Atherton officially takes over WHS football team |

Atherton officially takes over WHS football team

When John Summers was hired as Whittell High’s head football coach in February of 2006, he considered it a temporary title. That’s because he hired David Atherton to be his assistant, and the expecation was that the former Whittell star running back would eventually take over the program.

The grooming process is apparently over as Atherton was officially named the Warriors’ next head football coach this week.

“Going into this, the plan was for him to be the head coach for two years and, after that, step down,” Atherton said. “This will actually work out much better because we will have more focus on the staff.”

Summers will become an assistant coach, working primarily as Whittell’s offensive coordinator. Nick Samaras, who has been an assistant at Whittell the past two seasons, will be the team’s defensive coordinator.

Whittell went 2-7 in 2007, snapping a 26-game losing streak on Sept. 6 with a 40-6 dismantling of Hawthorne. The Warriors haven’t made the postseason since 2002 and haven’t posted a winning season since going 5-4 in 2000.

Summers, though, is confident the program is heading in the right direction and that Atherton is the person to take it to the next level.

“We’re moving in the right direction, probably not as fast as we’d like, but it’s difficult to know what’s going to be thrown at you each year,” Summers said. “In terms of the number of kids and injuries, we have to take it one year at a time. Dave is younger and has lots of energy, so hopefully we will continue to improve.”

Atherton graduated from Whittell in 1996, leaving as the Warriors’ all-time leading rusher. He played two seasons in community college before transferring to Missouri Valley College, a NCAA Division III school, for his final two years of eligibility.

There was some interest from other applicants for the job, but Whittell athletic director Steve Maltase said Atherton’s experience the past two years was the deciding factor.

“We went through the interview process and the guidelines we’re supposed to go through,” Maltase said. “But Dave being there the last couple of years really gave him an edge. He has a rapport with the guys we have right now, and I think there has been progression the last couple of years – both on and off the field.”

Atherton was also hired to be one of Whittell’s track and field coaches. Cece Lathe, who coached the girls’ team to its third consecutive 2A state title last year, resigned after accepting a teaching position in the Bay Area for the 2007-08 school year.

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