The Asches are gone at Eastland-Pearl City. All-state lineman Peyton Asche is at Illinois State and his father Randy stepped down as head coach after last season, but the Wildcatz should be just fine this season with what they have returning.
Jared McNutt is now the head coach. He’s entering an ideal situation.
“With all these seniors, all the guys that we return on offense and defense I think I’m really stepping into a nice program that was already established, but I put my own spin on it, and the guys really responded,” says McNutt.
After three years coaching at Warren McNutt has big shoes to fill at EPC. Asche led the Wildcatz to a 2A State Championship in 2014. While Asche was keen on running the football, McNutt will look to open up the playbook and throw the football more. Running his offense is senior quarterback and three-year starter Braden Smargiassi.
“It’s a completely different style offensively honestly,” says Smargiassi. “We’re 50-50 pass now. While Coach Asche was more ground-and-pound run style.”
The Wildcatz are returning all three of their leading rushers from last season in twin brothers Jayden and Jarod Kempel and junior Braden Heeren. Six-three receiver Lucas Petersen and Smargiassi’s brother Brock lead a talented receiver group.
“We’ll be able to throw the ball and run the ball,” says Jarod Kempel. Other teams are really going to have to commit to one thing, but they really can’t because we have a lot of tools in our offense.”
A lot of those same names will try to do damage on defense as well.
“On that side of the ball everyone pretty much knows what they’re doing so you can trust each other, and you can focus on what you really need to do,” says Kempel.
E-PC is coming off a playoff season where it won five games, but the Wildcatz feel like for them five wins was underachieving. They think this season will be different.
“Yea, we’re hungry,” says Smargiassi. “Last year was kind of a let down for us dropping five games and everything like that. We expected to do a lot better, and this year we’re looking to do a lot better than last year.”