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Tamalpais head football coach Matthew LemMon feels lucky to be here.
Hired as a young 26-year-old head coach to take over the Tamalpais program in 2017 for Jon Black, who guided the team to a successful 34-32 record in his six seasons, he thought things just kind of fell into place.
HIs family has been around the sport for generations. His grandfather played in the NFL, while his father played at Cal. Some of his grandfather’s good friends were coaches at Cal and Stanford.
As he applied and went through the process to a couple of places after being an assistant at Hercules, he was offered some jobs. But something about Tamalpais just felt right.
“I couldn’t tell you why I got so lucky, but it kind of just fell into place,” LemMon said.
Luck or not, LemMon has carried his opportunity into something bigger while continuing to build the Red Tailed Hawks program into what it is a little more than three years following his inception at the school.
When he was first hired, challenges certainly lied ahead. The roster size wasn’t large by any stretch of the imagination – LemMon said only enough players to fill both sides of the ball combined to make the roster for JV and varsity.
“When I got there there were probably 22 kids on the roster altogether with JV and varsity,” LemMon said. “And so it was a large scale like let’s get kids to play and let’s be competitive, and that first year I was 4-5 because we had a smoke out game, so we couldn’t play.”
Following that 4-5 campaign, the maturation progress became more and more evident under LemMon and his staff.
In 2018, Tamalpais compiled a 6-5 record and qualified for the playoffs before falling to fourth-seeded El Cerrito – an eventual semifinalist – in the first round of the North Coast Section Division III bracket.
The next year featured another improvement – a 7-4 overall record and a 5-2 record in league play, good enough for a third place finish. The four losses came to teams with a combined 33-14 record, including one NCS Division IV runner-up in Marin Catholic and a loss to Piner – an 11-2 team and NCS Division IV semifinalist – to open up the postseason.
“Coach Gillespie, who coaches our offensive line, he’s super proud,” LemMon said. “He played football at Tam. He always tells us we didn’t win that many games, or coach Morris, who’s been there for awhile, always tends to joke, ‘Oh, there will be tens of people in the stands.’ And so that was always a joke, and then the last couple years as we become more competitive and kids are more excited that they play rather than just, ‘Oh, I play football.’ They get excited that they play and they think of it as a great thing. We got more kids to show up.”
More players have shown up, and the stands are filling up in bunches over the past few seasons.
Last season, there were some games where Tamalpais could not fit any more people into the stands. And LemMon and Redwood’s head coach, Allen Talley, have brought their rivalry back, creating t-shirts and a trophy, which has drummed up even more excitement on top of all of the accomplishments and growth the team has undergone under LemMon and company.
More progress is on the horizon for the Red Tailed Hawks,, who have their eyes set on more.
“We want to get in that conversation when you talk about Marin football and Marin County Athletic League and we’re not just one and done football playoff guys maybe squeaking in or something like that,” LemMon said. “We want to be competitive year in, year out. And just make football a more exciting thing in Marin County.”
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