Dustin Davis is back in the saddle.
The Panthers get a coach with a strong résumé.
Davis went 38-20 at St. Joseph from from 2012 to 2016, leading the Knights to the PAC 7 League title in his first season there, helping the small-school Knights win the area's top league.
Davis left St Joseph to coach at Arrowhead Christian and went 5-5 in his one season there. He then came to Lompoc High in 2018 and coached the defense there, building one of the top units on the Central Coast.
Beck went 1-9 in his first season at Pioneer Valley. The Panthers were solid in the pandemic-shortened spring season, going 3-1.
Davis coached St. Joseph to three straight CIF Southern Section quarterfinal appearances in his final three seasons there. He played football at Santa Ana Mater Dei under legendary coach Bruce Rollinson.
There is one challenge facing Davis: He has about a month to prepare for a season that kicks off Aug. 20.
"I absolutely wasn't expecting it," Davis said Thursday when asked if he thought he'd be a head coach for the 2021 season. "I got a phone call after FCA All-Star game."
Davis said Pioneer Valley principal Greg Dickinson informed him that there was an opening for the head coach position and Davis interviewed for the job and was selected.
"I sat down and met with Greg and (athletic director) Anthony Morales and the principal Shanda Herrera," Davis said. "It seemed like something worth looking into in spite of the challenges in taking something over at this time."
Davis lives in Santa Maria with his wife and children, another factor in his decision-making after he's been commuting to Lompoc for the past three years.
"It's much closer to home and the district is a great district to work for," Davis said. "The positives kind of out-weighed any potential negatives. Lompoc is a great district to be at and there are people there that I consider lifelong friends.
"It was definitely a decision that wasn't taken lightly. The guys at Lompoc were supportive and they understood. They were sorry to see me go."
Ricky Aguilar, a Lompoc grad and former Hancock College defensive coach, has worked with Davis on the Lompoc defense and will likely take over the Lompoc defense completely.
In an email, Morales said the district and school worked quickly to find a head coach after the sudden departure of Beck.
"Within a two-week window, SMJUHSD and PVHS hit the ground running full speed to attract as many top-quality candidates as possible," Morales sad. "In that short amount of time, SMJUHSD and PVHS were successful in finding the right leader for Pioneer Valley High School football. Dustin Davis is a well-respected football coach among the Central Coast and Santa Barbara County.
"He stood out among others and that is why he was chosen and selected to serve as our varsity head football coach."
Davis is now the fifth head coach in the history of the program. Dickinson was the first varsity coach in 2004. Dan Ellington then took over the program for several years before moving over the Santa Maria. John Ruiz coached the Panthers before Beck.
Davis will also serve as a full-time physical education teacher and assistant athletic director.
What's Davis' mindset as he has about four weeks to prepare for the opening game against San Luis Obispo at home on Friday, Aug. 20?
"The focus specifically is to start building relationships with the players and coaches," Davis said. "Obviously, the X's and O's are important and I'll be trying to marry the things they've been working on with the things I like to teach and coach."
Davis said he sees a lot of positives in the situation at Pioneer Valley. There are many on-campus coaches and the program has had the numbers to sustain all three levels of football.
"The players have been working out the entire summer and the coaches that are there have developed relationships with the kids. So, it's on me to dive in with them and make this thing work," he said.
As far as the defense at Lompoc, Davis said "there's not going to be any drop off. Ricky is obviously very experienced from his time at Hancock and with the defense at Lompoc."
At Pioneer Valley, Davis said "changing everything wholesale at this point would be a tall task. I'm focused on taking what they know now and build around that."
Pioneer Valley will have a dead period next week, meaning players can only lift weights and condition. The following week will be the acclimation period and by July 26 players can be in helmets for three days before practices eventually fully open in August.
"I'm definitely excited to be a head coach again," Davis said. "There are so many positives. Pioneer Valley is a newer school with beautiful facilities. The numbers are good. There's a lot to be excited about as I'm trying to jump right in at such a late time.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge and building a program that the supporters and the community can be proud of."