Montgomery High School may have found the perfect fit for head football coach.
Vertis Patton, in his first head coaching gig, is poised to deliver the Vikings their first winning season since 2013 as well as the first winning league season in as many years.
They could even win the title in the new North Bay League-Redwood Division.
More importantly, though, his young athletes are learning forethought, trust and leadership skills, he said.
An illustration of Patton’s values is a key decision he made this year, one not related to wins and losses. About three weeks ago, he stopped the team’s weightlifting program and replaced it with Homework Club.
“That’s what’s important to us as a program and to me,” Patton said. “We want to have a good season and we want to finish strong, but it’s more about the grades. We’re teaching them how to be responsible, to figure out what they have to do, to plan ahead. If they start doing that now, it will be better for them in life.”
The Vikings are 7-2 overall and 3-0 with one game left in league play — at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against El Molino.
If they win, a division title is assured with a 4-0 league record. El Molino (1-1) could finish no better than 2-2 if Montgomery comes out on top Friday, and second-place Santa Rosa has one loss — to the Vikings earlier in the season.
If the Vikings lose, it gets more complicated. Depending on next week’s results, the division could end up in a three-way tie with Montgomery, El Molino and Santa Rosa all 3-1.
In the NBL-Oak Division, the standings are a little clearer. First-place Cardinal Newman (3-0) is in a solid position, with games against Maria Carrillo (0-3) Friday and Analy (1-2) next week. Rancho Cotate (2-1) plays Analy Friday and Ukiah (2-1) next week. Ukiah visits Windsor (1-2) Friday.
While things could change, a league title is in the Cardinals’ hands if they win out.
“We control our own destiny,” Newman coach Paul Cronin said. “But we’ve never talked about a league title. … We hope to continue to play a lot more weeks and continue to play better every week. When the season’s over, the banners are fun to look at, but not until the season’s over.”
Despite Carrillo’s record, Cronin said the Pumas shouldn’t be underestimated.
Patton knows that. The Vikings’ tough nonleague game against Carrillo was pivotal.
Montgomery started out with an opening-night loss and was 3-2 after five games, but pulled out a gutsy 37-30 double-overtime win over Carrillo on Sept. 21.
In that game, the Pumas jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter and led 27-13 going into the fourth quarter. But the Vikings scored 14 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes to tie the game — and eventually pulled out a win in the second overtime period.
They haven’t lost since.
“The kids believed after that,” Patton said. “They believed they could win. They believed they could come back. They bought into the coaches after that, knowing they had a couple different staffs over last few years.