Former Bear now helping Vikings

October 13, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

There are many reasons for the success the Holtville High School football team has experienced this season.

New line coach Randy Plum is one of the biggest.

"You can't coach a team by yourself," said Viking head man Jim Sturgeon. "You need great people around you. He told us he wanted to be a part of our program and that's so satisfying."

Plum, a former professional football player for the Chicago Bears, landed in Holtville after a long and winding professional career.

He came to the Vikings directly from Yuma High School, where he was the Criminals line coach. That does not mean, however, that he came from Yuma.

Plum began his football career in Seattle. He played high school football there and later attended Portland State University, where he played guard for the Pilots' team from 1968-71. From PSU he went on to play for the Bears for two years.


Plum then began his coaching career. He spent two years in Ashland, Ore., as the offensive line coach/assistant offensive coordinator for Southern Oregon State College (now Southern Oregon University). Plum then decided to make a dramatic change in his life. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as a pilot for 24 years.

While in the corps he met his wife, who was from Yuma, leading him to eventually settle in the area. He retired three years ago and decided to return to coaching. He met Sturgeon and the Vikings during summer lifting meets and when he did it felt like he had returned home.

"I liked the size, the area, the people," said Plum. "Holtville felt like home. It was a good fit for me. I don't really like the big schools. You can do a lot more for the kids here. It gives me the opportunity to give back a little bit."

What Plum has given the Vikings has been a sense of stability in their line. He has instilled a sense of pride in the Holtville linemen and it is that attitude that has carried over into the Vikings' season.

"He's great," said junior guard Jarrett Hilfiker, 16. "He taught us the fundamentals and we've never had that before. He's made a big difference."

Said senior Fernando Cota, 17, "He's helped me a lot. He showed me the stances and how to block."

It's not just the players who appreciate the newest Viking coach. Sturgeon is more than happy to have the help as well.

"He's a blessing," Sturgeon said. "He knows what to do, all the techniques. He believes in the kids and they believe in him. I really enjoy working with him."

Plum arrived in Holtville this summer with a plan. He came to Holtville to help the Vikings build a top-notch football program and he came to Holtville to stay.

"This is a long-term deal," he said. "I don't have the urge to be a head coach. I've had my career. I'm very comfortable being a coach at a school this size. This fits. This is not a springboard. I'm going to stay here."

Plum, who teaches at Holtville Middle School, came in this summer and started coaching at the Vikings' Extra Point Camp. He helped with weight training while Sturgeon was on vacation and it was during this time that he got the chance to get to know the team and his fellow coaches.

"One of the key things here has been it's been a real good coaching fit," Plum said. "Jim is more of a head coaching type. I'm more of a nuts and bolts guy.

"I really like the other assistant coaches. All the coaches get along well and it makes things nice."

"Everybody fits in," concurred Sturgeon of his coaching staff. "We're having fun."

Plum has not only been a hit with his fellow coaches but with the players.

"He gives you a chance to give your opinion and to express yourself," said senior guard Israel Avila, 17. "He's made a change here at Holtville, a really big change."

"From what I saw last year there is a big difference this year," said senior tackle Iggy Villaseñor, 17. "Last year the linemen weren't as dedicated. Coach Plum has pushed us to a higher level. He's made us confident and we know we'll do well."

Having a coach specifically for the lines is a luxury for the Vikings. It is a luxury that most high school football teams don't have.

‘Having a line coach on the high school level is important," Plum said. "If you can get the players going in the right direction to the right man, that makes a big difference. If you do that, then every play has a chance for success.

"Most high school teams don't have the luxury of a line coach. They can make the biggest improvements the fastest."

"I'm not better or worse than anyone else. It's just that I'm a line coach."

Plum, who handles both the offensive and defensive lines for the Vikings, thinks with work Holtville's success this season will not be short-lived.

"Football is a combination of skill, coaching and luck," he said. "With the proper breaks we'll have a fine season. I think the talent is here. Once you start winning, you have a chance to win every time."

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