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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pulu Poumele first head coach of Samoan descent in North County

SAN MARCOS -- Pulu Poumele, the defensive coordinator for Oceanside High's football team, has been named as head coach at San Marcos.

The 36-year-old Poumele, an assistant with the Pirates for the past seven years, replaces Desi Herrera, who was 2-28 in three seasons with the Knights.

"Obviously, I'm very excited," Poumele said.

Poumele, who was born in American Samoa, becomes the first head football coach of Samoan decent in North County.

"Being a head coach has been a goal," Poumele said. "I'm so happy and grateful for the opportunity to help turn the San Marcos program around. For me, though, it's so much more than that. As the first Samoan to be a head football coach in the North County, I want to serve as an example for all Samoans.

"I'm taking this personally. I want to show I can run a program. I think this is a vehicle to reach the Samoan youth. I want them to set goals, just like I did."

Poumele played for John Carroll at Oceanside and for four years at the University of Arizona. An offensive lineman, he was waived by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 before being placed on injured reserve with the Chargers in '97. He played with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts from 1998-99.

Poumele, who earned his college degree from Arizona and teaching credential, will teach special education at San Marcos.

"Obviously, Pulu has a lot of playing and coaching experience," said San Marcos athletic director Rick Ashby, who coached the Knights to a 7-5 record in 2004. "The biggest thing for us, though, was his experience in North County. He knows what it takes to win up here. He was an offensive lineman, but he coached the defense at Oceanside. So he knows both sides of the ball.

"We had some really good candidates for the job, but Pulu stood out."

Poumele inherits a program where the junior varsity finished 5-4 and the freshmen went 8-1. As many as six sophomores saw duty with the Knights' varsity last season.

Ashby said six of the program's current assistant coaches have expressed an interest in staying with the program. And, with the school's enrollment growing, there will be several openings for teachers and coaches.

"I'd like to keep some of the current coaches," Poumele said. "We have to have some continuity. But I'd also like to bring in some people I'm familiar with. I won't, however, raid the Oceanside staff. John Carroll and Oceanside High have been too good to me to do that. I don't want to hurt Oceanside."

Carroll said that with Oceanside's success, he expected to lose Poumele at some point.

"I don't know if anyone who has never been a head coach is truly ready to be a head coach," Carroll said. "But Pulu will handle things in a positive manner. I know this was a goal, so I'm proud of him. I'm disappointed we're losing a great coach, but when you have success, you have to anticipate good people will get a chance.

"San Marcos is now my second-favorite team -- next to Oceanside. And I hope they go 9-1 every year."

Oceanside joins San Marcos in the Valley League next season.

Poumele is the third Carroll assistant to get a head coaching job. Several years ago, Jim Gray moved to Escondido as the Cougars' coach, but had to step down after a year because of physical problems. And Dave Rodriguez took a head-coaching job in Arizona.

Poumele won't start as a full-time employee at San Marcos until the fall, but he will be on campus for spring practice and for summer work with the team.

"It's important for me to be on campus as much as I can," Poumele said. "Before I can put in an offense and defense, I need to learn the players and what they can.

"I can't wait to start the process. I can't wait to learn this group and start a winning tradition."

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