Said Espinoza of his new assignment: "I feel good. I'm excited. I think of it as a big challenge.
"The core group that's out there, they've been working hard. The numbers are real low because a lot of the kids are disillusioned with football," he said, adding, "I think trying to get them to trust me, that's my goal."
Espinoza, a correctional officer at Calipatria State Prison, said his years of experience coaching both Pop Warner and high school sports will serve him well in dealing with young players.
"I still have a feel of how they are. I think I'm able to connect with them real well."
Still, Espinoza said he's not above putting the screws to his players. He demands they come in and work hard, and when they do something wrong he lets them know.
Coach already has begun to leak some trade secrets, revealing his team will run a wing-T offense.
Does he have the athletes he needs?
"Yeah," Espinoza said. "I think we do. They're trying to learn the system. But if they come in and work hard, I think they can do it."
He added the offense will be similar to that run by Southwest High in 1999 when he worked under then head coach Brian Hay.
A former center and defensive end for Dinuba High School in the Central Valley, Espinoza got his start coaching in 1990 directing Pop Warner football in Blythe. A year later he took the Wasco team to a national championship.
Espinoza's first high school position came in 1992 when he took control of the Borrego High Rams for two years. His first year the 12-man squad went 2-7.
"It was hard but I really had a lot of fun. It was a small group but they worked really hard," he said.
In 1994 Espinoza went back to the Central Valley, where he became freshman football defensive coordinator and later varsity defensive coordinator for Orosi High School, rivals of his Dinuba alma mater since the 1920s.
Espinoza came to the Imperial Valley to work at Calipatria State Prison in January 1996 and starting coaching Brawley Pop Warner in '97 before getting on with Southwest.
Even with such experience, Espinoza won't be hemmed into any statements of gridiron glory his first year with the Hornets.
"Right now I'm just building the foundation to hopefully be competitive. We're going to have a big group of seniors, and hopefully that will make it a little bit easier because they're experienced and older, and they'll be able to pick it up quicker," he said.
What Espinoza will lay claim to is the identity his team will have come fall:
"The kids are going to be ready to play. They're going to be disciplined and hard hitters. I always felt my guys have been aggressive and hard-nosed-type players. That will be our character."