New coach Chris Ehorn brings Southern California style to Amherst football

  • Amherst Regional first-year head coach Chris Ehorn Jr. directs his team during the preseason. Ehorn, who is from California, brings a different perspective to the Hurricanes. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 9/1/2016 7:30:49 PM

AMHERST — Friday nights in Amherst Regional football coach Chris Ehorn Jr.’s youth consisted of 4,000 fans packed into a Southern California stadium.

His Murrieta Valley football teams numbered 80 strong, and that’s 80 each on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity squads.

“You have the student section in there half an hour before the game starts, full in the stands,” Ehorn said standing in the shade of the “away” fan bleachers after a preseason practice Wednesday.

Three more sets of silver steel bleachers sit 53 yards away on either side and in front of a two-level barn that serves as snack bar and press box.

The facility better resembles where Ehorn and his Nighthawk teammates would practice than a Friday night destination.

“I’ve never played at a stadium like ours. I’ve never had that experience,” Ehorn said. “So it is a big change in the sense of look, we have a makeshift stadium.”

He has coached in stadiums like Amherst’s, though.

Ehorn served as the defensive backs coach at Northampton in 2013 and 2014 before coaching at his high school in California last year.

This is his first time as a head coach at age 28. He took over for David Thompson, who coached the program for four years.

“I’m not hands on everywhere because we have capable coaches and the man hours we spent meeting,” Ehorn said. “Being in contact with parents, with school staff, with you guys (media) there’s a lot more to it. You’re spread out a little bit, but what I’ve noticed is finding capable coaches and trusting them to do it the way I want them to do it or seeing them do it in a way I would prefer and just letting them do it.”

Ehorn’s way features discipline and structure.

He schedules his practices to the minute and the individual drill then allows his assistants to run position group drills.

“He doesn’t get off track. There’s very little down time,” Amherst senior Will Budington said. “He’s always challenging us. I can already tell he’s going to get the most out of every single guy.”

Stu Handel coaches the quarterbacks and serves as Ehorn’s offensive coordinator. Doug Slaughter, who formerly coached Smith Vocational, deals with the defensive line, tight ends and special teams. Vince Barnes coaches the wide receivers and defensive backs, and Mike Thompson instructs the inside linebackers and offensive linemen. Amherst’s own Johnnie McKnight, who was a member of the Hurricanes’ 1999 Super Bowl winning team, Amherst’s last postseason appearance, leads the running backs and outside linebackers.

“With a lack of number of coaches and players we can’t have defense here offense there,” Ehorn said. “It’s disappointing but that’s something I have to get used to being in western Massachusetts. We don’t have offensive coaches and defensive coaches, you don’t have offensive players and defensive players. You play everything.”

After five wins in the past three years, the Hurricanes have bought in to Ehorn’s approach.

Around 20 players showed up to 6 a.m. weight room sessions over the summer.

“Last year at this point our line was not looking as strong as this year,” Amherst junior Miles Foerster said.

During those 6 a.m. lifting sessions, Ehorn asked his team what their goals were.

The Hurricanes said they wanted to win.

“It’s going to be an underdog mentality. Quiet. We’re not going to talk a lot,” Budington said. “We’ve won five games in three years. We’re starting from the bottom trying to work our way up, prove ourselves.”

The program is in need of a confidence boost.

Ehorn has heard statements from players that “it’s kind of embarrassing to be a football player,” he said.

Just five freshman came out for the team this year.

“Whatever the reason was, it’s up to us as coaches to instill in them that confidence we need,” Ehorn said.

If Amherst starts to put wins on the board, Ehorn knows there will be people in the stands.

“They’re going to show up if you’re winning and they going to support you if you’re winning,” Ehorn said. “The goal is to build football players, and that will translate into wins.”

Ehorn believes he can lead the way.

“My goal is to bring what I know is football and real football to this program so they can accomplish those goals,” Ehorn said. “We want to bring success in football to Amherst High School, and they deserve it.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at

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