Whittell High School football is once against searching for a head coach.
The Zephyr Cove school, which has had five different head coaches over a span of 10 seasons, posted an opening for the position on Dec. 4. David Housel, 28, who directed the program the last two seasons, said he was informed by school officials on Nov. 25 he would not be brought back as head coach.
“They said they didn’t like the direction the program was going, and that they didn’t feel the kids were learning,” Housel said.
Principal Crespin Esquivel and Athletic Director Steve Maltase declined to comment on the personnel matter.
The job description reads: “The position includes insuring the safety of the participants by demonstrating and teaching fundamentals of the game; organizing practice schedules; traveling with team to and from games; following all NIAA regulations, rules, guidelines and certifications; enforcing school district athletic policies and rules; attend required meetings; fundraising; sorting, organizing and maintaining equipment and uniforms; and all other responsibilities not listed. Position is seasonal from August through November, 2014.” The stipend is based on experience (the Douglas County School District’s extracurricular salary schedule calls for a head varsity football coach to start at $3,533 per season).
The Warriors compiled a 1-7 overall record this season and 4-5 during the 2012 season. Of the 12 losses, eight came against playoff qualifying teams, including 2012 Division III state champion Pershing County, 2013 Division IV state semifinalist Coleville, and Dunsmuir, Calif., a team that went 11-1 and reached the CIF Northern Section Division 6 semifinals this season.
Whittell made its last appearance in the playoffs in 2008, when the Warriors went 6-3 under coach Dave Atherton. That is the only winning season the program has had in the last 10 seasons — with the combined record standing at 20-66.
Housel, a special education teacher at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, described this season as one of transition for the Warriors, who moved from Division III to the 8-man game played in Division IV.
“It was difficult,” he said. “We missed a game we probably would have won against Silver Stage and we missed our preseason scrimmage because of the smoke. We only returned one or two starters, we were in a new league and playing 8-man for the first time ever, we were in a new league and we basically got no preseason because of the smoke.”
In defending his job performance, Housel noted the Warriors fielded a team of 23 players this fall. By comparison, the 2011 team forfeited its opening game due to a lack of eligible players.
“Going into my first year, I think we had six kids who were ineligible; my second year, we didn’t have a single kid who came into the season ineligible,” he said. “They were all eligible, they all came all summer. The program was built from my first year having 13 kids to the end of this year having 23 kids, all of them were eligible, and we didn’t have a single kid quit during the season. That’s why it upset me when they said they felt the kids weren’t learning and weren’t having fun. I just don’t believe that. If that’s true, then kids are going to leave.”
Adjusting to 8-man football was a challenge, Housel acknowledged.
“It is much more wide open,” he said. “Defense is difficult in 8-man; you get one broken tackle and the person is gone because you don’t have that extra set of defensive players.”
Housel was formerly a running back in his playing days at Bedford High School in Temperance, Mich., and at Central College in Iowa. His previous coaching experience included four seasons as assistant and special teams coordinator under Mike Rippee at Douglas High.
The opportunity to coach at Whittell was a good one, Housel explained.
“I took my chance,” he said. “I wanted to be a head coach, and I don’t regret that. Whatever they decided, I’m happy with what happened. I thought the program was moving in a great direction and I thought soon it was going to be very successful, with the kind of numbers we had coming and the excitement the kids had.
“It was very fun. It was a great group of kids — They all kept their grades up and stayed together, and I hate leaving them.”
Senior Alex Barnes earned Western Division IV first-team all-league honors as a defensive back and made the honorable mention list as a running back. Barnes rushed for 694 yards (7.71-yard average) and 5 touchdowns, plus he was the team’s leading receiver with 19 catches for 469 yards (24.68 yard average) and 3 TDs.
Other Warriors who received honorable mention recognition included Quinn Kixmiller as a defensive lineman, Sean Noyes as an offensive lineman, Colin Buchholz as a defensive back and Jake Sharp at quarterback.
Sharp finished his season with 1,133 yards and 6 touchdowns passing.
Awards handed out at the team’s banquet included Barnes, MVP and Offensive Player of the Year; Buchholz, Defensive Player of the Year; Tristan Beckwith, The Warrior Award; Sharp, Most Improved Player; Max Primo, Special Teams Player of the Year; plus freshman Dismas Womack and Kai Mangiaracina, Most Promising Underclassmen.