Season in seclusion, part 1: East High football coach Brandon Matich tries to bind diverse team together
His heritage is steeped with blue-collar workers. Matich’s great-grandfather relocated from what was then Yugoslavia and extracted coal within the mines of Price. Each day he climbed into darkened, rickety elevators descending underground until he collected enough money to transport his wife into the states. Matich's grandfather continued the family profession at a young age.
Growing up in the suburbs of Sandy, Matich terrorized the neighborhood with a motorized dirt bike while his parents, Mike and Torri, provided a comfortable childhood. “I knew that everybody had to work,” he said referencing how his mother maneuvered multiple jobs to be with her children. “My dad never relied on anybody to do anything. Whether it was fixing a fence or laying sod, he did it himself. I would witness him getting up every morning at the crack of dawn and working.”
A self-described "average athlete," Matich utilized his lunch pail upbringing to earn a roster spot at Dixie State subsequent to his days at Brighton High. “I had a drive; I didn’t want to be denied,” he said. “I think I still have that drive today in whatever I do. I don’t want to be outworked.” Success presented opportunity at the University of Utah, but an injured hand quickly ended his career before it started. He began studying mass communication with a dream in broadcast journalism, while his grandfather, Grant Martin, cajoled him toward coaching and education.
“This is what I’m supposed to do. He saw that before I did. He didn’t do that with his other grandkids,” Matich said of Martin, who died of heart failure in 2006. “He has five grandsons and I was the one he really pushed to go this route. He could see something. I just didn’t believe it at first.”
Martin’s instincts weren’t mindless opinions. He coached East to 140 victories, the most in school history, and three state championships from 1956-77. “He was the guy who taught me how to catch, how to throw,” Matich said. “He spent countless hours in his yard just throwing me passes and teaching me football. I wish he could be here now. I wish he could see me coaching here.”
Neither ever envisioned that one day he’d lead the program embedded in their family tree. Matich’s passion began to matriculate while coaching linebackers at Skyline High. He simultaneously focused on earning a teaching license at Prescott College in Arizona and his master’s degree at Utah, while his wife, Andrea, pursued medical school.
“My wife is amazing,” Matich said. “She’s our team doctor (and) a sports medicine doctor at Jordan Valley (Medical Center).”
The couple’s first date was the night before Brighton's annual high school Valentine’s Day dance. “That was our first kiss because she was going with somebody else, and I wanted to make my mark, so to speak,” Matich quipped. “She was a really smart girl — the prom queen — and I was like a bad rash. I wouldn’t go away.”
His persistence eventually paid off, and the two married. Andrea had deferred an earlier acceptance to the University of Chicago’s medical program in anticipation of the wedding and missed the deadline. The ensuing uncertainity on reapplying paved way for Matich to accept West Jordan’s defensive coordinator position in 1999.
As he settled into the role, life presented other plans: Andrea received another medical school offer in Missouri. “She got accepted right during two-a-days and wanted to go,” Matich said. “So, we packed up and I drove her out. Then I flew back and coached while she was starting in St. Louis.”
Married and 1,300 miles apart, Matich relinquished his position and trekked to the Midwest in search of employment. “I went to every coaching clinic I could at any high school I heard about. I think it totaled like 95 schools that I visited.” Eventually he landed at Francis Howell Central High, a newly constructed 6A school, before he accepted his first offensive coordinator title at Wentzville Holt High the following season.