East Mountain High School’s new head boys soccer coach Matt Painter is a familiar face around the Timberwolves’ pitch. But Painter’s tough approach is a little unfamiliar to the boys he’s now coaching.

“I’m more of an authoritarian, I’m very strict,” Painter said. “But I also allow them to have some input.”

Painter was East Mountain’s girls head coach last year and said he’s changing things up for the boys, starting with their physical fitness.

“Soccer’s about an athlete being fit,” the coach said. “Last year they ran a lap or two before practice, this year we’re doing 10.”

Painter replaces Frank Trusiano who stepped down after last season.

Trusiano coached the T’Wolves the last three years and piloted the team to a 9-11-2 (1-4-1 District 5-1A/4A) record last season.

The East Mountain boys program has never had a winning record but last season, when the Timberwolves claimed their first-ever state playoff victory, was one of its best campaigns in school history and its best since 2010—the last and only other time the T’Wolves made the state playoffs.

Painter thinks the T’Wolves have the potential to match last season’s efforts and more. “I believe we have the capability, it’s just going to come down to discipline, no freelancing, and listening to direction,” he said.

Painter also said he is changing the team’s strategy to a more European style of play. “There will be more long balls, less dribbling, and a lot more shooting,” the coach said.

And despite losing some valuable seniors from last year’s squad—including Anthony McKenna who was fourth in district in both goals and points scored—the T’Wolves now have 10 seniors and a large group of freshmen and sophomores, something Painter believes will bolster his “team concept.”

“We’re a team, we all work together as a team, together everybody achieves more—and these kids want it,” Painter said. “I’m happy with what I’m seeing, we’re making progress.”

The T’Wolves season kicks off Aug. 15 against Socorro.