February 23, 2024

In the 1980s, then-future Olympic 400-meter champion Quincy Watts was the fastest sprinter in the City Section at Taft. One of his 400-meter relay teammates was Monty Gilbreath, an All-City receiver who’d go on to star at San Diego State.

Gilbreath is now in his third season as football coach at Gardena High, the surprise team in the City Section with an 8-1 record. His players are skeptical he was one of the fastest back then.

“I try to tell the kids how fast I used to be, but they don’t believe it,” he said laughing.

What’s clear is that Gilbreath has changed the culture. Last week, Gardena handed Carson its first loss. Gardena plays Narbonne on Friday and could win the Marine League championship.

Gilbreath was coaching youth football when he decided to take over the Gardena program during the height of the pandemic. He had 17 players when he arrived in the fall of 2021. The team had to forfeit its final game that season because of a lack of players and finished 3-6. Then came a 5-5 season last year.

This season, the team’s defense has been outstanding, led by junior defensive end Xavier Grant, who forced two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown, in the win over Carson.

Gilbreath’s son, Chaz, is a top sophomore player at Mayfair.

Here’s a story from 1989 about Gilbreath and his San Diego State days, proving he was a big man on campus.

And he’s even bigger this season at Gardena.

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