By LOU PONSI     9/14/2023

Taking over as head coach of a nationally heralded high school football program where your predecessor held the post for 34 seasons, amassing a record of 341-87, winning eight CIF Southern Section championships and four state titles during his tenure could be viewed as a high-pressure, high-stress situation.

The new coach is expected to not only win, but to win at a high level and win right away.

Mater Dei’s first-year head coach Frank McManus is well aware of the Monarchs legacy and traditions along with the program’s values of pride, poise and courage.

If he was all alone at the helm, there would be pressure, McManus said.

But while McManus, who served as an assistant coach for 16 seasons, is in a position of leadership, he also views his role as one element of an overall collective, with many facets invested in the team’s success and enhancing the Mater Dei culture.

The culture represents a partnership that includes the Mater Dei administration, athletic department, assistant coaches, the student body, players’ families and the players themselves.

“It’s not a one-person job necessarily,” McManus said. “We’ve got a lot of different structures coming into place. In one end, I’ve been entrusted, but you’ve got to have a good support group underneath you to help manage and make things function. You have to rely on one another.”

McManus himself is a product of Mater Dei, having attended the Catholic high school as a freshman and sophomore. He returned to the campus some years later, this time as a parent when he had enrolled his oldest son Frank Jr., now 27, in a football camp at Mater Dei.

McManus, who was coaching youth football at the time, ran into a former teammate who was an assistant football coach for the Monarchs, and encouraged McManus to apply for a coaching position at Mater Dei.

At the time, Mater Dei fielded two freshmen teams and McManus landed a job coaching them both.

“I really enjoyed being on campus,” McManus said. “I liked the energy. I liked all the traditions. The student athletes that come to Mater Dei are serious about what they want to do and accomplish both academically and athletically and spiritually, so I think that was like something that kept drawing me back.”

McManus moved up the ranks quickly, from coaching the freshmen team to the junior varsity team and then becoming an assistant coach at the varsity level.

As is the tradition, every football team enters a new season embracing a new theme. For the 2023 season, that theme is “Red Vision – Rise as One,” which embodies the precept that “everyone’s engaged and everyone’s a stakeholder,” McManus said, with Mater Dei football being the vehicle to “kind of expand and promote Mater Dei High School and our Catholic faith.”

Mater Dei is off to the start that the majority of high school football pundits at local and national levels have predicted. The Monarchs are ranked No. 1 in the county, the state and the nation.

“Frank has a great mind for football, but also systems building,” said Khaled Holmes, Associate Head Football Coach and Special Assistant to the President. “He has jumped in headfirst and is giving his all to ensure continued success on and off the field for the Monarchs. He understands the scale and importance of this role as well as the opportunity to make an impact, and he is not taking it lightly.”

Over the years, opportunities have come to coach football at another school, but McManus opted to stay at Mater Dei.

“I really enjoy the Catholic experience, I enjoy the spiritual experience, I enjoy the academic period piece of it,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be the same, and I think there’s something to be said about staying somewhere and working through the process and kind of working up the ranks, so to speak. I just had a calling, I guess.”