Watsonville High announced that Manny Contreras was named the new football head coach for the upcoming 2024 season. (contributed)

Watsonville High announced Thursday that Manny Contreras was named the new football head coach for the upcoming 2024 season.

“I always had dreams of becoming a teacher and always had dreams of becoming a head coach of a program,” he said. “Things started falling and the universe was opening up.” 

Contreras, 39, will take over a Wildcatz program that finished with a 4-6 overall record and tied for third with a 3-3 record in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division–North play in 2023. 

He will replace Watsonville athletic director Marcus Northcutt, who became the interim head coach when Joe Gregorio suddenly stepped down after he was named the school’s principal last year. 

Contreras is currently a Chicano studies and social studies teacher at E.A. Hall Middle School, but he wouldn’t mind teaching at Watsonville in order to keep in touch with students on campus.

The first day of spring football is expected to be sometime in May.

“I’m excited, I can’t wait to meet [the players],” he said. “I can’t wait to talk to the coaches, as well.”

The former Stockton native played at Stagg High before making his way to Cabrillo College where he won the Shrine Bowl with the Seahawks in 2007.

Contreras was an assistant at Watsonville High under former head coach Tommy Sullivan in 2009 before jumping ship to Pajaro Valley High with Gregorio from 2012-15. He was also at Cabrillo as a lineman coach in 2015.  

In 2017, Contreras started the 831 Youth Sports League—a nonprofit flag football league before getting back into coaching by joining John Ausman’s staff at St. Francis High from 2019-23.

The first rule of the first practice for Contreras will be bringing the group together to tell them the meaning of the word love. 

“If you’re going to learn anything, we gotta be able to love each other,” he said. “That’s the first rule as far as what my plan of attack is going forward. We rock and roll with that, we’re going to be A-OK.”

Contreras said it’s the little things that make the big difference and he has a fresh set of ideas for the program including what they can do outside of the gridiron. 

One idea is exposing players to a higher level of play by taking trips to watch local community colleges and even up to San Jose State University.

As far as what he wants them to do on the field, Contreras loves to run the pistol formation with power run and outside zone concepts. His focus is to run the ball first and pump up the offensive line to pave the way for the skilled position players.

Contreras said he’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s as simple as going after it everyday and staying within what he knows best as a coach.

“Maybe the running backs and the quarterbacks after they score touchdowns, they’ll be able to buy the offensive line a cheeseburger, or two,” Contreras said.

But the main thing for Contreras is trying to sell these ideas to the players and build rapport with them before having them put on the helmet and pads.

Contreras believes once he does that then they’ll be able to win both on and off the field.

“I don’t have a doubt that we’re not going to lack anything,” he said. “First you gotta win the kids. They see that you’re running through walls for them then they’re going to run through walls for you.” 

Editor’s note: This story will be updated. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


  1. Congrats to you nephew 🎉 Such a inspiring story. Wishing you the best in everything you do. Much love & respect your Uncle Danny and Family. 💕

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  2. We’ve seen you in action playing the game we have seen you coach as well. We cannot wait to see you as Head Coach Manuel, we are very proud of All of you accomplishments❤️Congratulations

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