The Pioneer Valley football team is heading into the 2019 season with a new head coach.

John Beck has taken over for former veteran PV coach John Ruiz, who stepped down at the end of the 2018 season. The Panthers went 6-5 in 2018.

Nipomo edged Pioneer Valley 14-13 for the inaugural Ocean League title that year after both schools moved from the CIF Southern Section to the Central Section. The Panthers went out in the first round of the playoffs.

"We have, maybe, 45 guys out this year," Beck said.

"The enthusiasm and commitment has been excellent."

Pioneer Valley's new coach coached for several years in the Inland Empire before he came to Arroyo Grande. In 2010, he was an assistant at Corona Centennial, which has won 18 league titles and 10 CIF Southern Section championships.

"That school has an outstanding football program," Beck said. "We want to have the same objective, in similar fashion, here."

He coached at Redlands Arrowhead Christian from 2011-15. In 2013, he guided an Eagles program that had won one game in the last two years to a 7-4 record. In 2014, Nipomo edged Arrowhead Christian 22-19 at Nipomo for the Southern Section Northwest Division championship.

Beck said it has been a learning process for all concerned when it comes to the 2019 edition of Pioneer Valley football.

"We changed the offense completely," from the Panthers' traditional 'fly' to a spread, no-huddle attack, Beck said.

"We changed the defense too," to a 3-3-5 alignment.

Pioneer Valley's new coach said, "There's been a lot of progress for a group of kids AND a group of coaches that has had to learn a new offense."

At press time, Beck said, "It's still an open competition between two guys for the starting quarterback spot. Coach (Chris) Etheridge has been working with these guys, and they've both made a lot of progress."

The Panthers lost a lot of 2018 starters to graduation, but they have some solid core players, including defensive tackle Tony Escobedo, who will be a senior when school starts later this month, back.

Pioneer Valley will play in the inaugural PAC 4 League this season, joining Atascadero, San Luis Obispo and Nipomo. The Panthers will open Aug. 23 at Oxnard, then have a bye week, before hosting Righetti High, the 2018 CIF Central Section Division 2 runner-up, on Sept. 6 at home. The Panthers then host former Los Padres League rival Cabrillo, before taking on Paso Robles and Bakersfield Garces on the road. The Panthers host St. Joseph and open up league play with the Oct. 11 game at Nipomo. 

Photos: 4th annual Media Day at St. Joseph High School

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.