You better believe it was a tough decision this past summer for former Canyon High football defensive coordinator Scott Blade to leave his beloved Cowboys for his first head coaching job – all the way across the country at Hillsboro High in Nashville, Tenn. But, oh, has it been worth it. Blade, 33, has never been happier, leading Hillsboro to a 10-0 regular-season record and a No. 2 ranking in its region this week heading into the first round of the Tennessee 4A playoffs, which is the state’s second-largest division. “I really like it here,” Blade said. “I like everything about it, even though Nashville is so different than L.A., especially the weather. I’d never felt humidity like here, which is much different than the dry heat at Canyon. At Canyon, you get a nice sun tan, but in Nashville the humidity just zaps the water right out of you. There have been a lot of changes for me and my family, but they’ve all been positive.” Amazingly, two years earlier Blade had wanted to remain close to home but was spurned by Golden Valley High’s administration when he asked for a job. The Grizzlies have since won two games in two seasons, including an 0-8 record this year. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECalifornia’s bungled $1 billion accounting system “I sent (Golden Valley Principal) Jacque Snyder a letter of inquiry asking about the application deadline, and let’s just say I didn’t get the warmest feeling back,” Blade said. “I wanted to be Golden Valley’s first coach, and I thought I should have been given consideration. I told them I already had a staff in place for Golden Valley, and had even designed uniforms and T-shirts. They decided I wasn’t what they were looking for.” Snyder said Monday that she could not recall Blade’s interests. So Blade, who played at Canyon and briefly coached at Glendale College and College of the Canyons before returning to his alma mater when head coach Harry Welch came out of retirement in 2001, searched far and wide for a program willing to provide an opportunity for someone who had proven himself as an underling but had no head-coaching experience. Frankly, Blade never expected a second look from Hillsboro, which had nearly 30 applicants – many with long track records of successes – who applied to be the new coach. Yet Principal Bob Lawson was willing to take a chance on him. “I was particularly impressed with Scott’s presence and his plan,” Lawson said. “I also had a long chat with Harry Welch, and he was very positive about what Scott had done as Canyon’s head assistant, and that Scott was ready to be a head coach.” When he got the job, Blade was in such a time crunch that he hired all of his assistants over the phone. Then Blade did what came naturally, which was to convert Hillsboro, which had averaged 12 victories over the preceding six seasons (including three consecutive section championship appearances from 2001-03,) into a mirror image of Canyon. Hillsboro had run a conservative wing-T offense and man-to-man defense, but Blade switched to a Canyon-style one-back spread offense and a zone defense. “It’s the same Canyon offense, defense and special teams,” Blade said. “We kind of turned everything upside-down from what the kids had done before, but they’ve really bought into it. It’s the same stuff you see at Canyon, but no one sees it out here.” It’s working, big time. Hillsboro is averaging nearly 35 points per game and has won by an average margin of more than 23 points. “Actually, a lot of the points we’ve given up have been at the end when the outcome already was decided,” Lawson said. “I think twice the other team scored on the last play.” Matt Arent had passed for more than 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Jacquese Seward has rushed for nearly 1,300 yards with 25 touchdowns. “We even totaled 400 yards in the rain last week,” Blade said. “I think the best thing about this team is they keep on wanting to get better every week.” Blade, his wife Shari, twin daughters Lauren and Alexis, 7, and daughter Brooke, 4, are loving every minute of it. “It’s been a big challenge but we’re really enjoying it,” he said. “Depending on who we play, we get at least a few thousand at every game, and the press coverage is pretty good, too. I’ve been interviewed on TV in the main news five times, and last Wednesday they had me in the studio. The principal and everyone else had made me feel like a million bucks, and they continue to do that every day. Football is king out here.” Reluctantly, Blade admits he sometimes feels a bit homesick, but he’s never been happier. “I still miss the Canyon kids and the community, and I miss working with Harry Welch,” he said. “But it’s OK because I keep up and still talk with Harry about twice a week.” Blade isn’t the only one with local football ties who’s made an out-of-state impact. Former Hart High receiver Taylor Embree, who moved to Kansas for his senior year, has emerged as quite a player for Blue Valley West High in Stilwell. Embree has 27 receptions for 354 yards and five touchdowns despite missing nearly three full games for Blue Valley West (5-4), which begins the playoffs this week. “Taylor is an outstanding player,” Blue Valley West coach Scott Wright said. “We knew he was great as a junior at Hart, and he’d probably have a lot more receptions for us if he didn’t miss those games and we didn’t have a great corps of receivers who also have a lot of catches.” Embree, who’s 6-foot-3, is being heavily recruited and might commit soon to Missouri or Kansas. Meanwhile, Hart (4-4) has had its struggles without Embree, who was the team’s only experienced returning receiver. “Embree is really doing that well out there? Oh, don’t tell me that,” Hart coach Mike Herrington said with a smile. The big football game this week is Canyon (5-2, 2-0) vs. Saugus (5-3, 2-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at College of the Canyons. Defending Div. II champion Canyon, idle last week, can clinch the Foothill League title, while Saugus can prove itself with its first victory this season over a .500 opponent. Like Blade, Saugus coach Jason Bornn, who’s in his fourth season, is a former Canyon assistant under Welch. Can the pupil teach a little something to the master? We shall see. “Canyon is by far the best football team we’ll face all year,” Bornn said. “They’re physical, and they do what they do extremely well.” Saugus has won three in a row but is a 22-point underdog, according to calpreps.com. “Twenty-two points? It should be more than that,” Bornn said. “Canyon almost beat Notre Dame (of Sherman Oaks), and Notre Dame drilled us. You have to look at the teams we’ve beat, but our goal remains the same: to win the Foothill League championship. It would be kind of cool to beat Canyon, huh?” Winter baseball competition begins next month, and it should prove interesting to see how Hart’s team shapes up because the Indians, who return several top pitchers, should be the league favorite over defending champion Valencia, which has graduated nearly every key starter after winning a school-record 25 games last season. In the meantime, Hart’s players have kept busy with various baseball activities. Donny Williams and Jenzen Torres are playing club ball, and Michael Montgomery and Danny Susdorf are playing for pro scout teams. In other Hart baseball news, former standout Tyler Fick, who enjoyed a solid season at Cuesta College last spring after turning his back on a Cal State Northridge scholarship, is recovering from arm surgery two months ago. He’s working hard in rehab and could be back for the season opener. Gerry Gittelson’s column appears in the Daily News three times a week. He can be reached at (661) 257-5218 or email@example.com. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!