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The last time Mark Krail paced the sidelines at Los Gatos High School’s Helm Field was back in 2006 when he was the head football coach at San Jose’s Pioneer High School and his Mustangs were challenging the Wildcats in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
This fall, that scene will change dramatically.
Krail will now be walking the Los Gatos sidelines as the new head varsity football coach for the Wildcats, taking over for the legendary Butch Cattolico, who announced this retirement at the end of the 2012 season.
Cattolico leaves Los Gatos after 41 seasons on the varsity coaching staff, 26 as head coach. During his tenure as the top Cat, Gatos posted a 264-62-5 record, won 16 league championships and claimed 12 Central Coast Section titles. In every one of those 26 seasons he led the Cats into the CCS playoffs, 23 times getting as far as the semifinals and 17 times reaching the title game.
Those are big shoes to fill, and no one knows that better than Krail, who has nothing but respect for his predecessor.
“Obviously the bar is set very high and the expectations are high,” he said, praising the trail blazed by Cattolico. “Some people find similarities between our personalities, but there are differences, too.
“I just have to be myself,” he added.
Being himself has worked out pretty well for Krail over the years. In his 15 years as a head football coach at Pioneer and Santa Clara High, he boasts a solid 109-58-2 record (a .653 winning percentage). Krail has led teams to four league championships and into the CCS playoffs 12 times, including one appearance in the finals and seven trips to the semifinals.
“You’re not going to find a better man for the job, in the way he handles himself and his players,” said Saratoga football coach Tim Lugo, who coached with Krail at Pioneer. “He’s played a large role in my life.”
As for Cattolico, Lugo added, “He’s been a total gentleman and professional in his interactions with me.”
And he’s been an incredibly successful football coach.
“The tradition he’s built has been phenomenal and it’s sad to see him go,” said Los Gatos athletic director Shelby Edwards of Cattolico. “We hope this is an opportunity to continue the legacy he’s built. We’re looking to continue the tradition that is Los Gatos football.”
Edwards believes that Krail can make that happen.
“He’s here to lead the Los Gatos football team,” said Edwards of Krail. “He’s experienced, he’s coached at the varsity level and he’s done a lot of good things at the varsity level. We’re looking at him as the one to carry on that tradition, and we think he can carry on the varsity program at a very high level.”
Krail understands the situation. “There’s a great responsibility that comes with this position,” said Krail, “and you don’t take that responsibility lightly; you embrace it.”
For Krail, though, the responsibility he’s taking on is not all about the X’s and O’s–he also expects his athletes to be “good citizens and good students.”
And he also wants football to be all-inclusive on the Los Gatos campus.
“I want to draw the staff members in, draw the band members in,” he said. “I want everyone to feel good about what the kids are doing on the field and how they integrate on campus. A lot goes into a football team.”
He should know. He’s been around the game–and athletics–for most of his life.
Krail was a three-sport star at Willow Glen High School, where he started at quarterback on the football team and also played basketball and baseball. The 1981 Ram grad went on to attend UCLA, where he played two years on the baseball team for the Bruins.
Following his graduation in 1985, he returned to Willow Glen as a teacher, head frosh-soph baseball coach and assistant varsity football coach. After two years there, he moved over to Pioneer, where he took over as the head coach of both the varsity baseball and frosh-soph football teams.
By 1994 he had moved up tt the varsity football level to serve as the defensive coordinator on Myron Zaccheo’s staff at Pioneer. In 1996 he took the position as athletic director at Lincoln High School in San Jose, where he was also the head varsity baseball coach and a varsity football assistant.
“It was a good experience, spending all of those years on the defensive side,” said Krail of his time on the Pioneer and Lincoln staffs. “All coaches should coach on both sides of the ball.”
Krail returned to Pioneer as the head varsity football coach in the fall of 1998, and remained there for 12 seasons before taking the head job at Santa Clara High in 2010. And he expected to remain there for a while, but then he heard about the job opening at Los Gatos.
“It was a surprise,” Krail said, recalling his thoughts upon hearing the announcement of Cattolico’s retirement and that the position was opening up. “I think most of the coaches in the Central Coast would look at that job as a great job. I wasn’t really job hunting, but I was intrigued by it.”
“I’m excited and I feel rejuvenated,” added Krail. “Not that Santa Clara wasn’t a challenge, but this is a special challenge. This is a great school and a great community.”
The new coach is working to create a coaching staff that combines “a good mixture of holdovers from the previous staff and a mix of new, fresh coaches coming in.”
In the meantime, though, he’s getting to know the players, their parents and members of the community as he prepares to take on his new role.
“I feel good about where we’re headed,” he said.
Los Gatos should be, too.
Coach High School(s) Wins
Mike Janda Bellarmine 240
Earl Hansen Palo Alto 204
Mike Machado Saratoga, Valley Christian 159
Kevin Collins Lincoln 118
Mark Krail Pioneer, Santa Clara 109
Win totals for active head football coaches in the Santa Clara Valley