DONNA — After a 45-minute executive session on Tuesday night, the Donna ISD school board reconvened inside the board room at the DISD Staff Development Center with a final decision. Interim superintendent Filomena Leo recommended to the board that the district hire Joe Marichalar to be the next Donna North football coach. The board confirmed Leo’s recommendation.
Marichalar received confirmation from Leo by phone after the board meeting was over.
“When she (Leo) called, it finally felt real,” Marichalar said. “At the top of the list, I’m deeply honored, that’s for sure. For somebody to show interest in me is very gratifying. What Donna North is getting is a hungry and more determined individual.”
Marichalar comes to Donna North after five seasons as the head coach at Edcouch-Elsa, his alma mater. He went 37-21 over that span with an outright district championship in 2013 and four playoff appearances, including third-round playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016. Marichalar was reassigned following a 5-5 season in 2017.
Marichalar takes over for Matthew Rokovich, who retired at the end of the 2017 season after two years as Chiefs head coach.
“We had quite a few applicants this time around,” Donna ISD school board president Efren Ceniceros said. “There were 15 people who applied and four really outstanding applicants. This was an opportunity for us to get a coach with a proven pedigree. This guy has won for five seasons in a row, gone into the playoffs and had deep runs in the playoffs. He’s also been a coach of the year in 2015. That’s a pretty good deal we got there. Hopefully, he can provide us with the leadership and guidance to take the Chiefs to the next level.”
Donna ISD’s hire of Marichalar makes him the third different head coach since Donna North began playing varsity football in 2013. The Chiefs’ all-time record is 6-40.
“He knows how to win,” Ceniceros said. “If you get a coach who knows how to win, then he can teach the kids how to win. If you have coaches applying that don’t have that winning background, how can you prepare to win? I think he can.”
“When we (at E-E) played the other mid-Valley schools, we knew the type of kid is not much different from the other,” Marichalar said. “The only difference is some of these kids have traditions like the Donnas, the Mercedes and Weslacos. When I heard about the Donna North opening, it wasn’t too far from the vicinity that I’m used to. We’re going to go in there and try and develop a culture, because that’s where it all starts. Our core values will help us build something great from there.”
Donna North is transitioning into new territory as a young school. The latest enrollment figure of 2,231 students at the school places the Chiefs’ football program into the 6A classification for the first time.
“You’re obviously going to have numbers when you’re a 6A, so that definitely pops out,” Marichalar said. “I need to get a better grasp for what kind of numbers we’re dealing with. I’m going in there, and we’re going to create something unique here, regardless of what class or district we’re in. I love the game of football, and I love working with kids. I’m a servant leader, so I’m going to serve these kids, this community and this program to the best of my ability. I’m going to give them everything I have.”
“We played Edcouch a couple times when E-E was a 4A, Donna (High) was a 5A school, and it didn’t go Donna’s way,” Ceniceros said. “Sometimes, the guy that’s coaching at a smaller school gets a lot more done with less.
“Our population’s not very big. North is barely a 6A, but we’re growing up there on the north side. They need a good offseason, a couple assistant coaches that can help him there, and I think he can get the job done. If he can’t get it done, then who?”