, but also to teach student-athletes to take care of business on and off the field.

“These guys are going to have to be accountable for what they do on campus, in the community, on the field,” Simons said. “There is a whole bunch of stuff that goes into having a successful program. It’s more than wins and losses.

“Tony has a really good handle on that. These kids are going to have a good experience.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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