The timing seemed perfect, even if it was just coincidental.
Two days after former Servite head football coach Troy Thomas resigned at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, the Friars lost their head coach when Scott Meyer also stepped down.
Servite had reached unprecedented success under Thomas, winning a state championship in 2009, CIF-SS titles in 2009 and 2010 and seven Trinity League crowns.
Would the Friars be interested in a second run with Thomas, who at 48 years of age is just hitting the prime of his career?
Would Thomas even be interested in coming back?
“We’re going to be looking for a head football coach who has a solid presence and fully embraces the Servite culture,” school president Peter Bowen told the OC Register. “Someone who will build Trinity League-competitive football teams without compromising our values.”
Thomas had tough shoes to fill when he took over at Servite in the spring of 2005, and he wasn’t even Servite’s first choice to take the job.
Larry Toner was the head football coach for the Friars from 1989 through 2004, leading them to two CIF-SS final appearances and numerous league titles. When he stepped down, the job opening drew much interested and it didn’t take long for the Friars to land one of the bigger names in Southern California high school football, John Barnes of Los Alamitos.
Barnes stepped to the microphone during the public introduction and, according to those in attendance, quoted former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the virtues of loyalty, stating that he had a hard-and-fast rule that if you quit, there’s no going back.
On the ride home from the press conference, Barnes changed his mind and decided to stay at Los Alamitos.
Thomas suddenly became the top candidate for the Friars. It would be easy to feel slighted after getting passed up the first time around, but Thomas didn’t hesitate when offered the job after Barnes backed out.
The first few years were a bit of a struggle for Thomas, as he inherited some very talented players, but wasn’t able to take the program to new heights.
He turned the corner in a hurry during the 2009 season, beating Mater Dei to end a 20-game losing streak against the Monarchs. Seven weeks later, Servite defeated Edison at Angel Stadium to win the Pac-5 title, the school’s first upper-division championship since 1983, and followed that with a win against Sacramento Rocklin in the Division II state bowl game.
The Friars would win another Pac-5 title in 2010 and would beat Mater Dei in three straight seasons overall before the run ended in 2012, when the Friars didn’t even qualify for the playoffs.
In May of 2013, Thomas resigned at Servite to take the head coaching position at Crespi, his alma mater and where he coached prior to coming to Servite.
The Friars hired A.J. Gass to replace Thomas and he had a combined record of 10-13 in two seasons before leaving to take the same job at Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield.
In came Meyer, who had won three section titles and one state championship at Corona del Mar, but was unable to lift the Friars back to the heights Thomas had reached, posting a 14-18 record in three seasons at the helm, including a 4-11 mark in the Trinity League.