Note: East finished with a 1-8 record in 2009 and went 1-4 in Region 6. The Leopards did not qualify for the state playoffs.
The Leopards will have their fourth head coach in four seasons, with Brandon Matich coming in from Park City to take over the program. And Curtis must learn his third different offense in three seasons after Matich made the switch from a spread attack to the triple option.
Still, Curtis is excited about this latest round of changes because he believes it is the first step to putting East football back on the map.
"We want to win," Curtis said. "There's a better attitude out here. Everybody is here to play."
Infusing the program with some new energy was Matich's goal ever since he agreed to coach at the school where his grandfather coached before him.
He and his coaching staff coaxed players to recommit themselves in the offseason by hitting the weight room and spending more time in the classroom. Matich drilled into their heads the importance of putting forth extra effort in practices and did all he could to convince them they could be winners again.
"It's a fractured program," Matich said. "We've really had to try to mend some of these wounds."
If the medicine Matich has applied to the wounds proves effective, East has enough talent to sneak up on people this season.
The offensive line is strong and has plenty of size to keep defenses at bay. The backfield, with Liti Molisi leading the way, looks capable of racking up yards and points in bunches.
On defense, Matich has a handful of linemen who use their size to put pressure on many offenses they will face — led by Ofa Hautau, a defensive end he rates as one of the best players in the state. The secondary also seems to be capable of making big plays, with Carson Zuro anchoring that unit.
But the biggest gem for Matich has to be Curtis. He is a quarterback who, despite having played all last season in a spread offense, has picked up on option plays well enough to land a scholarship offer from Navy before the start of his senior season.
"He's picked up on option better than any quarterback I've ever had," Matich said. "That has a lot to do with his talent level, but also how smart he is. Navy obviously saw it in him, too."
Curtis is thrilled with the potential the triple option offers. He sees it designed to play to the strong suit of a thinking football player. The senior likes the organization behind it all and how one play can open up several possibilities.
"With one play setting up the next, it makes it very easy to prepare," Curtis said.
With Curtis and his teammates eagerly embracing the changes within the program, East has the makings of a team on the rise. Matich prefers not to offer predictions on how quickly the Leopards will be in the mix for a region or state title.
For him, success will be measured in how they do in the present instead of what could happen down the line.
"We're going to take this one step at a time," Matich said. "Our success is going to be based on week at a time, and that starts with Pine View (in the season-opener). These kids have just got to learn how to compete. If they learn to compete, they're going to be successful."
East Leopards at a glance:
Coach: Brandon Matich takes on the job of rebuilding the East program after spending six years at Park City. Matich, a Brighton High grad, coached the Miners to a 39-18 record during his time there.
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