After three previous stops in the Coachella Valley high school football coaching circuit, including one season as a head coach, Eric Perry has found a new home at Desert Mirage High School, where he’s been a physical education teacher since the fall.
In the first week of February, Perry was hired as the Rams’ new head football coach, replacing Jeff Tebelak, who served as head coach for nine seasons over two stints. Desert Mirage went 0-10 for the second time in four years.
In Perry, the Rams are getting a coach with a plethora of experience. From 1994 to 2006, Perry was on La Quinta head coach Dan Armstrong’s staff as an assistant. The Rams’ head coach also led the defensive backs crew for the Blackhawks last season. In 2014, Perry was the defensive coordinator at Palm Desert.
He’s also held three head coaching positions previously, including one season at Desert Hot Springs in 2013, where the Golden Eagles went 2-8. During that one season, Perry said he didn’t see eye-to-eye with administrators, who replaced him five days after the season ended.
At DHS, Perry said it was difficult not having an opportunity to be a teacher on campus and be immersed in the culture of the campus. Still, he said, though he was known for his disciplined style and physical brand of football, the players that stuck around with him until the end of his lone season grew to love him
“If you ask those kids on the team when I left who they wanted as their coach, they would have said me,” Perry said. “You need kids willing to run through a wall for you.”
While on staff with Armstrong and former Palm Desert head coach Pat Blackburn, Perry witnessed the type of commitment the school and community dedicated to them, which he said made a big difference in the two programs’ continued success.
Since stepping on campus at Desert Mirage, Perry said he sees that same culture, even if it hasn’t produced football wins as of late.
“You’d have to go on campus to understand what a great place Desert Mirage is to work at,” he said. “The support and family community is overwhelming.
“It’s vital to get support from the top down for football and athletics to be successful.”
That’s not to say, though, that helping boost Desert Mirage into a competitive program with the rest of the valley won’t be tough. Perry acknowledged the fact that kids in the area don’t have a youth program that can teach kids the ropes and prepare them for the grueling game. The new coach knew when he first met with his new players Wednesday that he’d receive a large handful who’ve never been in a weight room or put on a uniform.
But he’s a coach who’s been around enough success to know a simple set of X’s and O’s won’t equate to wins.
“The answer to winning is getting the kids to work hard, be accountable and be willing to play for you,” Perry said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but I think it’s the right place at the right time for me, and I’m excited.”