Kris Price walked into Leander High School the same day he was to be introduced as the next head football coach and was encouraged by what he saw.
The Lions’ players sprinted to the weight room to get going on what was one of the first days of the offseason conditioning with an abundance of excitement and intensity that filled the first-time head coach with optimism.
“It’s a good place to be right now,” Price said. “The kids and parents here are pretty blue collar and it’s reflected in the sports. There is so much growth in this area, people see this as a destination spot. Everybody is excited about the potential of Leander in football and all athletics. It’s a good place to be right now.”
Price takes over for Tim Smith, who resigned last November after four seasons as head coach of the Lions. He finished 8-32 — just 1-9 the last two seasons — and failed to return the Lions to the playoffs. Their last postseason appearance was in 2013, ending a five-year run of playoff appearances.
Price started his career in Keller ISD as a middle school coach. He then spent time on staff at Fort Worth Dunbar and Colleyville Heritage over the next few seasons.
His first job as a defensive coordinator came in Mexia and eventually moved on to take the same position in Boerne before returning to Keller in 2013, where he’s spent the last six seasons.
“The process has been great,” he said. “The biggest surprise has been how incredible the welcome has been. Any time there’s change, people are going to be a little apprehensive and I haven’t felt any of that.”
Price said the rest of the coaching staff has yet to be decided and added the coaches that have been around the last couple months have done a good job of keeping the energy level high around the school.
Price said he’s always been willing to adapt his coaching ideas to the personnel available, and the way the Lions play on the field will be flexible.
“There are some things the kids have done the last few years that they’ve had success with and we’re going to keep those things around,” he said. “We’re going to figure out what fits the group and fits the personality. We’re going to be creative in special teams to give ourselves extra possessions and extra opportunities to score.”
Leander is one of the smallest schools in Class 6A, submitting an enrollment of 2,199 for UIL realignment in 2018, just nine students above the classification cutoff of 2,190.
For Price, the approach to the game is the same if he’s coaching the biggest team or the smallest.
“We just focus on being ourselves and controlling what we can control,” he said. “Whether they tell us we’re going to play in 6A or 3A, we’re going to be the best school we can. It’s irrelevant to us for the most part.”
Price and the Indians made the playoffs last season going up against powerhouse schools like Southlake Carroll and Denton Guyer. The Keller defense allowed 21.3 points per game through the regular season and playoffs.
The job doesn’t get any easer in District 13-6A with Vandegrift, Cedar Ridge, Hendrickson, Round Rock and Stony Point, all of which have had recent playoff success.
“We’re going to look at it as a challenge,” he said. “We’re going to look at it as an opportunity to do something that’s maybe unexpected. Being the underdog at times gives you a mindset to maybe go out and fight a little harder.”
The Lions will participate in spring football this year, and the regular season will begin the last week of August.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Price said. “I think some of the kids are looking forward to it. We’re going to have to do a lot before now and the first kickoff, but right now I think we’re going to have an opportunity to be successful.”