Former Empire football coach Jorge Mendivil is Amphitheater’s new coach. The district’s Governing Board approved his appointment Tuesday night.

Mendivil is the second coach for the Panthers over the last three seasons since Pima County Sports Hall of Fame coach Vern Friedli stepped down in 2012 after spending 36 years with the team.

“I’m just excited to get back in and take control of a historic program,” Mendivil said. “I’m really excited about taking over at Amphi — lots of history, lots of great players and a tremendous coach who I’ve looked up to for a long time.”

That same coach, the winner of a state-record 331 games, helped select Mendivil: Friedli was one of eight members of the interview panel made up of teachers, students and parents from Amphi, according to athletic director Armando Soto.

“For him to think I was the right guy for the position just means a lot to me,” said Mendivil, who, like Friedli, was also a head coach at San Manuel .

Mendivil spent last season as an assistant at Walden Grove but spent the previous eight years building Empire into a small-school power. In seven varsity seasons with the Ravens, Mendivil went 45-31 and had five straight trips to the state playoffs.

His ability to win at Empire, just down the street from another bigger power, is what caught Soto’s attention. Soto said the panel interviewed “a good number” of candidates before deciding on Mendivil.

“He was able to achieve success in the shadow of Cienega,” Soto said. “That’s what originally caught my attention.”

The Panthers, who went 5-5 last fall and haven’t been to the state playoffs since 2010, were left without a coach when Brandon Willard stepped down in December for family reasons after two seasons at Amphi. Mendivil was on the losing end when Amphi beat Walden Grove 27-17 at the midpoint of last season, but now he’s a part of the team that had 18 juniors a year ago.

“They’ve got some talented key returners coming back on both sides of the ball,” Mendivil said. “I’m just hoping to build on that season.”

Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or On Twitter @DanielGaona13