Jason Sarceda, a local business owner and longtime La Cañada High School varsity football assistant, will take over as head coach of the Spartans’ football program following the resignation of Ryan Zerbel.
“When the opportunity came up, I accepted,” Sarceda said. “I love the sport, obviously, and this is a great community. I’d like to see this program take off and be successful on and off the field.”
Zerbel, who signed on to be the head coach for three years, recently accepted a teaching position in the Glendora Unified School District, near his home. In two seasons, he guided the Spartans to a 10-10 record, including an upset victory over defending CIF Southern Section champion San Marino in his final game.
“I’m absolutely happy for Ryan that he was able to get a position close to his home,” LCHS Athletic Director Kristina Kalb said. “Commuting in Southern California is challenging, and I wish him the best.”
Sarceda, whose hiring was approved by the LCUSD Governing Board on Tuesday, is the sixth LCHS head football coach since 2008. He inherits a program that has not won a CIF playoff game since 2005.
La Cañada has accumulated a 41-51-1 record the past nine seasons, struggling to find consistency on the field and stability at the head coaching position. The one constant has been Sarceda, who has served as an assistant the past five years under Zerbel, Ramsey Lambert and James Sims.
“Jason has been with our program in a variety of capacities,” Kalb said. “He has been a solid continual component and has brought continuity to the program, even with the coaching changes we’ve had. He’s that continuity link. He’s a familiar face and has very high standards and ethics. I’m looking forward to see what he does in the head coach role. I feel extremely confident he’s going to do a fantastic job.
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but, for my own part, continuity was very important,” Kalb added. “He was so qualified for the job.”
Kalb noticed how much Sarceda meant to the football players after the sudden departure of Lambert in 2015.
“The boys were blindsided by it,” Kalb recalled. “They were really devastated. After they heard the news, most of the boys came to me asked, ‘Is Coach Jason staying? If he stays, we’ll stay.’ That to me speaks volumes. Jason was able to hold things together for us. He was the glue to the program. In my experience watching the boys interacting with Jason, they know how hard he works, and they want to work just as hard to get better.”
Sarceda also coached with the Gladiators football program for nearly eight years before joining La Cañada’s staff, which helped him establish himself with the La Cañada Flintridge community.
“I’ve been coaching in La Cañada Flintridge for about 14 years now,” said Sarceda, whose son Andrew played with the Spartans. “I feel real acclimated with the community. I own businesses in the community and feel well-rooted. My heart is here, and I’m so excited to be a part of La Cañada football.”
When Zerbel resigned from his position, he vouched for Sarceda, hoping he would take the reins so the program would be in good hands.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” Zerbel said. “We have things going in the right direction there, and it was very important to me that it continued. I pushed very hard to ensure Jason would take over. It’s exactly what I wanted to happen. He deserves it. He has been with me since Day 1, and the program shouldn’t skip a beat.”
The new coach has already met with his players for summer practice and was glad to see them respond positively to the news.
“I feel like we got a new surge of energy,” Sarceda said. “The boys have responded well, and we’re trying to build a family environment here. We’re in this together, and in order for us to be successful as a small school we must stay united as a group. We’ve had a couple of good practices so far.”
Sarceda is finalizing his coaching staff and already thinking about this season and beyond. He hopes to revitalize the sport and get the school and community more involved.
“I know it’s a long process, but I’m here,” Sarceda said. “I feel like I relate to these young men in our school, and I want to put the program in a positive light. We’re low on numbers this year, but I love the heart we have. I just hope more athletes come out to participate.”
Sarceda’s dedication to the athletes and program gives Kalb confidence that the program will finally have the stability it has struggled with for nearly a decade.
“I think we have proof in the pudding that he is in it for the long haul,” Kalb said. “He is the one person who has been through it with several coaches. His experience is significant, and he gets along with just about everybody. He’s very straightforward, and what you see is what you get. He stands for certain things and has high expectations and expects the boys to commit. This is going to be great for the program, and people will see that very quickly.
“I’m not being negative at all with Ryan [Zerbel], but Jason is from here and has been committed to La Cañada football for a long time. His son graduated last year and he’s still coaching here.”