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CVHS coach accused of cocaine dealing
It was business as usual at Central Valley High School just after 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Varsity head football coach Tim Garcia Jr. relays a play to quarterback Trevor Mew during the Hawks' seven-on-seven passing scrimmage against Enochs High School. Moments later, receiver Rick Rogers hauls in a touchdown pass.

Three hours earlier, Garcia made his first public comments since a disturbing news report surfaced.

Armando Perez, a volunteer assistant football coach at Central Valley last fall, was arrested and charged on June 16 with distributing cocaine and conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.

A complaint issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of California in Sacramento implicated the 28-year-old and three other men following a lengthy investigation that started last summer. Perez allegedly supplied cocaine for four drug deals involving a federal undercover agent as stated in the 24-page affidavit.

"I had no idea it was happening," Tim said while sitting in a chair behind a desk in his office. "I'm just as shocked as everybody else."

Perez and Garcia were teammates at Modesto Junior College (2001). Armando, 1998 Downey High graduate, went on to play football at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He sold insurance for a living.

"People need to understand I wasn't best buddies with him," Tim said. "Our common interest was football. We didn't hang out during the weekends. From what I knew of the guy, he was solid. He was a heck of a player. He was knowledgeable. How do I have control over what a grown man does on his own time?"

Perez, who was hired by Ceres Unified School District after passing a background check, helped out at six of Central Valley's 10 games. He showed up to practice once a week. He dropped by the locker room just a handful of times.

"When he was here dealing with our kids under our supervision, there was never any misbehavior," Garcia said.

Sean McLeod, a senior all-Valley Oak League lineman on last year's team, said Perez carried himself well.

"I've talked with him before and he seems like a nice guy," McLeod stated. "He was like any other coach."

Drew Brown, a physical education teacher at Central Valley High School, coached Perez for two seasons at Modesto Junior College. The all-league inside linebacker served as defensive team captain. Garcia, a standout quarterback, filled the same role on offense.

"It's frustrating as a coach to see one of your players make a poor decision," Brown said. "I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years. It's very much a shock. He was a natural leader. He was an excellent player. If we needed a motivational speech, he'd be the first to get up there and say it."

When asked if Central Valley would be subjected to public criticism and ridicule for a matter which it had no control over, Ceres Unified Supt. Walt Hanline said: "Anyone who thinks this is a reflection of the program is totally mistaken. Coach Tim Garcia is a walking example of what we all want as a coach. He's one of the most ethical men of high character that I've been around. To demean him would be very unfair."

"I think the impact is going to be minimal because of the character of the head coach," said Fred Van Vleck, principal of Central Valley High School from 2005-2008. "Anybody that knows Timmy, knows that he's pure. The thing that he does well is build the trust factor with the students, parents and fans. I can't think of a coach that I would rather have had to start the program. He's done a fabulous job."

Garcia will be entering his fourth season as head coach in 2008-09. He's hoping to generate more positive memories. His walls in his office are covered with photos and news clippings detailing progress the Hawks have made under his direction.

When asked how his team would react if subjected to negative comments from outsiders during the upcoming season, Garcia responded: "It's just something we have to deal with and right out."