With 13 years’ experience as an assistant coach for the Kingsmen, Anthony Lugo is taking over as interim head coach.
By Gregg Mansfield
Cal Lutheran Athletic Director Daniel E. Kuntz, MA ’02, EdD ’11, knows he has big shoes to fill with the departure of longtime head football coach Ben McEnroe ’93, MA ’99, in May, but he is confident the program will not miss a beat with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Anthony Lugo taking over as interim coach.
“I have confidence in Coach Lugo and so does Coach McEnroe,” Kuntz said. “He’s one of these people who is an amazing leader and would give you the shirt off his back. He’s totally invested in the program. No question in my mind, I see success.”
Lugo has 13 years as an assistant coach for the Kingsmen under his belt.
“I started here as a grad assistant and all I wanted was just to be around the guys and I fell in love with this community,” Lugo said. “There’s nothing quite like it; that’s part of the reason why I’ve been here for so long.”
Only the fifth head coach in the program’s history, Lugo said he has learned some important lessons from McEnroe, who spent 14 years at the helm.
“It’s not just one man or one coach or coaching staff,” Lugo said. “It’s really about the traditions and values, and that’s something that we’re going to really push toward these guys.”
McEnroe resigned to take the head coaching position at Grace Community School in Tyler, Texas, returning to his high school football coaching roots. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Cal Lutheran in 1993, McEnroe was a high school football coach before returning to his alma mater in 2007.
McEnroe led the Kingsmen program to great success, winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference his inaugural season and four more SCIAC championships from 2009 to 2012. During that time, his teams compiled a 35-2 record and won 27 consecutive conference games. Those teams made four NCAA III playoff appearances. McEnroe has been a part of the coaching staff for every SCIAC championship in program history.
“Here’s a coach (McEnroe) who came in here and within a very short period of time had four years of undefeated seasons in football, went to the NCAAs and the program had never done that before, and then hosted the first ever NCAA game at Cal Lutheran. Ben also inspired many players and coaches to seek opportunities in the game beyond their time at Cal Lutheran,” Kuntz said. “That tells you that Ben’s leadership was key in developing a successful program.”
The program has produced numerous All-Americans and All-SCIAC selections. Current Toronto Argonauts wide receiver and Cal Lutheran Alumni Athletic Hall of Famer Eric Rogers ‘13 is one of seven McEnroe-coached Kingsmen to appear in NFL training camps or regional workouts.
“(McEnroe) has the special ability to balance the discipline that’s required in a sport like football with a deep caring for the students,” Kuntz said. “He could set expectations and have very straightforward conversations with students to help guide them in their life beyond football.”
Lugo looks forward to leading the young 2021 team, one that hasn’t played competitively in more than a year because of the pandemic. He’s counting on four-year starters linebacker Connor McDermott and defensive lineman Caleb Casimere to lead the team on the defensive side, while wide receivers James Holland, Jajuan Thomas and Cameron Jones and running back Jackson Taylor will lead the offense.
He will serve as the interim head coach for the 2021 season, and the university will conduct a nationwide search starting in September with a decision expected in March 2022. Lugo will be among the candidates, Kuntz said.
Gregg Mansfield is an editor for Poker Runs America and Center Console Life magazines. Based in Ventura, California, he previously wrote for the Ventura County Star, Hispanic Business and Powerboat magazine.