From 0-9 to first: Anything’s possible with Summers at helm
If there was high school football draft last fall, George Whittell would have owned the first pick. Town barbers could have offered free trims for each victory and wouldn’t have lost a dime.
An easy target for ridicule after one of the worst seasons in school history – 0-9 – the Warriors actually are in ideal position when daily doubles open on Thursday.
Only one person expects something out of them. Not surprisingly, Nevada 3A Division II coaches are picking the Warriors to finish no better than sixth in the seven-team league.
Obviously, the 3A doesn’t remember what John Summers and Craig Brown did the last time they were associated with the Whittell football team. Along with then head coach Richard Brandt, Summers and Brown helped guide the Warriors to the Nevada 2A state title game where the difference in a 14-13 loss to Boulder City was a missed extra point.
Summers, a 1975 graduate of Whittell, also was on staff when the Warriors won the Nevada A title in 1988 and during the Warriors’ 4-5 and 6-2 campaigns in 1990 and 1992, respectively.
“The kids are excited and we have that good core of kids like we have had in other years when we’ve been pretty successful,” Summers said. “Like I told them, I’m not looking to rebound from an 0-9 season, I’m looking to contend for the league title and get into the playoffs.
“I don’t think any other team in the league is counting on us to do too much, and we have a schedule that does favor us.”
Summers regrets that he didn’t return to the Warriors’ coaching staff sooner.
“When I quit, I originally thought it would be maybe two years or three years at the most. I definitely wasn’t planning on it being five years,” Summers said. “I had to wait until they got a varsity basketball coach (Steve Maltase). It was too much coaching (both) varsity basketball and varsity football. Since Maltase took the job two years ago I’ve been looking to get back into football.”
Also delaying Summers’ return to the sidelines was the Butch Cattanach era at Whittell. Cattanach coached the Warriors for five years starting in 1993, with the highlight being a state quarterfinal appearance in 1996. But last year nothing went right for the Warriors, and blame ranged from too few dedicated players to the fact the coaching staff lived off the hill in the Carson Valley.
“The kids have to make the commitment and that’s probably been the biggest problem here. It doesn’t take two or three committed kids, you need a bunch of kids commit to the same cause in order to be successful,” said Summers, who was hired after Cattanach resigned and became Dayton’s coach.
Summers wishes Whittell’s athletic offerings were the same when he was an all-state linebacker and offensive guard in 1974-75.
“We didn’t have much else back then. We have too many things going on now and it gets too diluted,” said Summers regarding Whittell’s student populace of 250.
However, Summers is starting to see some of that commitment come back. Since the spring, players have been lifting weights and have been regulars for passing and running drills this summer.
“The kids have been coming in there and you can see the big improvement in their attitudes. They have more confidence,” Summers said. “Before there was basically nothing going on here in the spring and summer. They didn’t see the kids at school, so they didn’t know if the kids were doing good or bad or behaving. They always came to football practice in August not knowing what was going on. That’s not necessarily their fault, but that’s the way it was.”
With a 40-plus player roster for varsity and JV, Summers understands that a small contingent will have to play offense and defense. It was no different during the championship years, which Summers has reminded his current squad by showing those respective team photos. He’s also gone back to the golden years when the Warriors wore red and gold.
“It’s not really been embarrassing. It’s more disappointing that we’ve had the outcomes that we’ve had. I think we’re capable of doing better. When I was hired here the second time I knew from the kids that we have coming back I knew that we weren’t that far off from being competitive. If we get everyone going in the same direction at the same time, we can be pretty successful,” Summers said.
With Summers in charge, they’re well on their way.
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