South Tahoe’s new football coach says coming home is a ‘dream come true’

South Tahoe football coach gives direction to his Vikings on Tuesday. (Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — New Vikings head football coach Jeff Cheek said everything is a “bit of a scramble” right now.

The 1996 South Tahoe High graduate has driven back and forth to his former home in Benicia, Calif., in the North Bay, about a dozen times in the last few weeks to move his wife, Katie, and their belongings, back to where he was born and raised.

He’s getting settled into his new digs, he’s had to figure out his coaching staff, practice began on Monday after a brief couple of meetings with the team prior, and the season starts on Friday, Aug. 20 with a home game against Galena.

That’s a lot of scrambling. But it’s all made easier by how excited he is to return to the community he loves.

“I’m very excited to be coming home,” Cheek said. “I’ve coached college for so long, I didn’t see myself coming back because there wasn’t much opportunity. But this is my first time teaching and that really helped me get the job and be able to come back.

“I got so much out of South Tahoe when I went here,” he added. “The place looks like a college campus now, but there are still things that I remember that take me back.”

Following graduation, Cheek attended De Anza College before transferring to Boise State where he played football and earned a degree in education, curriculum and instruction, and a Bachelor of Science in social science. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in special education.

Cheek will teach kids with special needs and his wife also was hired by the district as a music teacher.

Cheek has spent 17 years coaching at college, including in Division 1. He has coached at all levels, including junior college, NAIA and NCAA Divisions 1 and 2, including time at Boise State and Fresno State. He was the offensive coordinator working with tight ends and quarterbacks this past spring for Napa High School.

He said he was probably heavy-handed in his approach to coaching elite college athletes where expectations run high and winning is most important.

He no doubt wants to win, but helping kids reach their goals, whatever they may be, is now his goal.

“At this level, my purpose is to help these kids reach their goals and live life the right way,” he said. “Football will help teach that respect and discipline.

Cheek was an offensive lineman for the Vikings and offensive coordinator in college and will likely lean more to running rather than throwing the ball. He was pleased to learn that several offensive and defensive linemen are returning from last year’s squad along with two-way star James Adams.

He also knows he’ll need to find a quarterback following the graduation of last year’s league MVP Jake Tarwater.

“There are a lot of challenges right now,” Cheek said. “I know Jake was a stud. To start off, we’ll probably be 3 yards and a cloud of dust. We’ll hammer the ball to start, but we’re also gonna throw. And defensively we’re gonna get after some teams.”

Cheek wasted no time this week getting to know his players, and coaches. The team practiced all week for more than two hours each morning and they began to learn hand signals, formations and foundation offensive plays.

Aside from coaching football, Cheek wants to get more people interested in watching it. Parents and the school’s student body always show up strong for home games, but after that some games are hit and miss with attendance.

There’s a sense of pride growing up in South Lake Tahoe and to come back, it’s just a great opportunity. It’s a dream come true and it’s a dream I didn’t even know I had.” — South Tahoe football coach Jeff Cheek

“I really want to build relationships and get back into the community and get people to want to come watch games,” he said. “And you know, there’s a sense of pride growing up in South Lake Tahoe and to come back, it’s just a great opportunity. It’s a dream come true and it’s a dream I didn’t even know I had.”

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