Dylan Leach spent part of Friday, his first day as Vintage High School’s new head football coach, walking around campus with Crushers’ Athletic Director Cam Neal. They toured some of the facilities, including the weight room, coaches’ offices and gym area.
“This is a community born-and-raised individual that knows how it works in this town, who has a very, very clear sense of the pulse of this town. And he loves Vintage,” Neal said. “He has loved Vintage for a long time. And he wants to see our school, No. 1, first and foremost, do really, really well.”
Leach has been an assistant at cross-town rival Napa for the last six years, helping the Indians to a 50-19 overall record over that period with appearances in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs each season and Monticello Empire League championships in 2014 and 2015. But he knows Vintage – the football program, the school’s history in the sport, many of the star players who have worn the burgundy and gold, the excitement, pride and joy that a school can gain from a winning team.
“I’ve been following the Vintage High program my whole life and have been a part of it in many ways,” said Leach, 42. “Even when I was down the street (at Napa), I was very close to the program, probably closer than people think that I was.
“I expect to work hard every day, to be better than who I was yesterday. And I’m going to instill that into my staff and to these players. If I can keep that same philosophy and attitude that I’ve always had, and the passion that I’ll bring, and then obviously the knowledge of X’s and O’s … I do plan on having a very competitive and very successful program here at Vintage High School.”
Leach was All-Monticello Empire League, All-Napa County, most inspirational player, team MVP and captain in 1991 for Vintage as an outside linebacker-tight end. At Vintage, he played for coach Dave Shipp and defensive coordinator Bill Nunes.
Leach went on to play for two years at Solano Community College at inside linebacker, was a team captain and earned All-Bay Valley Conference honors.
He got his start in coaching at a very early age, joining coach Les Franco’s staff at Vintage in 2000 and spending three years as the JV team’s defensive coordinator. He was on the varsity staff from 2003-2009, the first two years as special team’s coordinator and secondary coach and the last five as defensive coordinator. He was also the strength and conditioning coordinator. He was on Billy Smith’s staff during that time as well.
The announcement of Leach’s hiring was made by Mike Pearson, Vintage’s principal. It was approved by the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Education at its meeting Thursday.
Leach graduated from Pacific Union College with a degree in business administration. Pearson is hopeful of having a full-time teaching position available for Leach.
“I think he has a very clear picture of what it takes to be the head football coach, and that was articulated very well in his interview, and was one of the significant points that I took home that night when I thought, this is the person for Vintage High School,” said Pearson.
Leach replaces Kyle Hofmann, who resigned March 30 after three years as head coach. Under Hofmann, the Crushers were 16-15 overall with one playoff appearance.
The coaching position was advertised on edjoin.org.
“We are incredibly excited to have Coach Leach back at Vintage High School,” said Pearson. “We look forward to fall football starting in August.”
There were a number of applicants and some good candidates, said Pearson. The interview committee consisted of school administrators, teachers and others.
Leach was on Napa’s staff, working in one of the top programs, led by head coach Troy Mott, in Northern California. Leach was defensive coordinator for three of those years and offensive coordinator for two of those years. He was involved on both sides of the ball last year as Napa (11-1 overall) advanced to the playoffs and was ranked in state and Northern California polls.
“I can’t say enough about my time there,” said Leach. “I gave those guys my all and they know that. Just working with those guys and seeing the effort they put in is only going to make me a better coach and a better person for the opportunity I have now.
“I really enjoyed my time there and can’t say enough about those guys and what they bring to the table and how hard they work.”
Ninth head coach in Vintage football history
Leach becomes the ninth head coach in Vintage football history.
Coach Burl Autry was the founder of Vintage’s program starting in 1972 and compiled an impressive 110-48-2 record with eight MEL titles in 14 years while leading the Crushers to a perfect 13-0 record and their first CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship in 1980.
Vintage has won two section large-school titles, the other coming in 1986 under Mike Koontz. The Crushers have also been a section runner-up twice (1977, 1983), and in 14 overall postseason appearances, are 14-12 all-time.
But the Crushers have not won a playoff game since 1986, and since 1987 are 0-8 in the playoffs. Their last playoff appearance was in 2014, a 69-7 loss to Elk Grove.
Pearson is looking for Leach to serve as a role model and a mentor for the players.
“I want him to be able to instill upon them values like integrity and honesty and commitment and dedication,” said Pearson. “And I want them to be able to walk away from the program feeling like they’re a better person after being coached and playing underneath his leadership.”
Neal is very confident in everything that Leach brings to his first head coaching position.
“It’s obvious that he’s more than ready for this position and his ownership over what it takes to run a program was apparent within the first few minutes of us just talking football,” Neal explained. “I think the coaching staff will find it very easy to rally behind him in his leadership because there’s just such sound advice and mentorship coming from him.
“I believe that our school is ready for a coach like him. I think that we have kids that are eager to be coached and prepared and really just given the best opportunity to compete on Friday nights.”
Leach plans to have a meeting for all players Tuesday at lunchtime. He will have the Crushers playing in a 7-on-7 passing league on Tuesday nights over the summer against other local schools.
Vintage will face Bethel, American Canyon, Davis, Woodcreek-Roseville and Vanden during its nonleague season.
Familiar with Vintage program
Leach has been very familiar with the Vintage program over the years, from having prepared for and coached against the Crushers.
He said being a head coach has been a dream of his for a very long time.
“Having the opportunity to play here at Vintage High School and then come back to coach and then having the opportunity to come back as the head coach, I couldn’t be more proud, and I couldn’t be more ready for the situation at hand,” he said.
Leach will be very busy putting together a staff, implementing systems, developing a strength and conditioning program, overseeing a spring program, and working hard to prepare the Crushers for the 2016 season.
“I can’t say enough about the opportunity to be able to work with Cam and Mike on a regular basis and work with the community,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the community they have here, the spirit they have here, the support that we have had here.”
Franco led the Vintage program for seven years, compiling a 38-33-1 record. They won two MEL titles (2002, 2005) and made two appearances in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Leach has been around football most of his life. His dad, Bill Leach, was an assistant at both Napa and Vintage. Dylan saw the Crushers win the 1980 SJS title at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento.
He was also a ball boy for the 1986 SJS title team.
“Memorial Stadium is sacred ground to me,” he said. “I grew up there, played a lot of games, coached a lot of games. I can’t wait to continue that tradition.
“We need to make sure that we put in the work necessary to get to where we want to be.”
Leach and his wife, Stacie, have two children; a daughter, Emerson, 8; and a son, Brix, 4.