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Shelby Mack / The Californian

Wasco High School football coach Russel Prado

There's no question Wasco's Rusvel Prado deserves to be The Californian's Football Coach of the Year for what he did this season, leading the Tigers to a 13-0 record and the school's first Central Section championship since 1953.

But this award also can be considered an acknowledgement of Prado's entire career at Wasco, which just completed its sixth season.

When Prado took over in 2007, he inherited a team that was 3-7 the year before and had won just two South Sequoia League games in the previous four seasons. His plan? Get the kids in the weight room -- often -- implement a winning attitude and get a bit better every year.

"I knew it was going to take about four years for our kids in the weight room," he said. "We were really far behind there; we were getting pushed around, thrown around every game. But we expected to get better every year."

In Prado's first season, Wasco went 3-7 again. The next year, it was 5-6 with a first-round playoff loss. Then, in 2009, came a breakthrough: 8-3 and a co-SSL championship. 2010 brought another 8-3 year and 2011 another big step.

Wasco lost just once on its way to the Division IV section title game, which they lost to eventual state champion Fresno-Washington Union.

"We have a very simple philosophy," said Prado, who played for Jan Stuebbe at Centennial and said he gets much of his coaching philosophy from that experience. "Everything is based around the weight room and classroom. You've just got to put in hard work."

This year, Wasco completed the job, routing every opponent on its schedule until coming back to beat Bakersfield Christian 29-22 for the Division IV section title.

"It's extremely hard to go undefeated," Prado said. "Even the great teams can have a bad week and falter. But our kids were focused every single week."

-- Zach Ewing