Since 1962, outgoing Escalon High football coach and athletic director Mark Loureiro has been "answering the school bell."
As he nears retirement, the Sac-Joaquin Section's all-time winningest football coach knows there aren't many bells left to be rung. Loureiro was reminded of that last week, as the school officially announced his successors as football coach and athletic director.
Loureiro will retire June 2, the last day of the school year.
"It scares me," he said of retirement. "I'm used to going 120 mph. It's going to be tough, especially with the personality I've got. The time was going to come anyway, whether it's a few months or 10 years. You have to find a way to adjust."
Junior varsity coach Andrew Beam has been promoted to varsity coach, taking ownership of a program for which he once starred. Beam played for Loureiro in 2004 and 2005, guiding the Cougars to a 21-4 overall record and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV titles in his senior season.
"He is a competitor," Loureiro said of Beam, who has coached the JV team for three years. "He's done a great job and he has the respect of the kids. He reminds me of myself at that age. He's got tons of energy. He's got things going on in the weight room and summer full of activities. He has a lot of energy and connects well with the kids. It's really a nice blend."
Over the last three years, Beam, who also played at Delta College, Bowling Green State University and the University of Findlay, has been given more more responsibility by Loureiro, who began hinting at retirement following the 2015 season.
"Those were little steps in helping me develop, so that's been nice," Beam said. "He's slowly given me more and more control of the program."
Nate Bartelink will oversee the athletic department. Bartelink has worked and coached on campus for 15 years, Loureiro said. His temperament and organizational skills made him a perfect selection as the school's next athletic director.
His long roots in the community help, too.
"He was born and bred in Escalon," Loureiro said of Bartelink, currently the coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team. "He has got a good feel for the culture of the school and the community."
With his successors in place, Loureiro said he's still coming to terms with a finish line that is fast-approaching. He's been on the job since 1986, serving as a coach in some capacity for the last three decades.
"I'll be honest, it's been a tough month for me," he said. "I've had a lot going on. It's been hard handing your life away, but it is time. It's time for me to get my priorities straight. Family has been second for a long, long time. Now it's time to put them first."
For years, Loureiro has been high school football's ultimate mastermind, a brilliant coach who could beat teams, big and small, with a run-heavy offense, a few bad hips, and the dogged determination of a farming community. He's become a respected ambassador of the game, traveling the country to teach and install the Wing-T offense, while serving on the section's football advisory committee.
Loureiro won 281 games over 29 varsity seasons, averaging nearly 10 wins per season, which is no easy feat at a small, public school. His program has raised eight section banners, third-most in section history. From 2000 to 2010, the Cougars won five of those titles.
In his final season, Escalon captured a share of a TVL title – Loureiro's 15th – and reached the semifinal round of the D-VI playoffs.
Remarkably, he's done all of that while juggling the duties of an athletic director and teacher.
"There's no doubt, at the start of every season, especially football, I'm a nut case," Loureiro said. "It takes about five or six weeks to settle in. Here I am in charge of other sports, making sure our coaches are certified, being in charge of a program with about 100 kids, and also teach. The first five or six weeks of the school year are a nightmare. I'm looking forward to having a peaceful August and September."
So how will Loureiro fill his time?
Fishing, hunting, and family. He has two grandchildren that will command most of his attention. Loureiro follows many of his longtime assistants into retirement, including Al Caton, Max Goldstein and Mike Backovich.
"Probably the one character flaw I have is I never take time to enjoy things or appreciate things," Loureiro said. "I'm always looking for the next task. That's why I think this is going to be a pretty sentimental spring for me. I've been answering school bells in Escalon since 1962. It's going to be a major adjustment for me. Some of my buddies that have retired say it's pretty nice out there on the other side, so we'll see."