Warriors’ opening game plan is no secret | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors’ opening game plan is no secret

When David Atherton takes a flight home from Michigan today, the second-year Whittell High School head football coach isn’t counting on getting any sleep.

After all, Friday evening is like the night before Christmas for someone who has been around football as long as Atherton has. Saturday is Whittell’s season opener at Silver Stage, and Atherton’s Warriors have high expectations for their 2009 season.

“It’s tough being away from my team. I miss the kids, and many of them have called me during the two weeks I’ve been gone,” said Atherton, who is in his first year working for Dental Refiners, a job that requires him to travel to certain regions of the country to purchase scrap metal from dental offices.

“The coaches have done a good job with them, and the boys are ready to play and the attitudes are good,” Atherton said.

Defensive coordinator Nick Samaras, a former head coach at Whittell and South Tahoe, has run the team in Atherton’s absence.

After returning home to coach Saturday and through Whittell’s home opener against the Dayton junior varsity on Sept. 10, Atherton will miss a road game at Quincy on Sept. 18.

“I feel wrong missing any of the regular season. After that, I’ll be home for the rest of the regular season,” Atherton said.

Along with missing his players, Atherton said it is extremely difficult to operate a program from a distance.

“There are paperwork issues, and I’m trying to be a head coach over the phone,” Atherton said. “I’m on the phone with Nick at least three times a day.”

Last year, Whittell ran a wide-open attack led by quarterback Roberto Concha-Foley, now playing at Cabrillo College. Starting Saturday, Atherton plans to put the pigskin into the trusty hands of senior running backs Philip Gielow and Cody Nelson.

“I’m keeping it real simple,” he said. “Don’t fix what’s not broken.”

Atherton wants to break in freshman quarterback Austin Buyak slowly. But that doesn’t mean the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Buyak won’t drop back into the pocket and let it fly on occasion.

“His short game needs to get better – the slants and outs. We’ll allow him to throw the deep ball, which he throws on the money. I thought it would be the opposite way,” Atherton said.

The Nighthawks and Warriors will meet twice, and neither game will count toward the Northern 2A League standings. Due to low numbers in its program, Silver Stage requested and was granted permission to play an independent schedule this season. Without Silver Stage, the Northern 2A is down to six teams. Hawthorne dropped to Class A after last school year, and Independence cut athletics because of Nevada state budget cuts.

“Now there are only two teams that won’t make it into the playoffs,” Atherton said. “Our intention is to get home-field advantage in the first two (playoff) rounds.

“We need to focus on winning games and playing solid football.”

Ultimately, the Warriors want to defeat the only teams to beat them last year – Battle Mountain and Lovelock. “Not to disrespect any of the other teams, Lovelock and Battle Mountain are kind of the way I looked at Truckee and Manogue when I played high school football (for Whittell). They are tough to get by.”

Opening kickoff is at noon Saturday.

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