Porterville takes little time landing new football coach

Keith Thompson named as Porterville High School’s new head football coach

PORTERVILLE – Despite football practices and games being pushed back to winter, Porterville High School took little time deciding who will lead their football program.

On July 21, Keith Thompson was chosen to fill Porterville High School’s open head coach position which was left available after former head coach Michael Machado took his talents to Mission Oak. This is Thompson’s first season as a head coach, and may be the school’s first Black coach to take on the job.

He now has the opportunity to live out his ultimate goal which is to serve as a positive role-model for his two sons as well as his players.

“Being a head coach in general is a huge responsibility. With being the first Black head coach, I’m going to carry myself in a way that my family can be proud of,” Thompson said. “That’s just how I am as a person. My job is to raise good young men so they can go out and be productive members of our community.”

Machado encouraged the new head coach to apply for the opening, after working closely together for the last three seasons. Thompson was the team’s defensive-backs coach in 2017. In 2018 the team decided to shake things up during the middle of the season, and thrust Thompson into the role of defensive coordinator.

“I was thrown into the fire by Machado during a bye week, then we played against Hanford and had a good game defensively. Being able to adapt to different situations is one of my best qualities,” Thompson said.

He spent the last two seasons in charge of the Panther defense, and the team finished with a combined record of 16-8. They were also one four-point loss away from a trip to last year’s valley championship game. Spending the last three years with the kids served as a major inspiration for Thompson’s desire to become the team’s head coach.

“The work ethic of these kids is rare, something that I had only seen when I got to college level,” he said.

Thompson has lived in Porterville for about 20 years. He played football at Monache High School before playing at Bakersfield College. Although he came into college as a running back, he learned how to play cornerback and received a scholarship to play at the University of Montana. At Montana he was not only known for his coverage skills, but he could also deliver a breathtaking blow to any ball-carrier. He finished his career with 45 tackles and 8 pass breakups.

Football is in Thompson’s bloodline. His brother James Sanders spent eight seasons as a safety in the National Football League. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, and went on to play five seasons with the team. During the 2007 season he started 15 games, including Super Bowl XLII, when the Patriots finished with a 19-1 record.

Thompson has now been coaching football for about 10 years. Before joining Machado at Porterville, Thompson was the defensive-backs coach at Monache from 2010 to 2017. He’s now ready to take over the entire Panther program and keep the positive momentum going.

“We won’t have to change a lot, just being more detailed oriented, focusing on mental mistakes and committing less penalties,” he said.

Thompson will be leaving behind his role as a seventh-grade teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School. He will now serve as an English teacher at Porterville High School in addition to his role as head coach. With the California Interscholastic Federation’s recent announcement that high school football won’t begin until late December, Thompson will be putting his adaptability skills to good use.

“I’ve gotten lucky because the administrators have allowed me to take the lead role with the team. Players have been hearing from me and were preparing as if the season will start on time,” Thompson said. “When we got the news that the season will be pushed back, we were looking at it as a positive thing. We have a young team so we have more time to install the offense and defense.”

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