Head coach: Chad Grider
First season at East; fifth season overall (17-21-1)
Last season: 3-8 overall, 0-5 SYL
Playoffs: Lost in Central Section D-IV first round
History: League titles (10); Section titles (1)
Assistant coaches: James Cain, offensive coordinator; Jackson Phillips, defensive coordinator; Joe Garcia, offensive line; Gary Sherman, quarterbacks; Andre Smith, running backs; Johnnie Aldana, wide receivers; Eddie Murrow, defensive backs; Daniel Calvin, defensive line; Caleb Taylor, defensive line.
Aug. 17 - vs. Golden Valley
Aug. 24 - at West
Aug. 31 - vs. Delano
Sept. 7 - at Chavez
Sept. 14 - vs. Porterville-Monache
Sept. 21- BYE
Sept. 28 - at Mira Monte*
Oct. 5 - at South*
Oct. 12 - vs. North*
Oct. 19 - at Foothill*
Oct. 26 - vs. Highland*
Richard Lara, senior, QB - An experienced dual-threat signal caller who's passed for 2,048 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions during two seasons as the Blades varsity starter. Adept at quickly reading opposing defenses and making intelligent decisions with the ball.
Jason Beltran, Sr, WR - Fast, smart, and hard-working. Caught seven passes for 159 yards and a touchdown last year.
Julian Cuetto, Jr, OL/DL - Expected to be a two-way starter. Tough, aggressive lineman. Plays hard every snap.
Nate Martinez, Jr, RB - Fierce competitor who hates to lose. Tough runner. Good at pounding the ball inside. Will team with speedy senior backfield mate Brandon Austin.
The East High football team possesses many of the things needed to be successful — the Blades have players that are talented, hard-working, and coachable.
However, the one big thing East doesn’t have is experience. East returns just a handful of starters on offense and only one on defense from a squad that went 3-8 last season.
Despite the lack of experience, new East coach Chad Grider has a positive outlook.
“I’m excited,” Grider said. “Their learning process is cruising right along. They’re doing a good job of picking up the new offensive system. I’m very pleased with the numbers, with the hard work. I know we’re going to be mentally ready for the season.”
Despite so many new players on the roster, the Blades will have a third-year varsity veteran Richard Lara directing Grider’s offense at quarterback.
“He’s a smart kid,” Grider said. “He’s picked up this offense as good as anybody I’ve been around. He’s stepping into those leadership roles, as a senior now. We have high hopes and high expectations for that young man.”
Lara will be surrounded by a plethora of players with a great deal of potential but are unproven at the varsity level.
The Blades defensive unit will feature linemen Julian Cuetto and Noah Arvizu. Both are tough, physical players.
“It’s a young team so we have the challenge of trying to get these guys a to gel and mold together,” Grider said. “We need them buy in, to play for each other, and play as a team, and play as a family. We’re going to find out a lot in our first game because these kids haven’t had that varsity experience.”
What has changed?
The roster isn’t the only thing that has changed dramatically with East since last season. Grider is taking over as head coach after spending last season as the defensive coordinator at Frontier.
The Blades are also switching leagues this year, moving from the South Yosemite League to the Southeast Yosemite League.
Grider has experience as a high school head coach. Between lengthy stints as assistant at Bakersfield College, he oversaw West for four seasons (2008-11).
“I definitely think that prepared me to be a head coach at a school like East High,” Grider said. “The experience I had at West was great. It was an eye-opener. It taught me, and it instilled some of the things that we’re doing here at East. It definitely helped.”
Grider will transition the Blades to the SEYL, where they will compete against geographic rivals such as Highland, Foothill, and Mira Monte. East had a 2-17 record and never finished above fourth place in four seasons in the SYL.
“I think it’s a good move,” Grider said. “It’s a competitive league. It’s where we want to be right now. To me, it’s wide open. It’s exciting.”
For Grider, the focus of this season won’t be about trying to lead the Blades to their first league title since prior to the turn of the century or their first section title since 2004.
“The most important game is our first game,” Grider said. “That’s what we focus on. It’s day-by-day, game-by-game. We’re going to compete every game. We’re going to give it our best shot every game.”