Modesto Christian hires new football coach with high school, college and pro experience

Modesto is Kurt Bryan’s last stop.

The coach with 29 years of experience across three levels of football, the Bay-Area native has the desire to give his all to one final program. Modesto Christian, which hired him in the past few days.

Bryan, whose coaching career began in the 1980s, has coached at Piedmont, Livermore, Chico and Arroyo high schools, Saint Mary’s and Menlo colleges and Chico State University. He most recently spent three seasons as the head coach of the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League. In his time at Piedmont High, Bryan became the co-creator of the A-11 offense that took over football. In the system, all 11 players on the field are interchangeable and eligible. Bryan led the Highlanders to four straight playoff appearances in five seasons from 2006 to 2010.

“Hiring a new football coach is a big deal for MC,” athletic director Greg Pearce said in an email to The Bee. “Especially when you consider we had over 55 inquiries for the football coaching position. Excellent candidates applied from Canada, Australia and across the USA. With the options we had to choose from, MC is truly fortunate to have the opportunity to hire Kurt Bryan as our new football coach. Hiring a football coach is not just about football, it’s also about hiring a mentor and positive role model for students.”

Bryan takes over for Jerry Grimshaw, who came into a program that had multiple head coaches from 2018-2020 and guided it from 1-9 in his first season to 6-5 in 2022. He left to help build an upstart football program at Simpson University in Redding.

In addition to duties as head coach, Bryan will be part of the offensive play calling.

Like Bryan, the new Crusaders new coaching staff has years of experience coaching at the high school, college and professional ranks. They’ve all worked with Bryan previously.

Offensive coordinator Kerry Soppet coached with Bryan at the Bay Area Panthers and at Arroyo and Livermore high schools. Defensive coordinator Jan Hanley served as a longtime assistant at Valley Christian and also coached with the Panthers and Arroyo and Livermore. Special teams coordinator and offensive line coach Jon Shaefer was a snapper with the San Francisco 49ers who also coached at Manteca High and served on staff with Bryan at the Panthers.

“The core of my staff are great people, great men and longtime coaches,” Bryan said. “They all have high school and pro coaching experience.”

Bryan and his staff will welcome about 20 returning players from last year’s team, which reached the playoffs under former coach Jerry Grimshaw for the first time since 2018. He says he is focused on growth. He hopes to continue the winning culture Grimshaw brought back to Modesto Christian while increasing the number of student athletes in the football program.

“This is it for me,” he said. “Everybody that says, ‘Oh, KB is just moving on after two years.’ Nope. I’m going to be right here. Because then (players will) come. And then we’ve got 30 on varsity and 30 on JV in three years.”

Entering his 30th season in 2023, Bryan has called plays in many offensive systems including the West Coast, triple option, spread and his own brainchild, the A-11. He plans to form a well-balanced attack.

“We’re going to be multi-dimensional,” Bryan said. “We’ll be able to throw the ball and run the ball equally well. Whatever gives us the best chance (to win) that week, we’re going to do it.”

Modesto Christian will hold an introductory meeting at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, where players and their families are welcome to meet Bryan and the staff.

“I truly believe MC students are going to be blessed in many ways with Kurt Bryan becoming a part of the MC family,” Pearce said.