First published in the Sept. 9 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Fellowship Hall at San Marino Community Church seemed an appropriate location for Ray Torres to address the local Rotary Club at its weekly luncheon meeting.
Torres infused his Sept. 2 presentation with the fire and brimstone typically reserved for enthusiastic ministers, or football coaches.
Torres is among the latter, and last week it was understandably difficult for the rookie head coach to contain his ardor, considering that a few days earlier San Marino High School had won its season opener.
“We go as hard as we can go,” said Torres, seemingly describing not only his team’s spirit but his speaking style. He was replying to a question from the audience during a presentation facilitated by Rotary President-elect Rob Feidler. “Conditioning is huge, in terms of football. We have just under 50 players on our team and it’s important that they stay in shape. We go as hard as we can when we can.”
“I take this seriously. We don’t have time to be tired. It showed in the Norwalk game.”
Torres was referencing San Marino’s 34-22 road win over Norwalk on Aug. 20, when multiple Titan offensive linemen said superior conditioning had been key to the win.
The Titans’ second game of the season, a road contest at Sun Valley Village Christian, was canceled due to a case of COVID-19 on the Crusaders’ team and subsequent contact tracing.
But San Marino continued its hot start this past Friday with a one-sided 48-6 victory at El Monte, where senior quarterback Niko Mavridis threw seven touchdown passes. Torres sounded as though he was predicting the future when he answered a question about Mavridis and other members of the roster.
“Niko is an exciting player to watch,” said Torres. “He can move around and has that unique ability to make things happen. Michael [Prappas, a wide receiver,] has also grown into a solid football player and I expect him to do great things.”
Torres also mentioned several of the Titans’ younger players, who made an impact on the program and community during the delayed, truncated football season that was held in March and April of this year.
“I really like the connection we have with this group, especially our sophomores,” said Torres.
“Ryan Park, Nick Escamilla, Coleman Morning,” Torres continued. “They are really easy to coach and are learning the game very fast. They had never played tackle football before and from game 1 to game 4 of the season, their improvement was amazing. They played Crescenta Valley, a team with more than twice the number of players we had, and we lost just 6-0. I am amazed at how much they are willing to sacrifice, and every one of them came back to play this season for their sophomore year.”
Torres mentioned a touchdown that had been scored at a freshman-sophomore game on Sept. 1 by Ian Park, a diminutive yet large-hearted sophomore.
“Most of our varsity players drove down to El Monte after practice to watch them play and they were very excited when Ian scored,” Torres explained. “This is one big team where the seniors and the freshmen all hang out together. They are awesome.”
Torres was hired in June to replace Justin Mesa, who left to join the staff at Washington State University after the Titans’ season ended on April 16. Torres came to San Marino in July 2020 to coach running backs and defensive backs on Mesa’s staff. As the season progressed, he had an increased influence on the overall offensive strategy and play calling.
Torres attended and later coached at Cathedral High School, leaving the Los Angeles campus in 2016 to become an assistant coach at Glendale Community College until he was hired at San Marino.
At Cathedral, Torres excelled as a player and coach. He played quarterback from 2004-07 for the legendary Kevin Pearson, and later played at Mount San Antonio College before Pearson invited him back to Cathedral as a coach. During his coaching career at Cathedral, the Phantoms made regular appearances in the CIF playoffs and sent multiple student-athletes to Division I football programs.
While at Cathedral, Torres primarily was a quarterback coach who helped players identify formations and adjust accordingly.
At Glendale, he continued to be a quarterback specialist while eventually adding offensive coordinator to his title. Teaching players at the college level allowed him to develop a deeper understanding of the college recruiting process, he once said.
Torres was asked about recruiting.
“I have had a couple coaches reach out to me,” he responded. “I am trying to create a culture where kids are getting a great education and can have a great football experience as well.”
Torres hopes the Titans have another great experience when they host Fillmore High School tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in SMHS’ home opener.
The audience also heard from Titan football booster President Cassie Morning, who mentioned that she is now a Titan, though she grew up in South Pasadena and attended South Pasadena High School. While encouraging Rotarians to support the football team, Morning — a three-sport athlete in her own right — mentioned that she learned the values of “hard work, diligence and overcoming adversity” from her experiences as a student-athlete.