East Union High did not need to look far to find its new head football coach.
On Tuesday, Athletic Director J.J. Ramirez announced the hiring of Mike Kuhnlenz, a campus monitor at the school. He replaces Willie Herrera, who was dismissed two weeks ago after 10 years as the Lancers’ head coach and 15 total with the program.
“Coach Kuhnlenz brings a wealth of knowledge to our football program,” Ramirez stated in a press release. “He is a student of the game, his passion and enthusiasm for the game of football is contagious.”
The 2006 Manteca High graduate was most recently at Kimball of Tracy as head coach but was fired for unspecified reasons the day of the Jaguars’ 2021 spring opener against his alma mater. Manteca, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion, had some trouble in dispatching the Jags 44-38 on March 19 after blowing them out last year, 84-20.
Kimball went on to finish 3-2 in this pandemic-abbreviated spring campaign. The team has shown improvement in Kuhnlenz’s three-plus years, qualifying for the postseason for the first time in the program’s short history in 2019 while developing into one of the most prolific offenses in the region with second-year junior quarterback Nicholas Coronado.
The hope is for Kuhnlenz to help unlock the potential of East Union’s program, which expects to return several talented juniors and underclassmen such as quarterback Luke Weaver. The Lancers finished 2-2 in their final season under Herrera and had their final game cancelled because of health and safety protocols.
East Union last made the playoffs in 2016 and 17. Herrera was defensive coordinator in 2019 when the Lancers ended a 17-year postseason drought.
“I am excited for the opportunity,” Kuhnlenz stated. I am looking forward to the challenge of building a successful program.”
Kuhnlenz has been working at East Union for the past five years, even while coaching for a Valley Oak League rival. He was named a Manteca Unified School District Classified Employee of the Year for 2020-21.
Prior to Kimball, Kuhnlenz coached as an assistant at East Union, Weston Ranch and Modesto Junior College. He experienced team success as a player as a member of MJC’s 2008 Golden Gate Conference and Graffiti Bowl championship team. He was also part of the 2005 SJS Division IV title team his senior year at Manteca.