Calistoga High School is looking to fill several varsity coaching positions after a number of coaches recently stepped down.

Among the openings are the head coaching jobs for basketball and soccer, sports that have experienced great success the past several seasons.

Varsity basketball head coach Cesar Cruz stepped down last week because he wanted to spend more time with his family, he said, which he found difficult while leading both the boys and girls programs this season with Ray Particelli.

Boys soccer head coach Danny Almanza also stepped down recently because he moved to the Bay Area.

Girls soccer head coach Dan Blankenship will also not be returning next season.

Calistoga is also looking for a varsity football assistant coach, a junior high soccer coach and a sideline cheer coach.

All available positions are posted on edjoin.org and will be listed until the positions are filled.

Cruz stepping away

for personal reasons

Cruz, who also goes by the nickname “Shorty,” came to Calistoga in 2014 to head the girls basketball program. He took over as head coach of both the boys and girls teams at the start of the 2016-17 season.

He told the Calistoga administration he was stepping down last week.

“It just became overwhelming for me, coaching two teams,” Cruz said by phone Tuesday. “I got four kids and I want to spend time with my family. That’s what it comes down to.”

Cruz and Particelli have discussed a contingency plan. Particelli will remain as the head girls basketball coach next season but the boys position is now open.

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Under Cruz, the Wildcats experienced historic success. The girls team went 15-12 this season and 4-4 in the North Central League IV and qualified for the Div. 6 NorCal playoffs for the first time in program history.

The boys went 11-15 overall and 4-5 in league, qualifying for the Div. 6 North Coast Section playoffs for the first time in 12 years. The 11 wins were also the most the boys program had tallied since the 2012-13 season.

“I want to thank athletic directors Eric Heitz and Louise Owens for all the support, all the teachers, Principal (Craig) Wycoff for believing me, (former principal) David Kumamoto, (former boys basketball coach) Jack McMahon – if it wasn’t for Jack, I wouldn’t be coaching,” Cruz said. “Just wanted to thank everyone who supported me and believed in me, believed in my antics and my passion.”

The girls season came to an end in the first round of the NorCal playoffs, and the boys were knocked out in the first round of the NCS playoffs, but just hitting those benchmarks were positive steps for both programs.

The season prior, the girls team won 19 games and finished second in the North Central League III with an 11-3 record.

Almanza moves on

Almanza had nothing but success during his time with the Calistoga boys soccer program.

Almanza joined the team as an assistant in 2015, his first coaching job, and then took over as head coach the following season.

As head coach, Almanza compiled a 44-10-6 record in his three years at the helm and qualified for the NCS playoffs each season. The Wildcats finished second in the NCL II his first two seasons before they claimed the league title this past fall.

“I am really thankful for the opportunity that Calistoga High School gave me to start my coaching career at such a young age,” Almanza said in an email on Tuesday. “There are a couple of people that I would like to thank. I want to thank former head coach Carlos Garcia Jr. for giving me the opportunity to be his assistant coach during the 2015 season. That experience helped create a paid assistant coach position that had not existed before for this program. I also want to thank Enrique Ponce for being my assistant coach for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 seasons. I am thankful for all of the athletics staff at CJSHS and the teachers for being so supportive of the program throughout the years.

“Lastly, I just want to say that it was really special to get to coach and develop outstanding student-athletes during four years.

The Wildcats finished this season 15-3-2 overall and 11-1-2 in league, but fell in the first round of the NCS playoffs to College Prep, 2-1 in overtime.

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Sports Reporter

Gus Morris covers St. Helena and Calistoga sports for the Napa Valley Register. Before joining the Register in 2018, he covered collegiate sports for the student publication at the University of Oregon.