Q&A: K-D football coach Chris Grube
Kennard-Dale is not a school with a rich football history in football.
The Rams have had only a few bright seasons over the past three decades or so years. That short list includes the last winning year back in 2009, when the Rams made the District 3 playoffs, finishing with a 6-5 record.
Since winning five games the following season in 2010, the Rams have not eclipsed the two-win mark.
Turning things around won’t be easy. Several coaches have pledged to do so since but have come up short. Chris Grube, however, is an optimist. Recently named the newest head coach of the football program, Grube believes that he can be the one to change the way everyone looks at K-D football.
He’s already off to a good start. Grube and fellow assistant coach Eric Updegrove replaced Patrick Weider at midseason in 2015, acting as co-head coaches. The Rams appeared to take to the change well, finishing the season with a 2-4 mark under that regime.
While two wins may not seem like a lot, Grube points out that they could have won three or even four of the final six contests. Getting the players to believe in themselves is perhaps the biggest undertaking the new coaching staff is facing.
We caught up with Grube, a 25-year-old graduate of Wilkes University where he was an offensive lineman, to chat about his plans for revitalizing the football program.
Q: How excited are you?
A: “I’m just really excited for the opportunity that is given to me. The kids are really excited and I got to speak to some of them last week. I can see their excitement. They saw at the end of last year where me and Eric (Updegrove) were able to be the co-interim coaches that ‘hey, maybe we can do something special down here.' So it was nice to see them sort of buy into that and I’m hoping that they will continue to do so this upcoming year.”
Q: What went right at the end of last year?
A: “The big thing was that we were able to continually run a Wing-T offense, but more of a run-first team instead of being more pass oriented. Now we did have some great wide receivers, like Kyle Wooldridge, but we also had one of the better backs in York County in Chase Carlile. We wanted to get him at least 30 touches a game and he was able to get his 1,000 yards at the end of the year against Millersburg. Me being an offensive line guy, I’m all about having big guys up front dominating the opponent across from them. But the kids really bought in to the fact that this is going to be our identity and we want to run the rock.”
Q: How can you build off that finish and the new stadium?
A: “The biggest thing is getting the community to buy into this as well. The new stadium is huge for us. We’re actually still in the process of finishing the press box and other facilities, like permanent bathrooms and concession stands. And I’m hoping during my tenure that we’ll see turf because that will be beneficial to not just the football program but all the other programs that can use it. The community itself, and I remember the atmosphere my first year here in 2014 and to see that and then our first game (at the new stadium) against Eastern was just unbelievable. We actually had a legit student section. It was crazy. And parents were going crazy too. Everyone is excited and, for the first time in the two years that I’ve been there, I actually saw life there. This can be something special and we just need to keep it rolling and, if we can, in the next couple of years maybe we can develop into one of the respected programs in the county.”
Q: The youth programs are key to having a sustained level of success. How is that going so far?
A: “I think the biggest thing is to have a continuity between our staff and the SEFA program, which is outstanding, and our junior high program and JV to varsity. I met with the junior high staff and in the next coming weeks I’m going to meet with the SEFA staff. We're all going down to Baltimore for a football clinic in early February so that will give us a chance to feel each other out and they can tell me what they need from me and I can tell them what I need from them. My biggest thing is that I want these kids to play all the way up through their senior year. That’s big for me. I don’t want kids to quit after middle school because they think that high school is going to be tough. I need the kids to be committed and to come to practice every day, but, most important, is to have fun. If you’re not having fun then you shouldn’t play football.”
Q: Here’s the big question: How will you be different than the previous head coaches?
A: “When it comes to football, it’s not just all about football to me. Me being a teacher and having the kids in school is really important. My relationship with the kids, and I’m not saying that football isn’t important, but these relationships are far more important. If I can help them play at the next level or help them get into a good college that will just build that relationship with them so that in 10 or 15 years I see them out and about and they call me. That’s what we’re trying to do. Our biggest thing is not just to win games but to also help them develop into fine young men. Another big thing is that I believe that character is important both on and off the field, with character meaning doing what is right when no one is looking. That’s what I’m really looking at.”
Q: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle to sustained success at Kennard-Dale right now?
A: “That’s a good one. I’ve had a lot of support for me, from my point as an assistant head coach and as a teacher and I can see that the administration is really buying into what I’m trying to sell and that’s a really good feeling. But one of the big obstacles is that I’m coming from a college program and I’m going to expect more than I’ve seen in my previous two years down there. I’m going to show them that if you work together and play together then you will win together. But the biggest thing is that you have to work hard. And there has to be some accountability with our student athletes. Sometimes they get a bit lackadaisical, but if they buy in, and that’s what my senior captains are going to have to do this year, then I won’t have to be the one calling a player out for something done in school or something that happened over the weekend. I want my captains to take care of that and the more often that happens, the more of a family atmosphere you’re going to create and that can help build a winning program.”
Q: What are the biggest areas of strength for the program heading into next year?
A: “I’m going to say is probably our offensive and defensive line. We’ll lose some amazing skill players and athletes, like Chase Carlile, Kyle Woolridge, Austin Jenkins, Jacob Deppen … some really good key skill positions. But I got some underclassman that can step up. I’m really looking forward to Nathan Fritz and Sean Ellis running the rock next year, they’re really tough runners and tough kids. Last year we really just showcased Chase, but these guys are going to be seniors. While they are not as strong as Chase, they are probably much quicker. So I’m curious to see if I can get them in some space what we can do with that.”
Q: Who else are you excited to see and what might be coming up from the feeder teams?
A: “The junior high team, I believe, only lost one game, which is really good. I’m excited for the eighth graders that will be coming up, which is basically the junior high program. I think we have close to 30 kids coming up and I’m excited about them. They have some really good talent down there that I saw from just going to a couple of games. If I can get them to buy into what I’m trying to do, in two-three years we might have something really going for us.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.