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James steps down as EU coach
Seven years at helm, 28 years on football staff
East Union High head coach Mike James takes a bath after his Lancers shocked rival Manteca 10-7 on Nov. 5 - photo by HIME ROMERO
Mike James is calling it quits as the head varsity football coach of the East Union High Lancers.

After guiding an upstart squad to a 7-3 regular season record – earning a home playoff berth in the process – James has decided to walk away from running a program that he has been a part of for the last 28 years.

“Right now is the perfect time,” said James – who was voted by his fellow Valley Oak League coaches as ‘Coach of the Year’ for his accomplishments. “The program itself, over the course of the last seven years, has improved in every possible way. Working with kids for me is everything, and I’d really like to get back to basics and coach freshman football again.

“But it’s time to turn the reins over to somebody else.”

The 2010 Lancer season will most likely be remembered by the massive upset that the team deliver to longtime rival Manteca during the last game of the VOL schedule – a win that catapulted EU in the playoff rankings, and put a blemish on what was a sterling record for the Buffaloes.

It was the first Lancer team since 1992 to make the CIF Sac-Joaquin playoffs, and the first Lancer team since 1999 to finish with a winning record.

But the road to the 2010 season was a long and rocky one.

East Union had to watch their talent pool get severely diluted with the opening of Weston Ranch High School. The tragic death of Matthew Zaragoza Van Gelderen after suffering a brain injury on the field at Bear Cree High School also sent shockwaves through the program.

Even with unexpected twists and turns, James held the guiding light and remained steadfast in his belief that the program would eventually be successful.

“Over the last seven years Mike has been the coach for this team,” East Union Principal John Alba said. “There have been some lean years in there, and his approach to coaching has kept the kids motivated and pointed in the right direction.

“When you have a tragedy like the one that struck this school you expect for a program to just fall apart because of it. Mike held it together. He was the right person for that job, and through his leadership the players were able to get through it.”

James leaves behind a record of 19-50-1 during his seven seasons at the helm of the Lancer program. He took over Doug McCreath before he came to Manteca High where he now serves as the principal.

He jumped right into coaching his first year out of high school. He has been somehow tied to Lancer football every year since then, encompassing almost three decades of dedication to his alma mater and a program that he both cherishes and loves.

“I was fortunate enough to play on the 1981 championship team, and since then I’ve either been a coach or a player on all three of the East Union teams that have made the playoffs,” James said. “I take a lot of pride in that.

“If the new guy comes along and he can use me, I’ll be able to tell him not to worry about the freshman level – I’ve got that handled.  I want them to know that they have somebody here that’s willing to do that. If not, then there’s always somewhere else to go. But regardless of what happens, I never hesitated when it comes to whether I should or could coach. I still have the fire – I still have the want. As far as being on campus and being around the kids, the highlight for me comes every day.”