New coaches, new attitude for WHS
Nov. 2, 2002. That’s the last time Whittell High won a football game, a 30-0 triumph over North Shore rival Incline.
The Warriors lost the following week to Lovelock in the first round of the 2A state playoffs and have been waiting more than three years to reenter the win column.
However, the state’s longest current losing streak (17 games) has done little to dampen Whittell’s spirits heading into the 2006 season.
“We definitely see some wins, as long as everyone executes and everybody tries their hardest,” said senior running back/defensive back Travis Swoger. “I think we can make the playoffs. It’s real key to stay in the game in the first half. If we can stick it out until the second half, we’ll have a chance.”
It seems foolish for Swoger to talk about wins and staying in games, especially when he’s gone 0-16 the past two years and hasn’t played a meaningful second half during his career. But things seem different at the Zephyr Cove campus.
That’s because when John Summers was hired last winter to take over the struggling program. He brought former Whittell star running back David Atherton with him. Together, they’ve injected a new attitude into the Whittell football culture.
“We’re not going to preach it’s OK to lose here,” said Summers, who was also the school’s head coach in 1998 and 1999. “We want them to get their butts out there and compete, start to finish. Looking at our schedule, I see five wins. Not maybe we can win, but five games where we have a very good chance of competing and winning. If that happens, that’s success for us.”
That quest for success will start on Sept. 1 at Hawthorne, another struggling program that’s only won two games in the past two seasons. The Warriors’ chances to win games this year will hinge on the offensive production of Swoger, Curtis Humbird and Roberto Concha-Foley.
Humbird will play both running back and wide receiver, while Concha-Foley is the team’s starting quarterback. The talented trio will be protected by returning starters and seniors Nick Spano, Bryce Rafferty and John Sinclair, who will serve as the heart of the offensive and defense lines.
“Our interior line is senior dominated on both sides of the ball, and that’s a good thing,” Summers said. “We’re looking for a lot of leadership from all those guys. We are very happy with the progress we’ve made here. We took care of a lot of business in the offseason and that’s made it easier to work with all these younger kids who are going to have to play for us.”
Whittell has eight freshmen on its roster and five of them are expected start. In fact, Philip Gielow, Nick Warner, Jordan Morgan and Dylan Huckaby will play both ways, having already been penciled in at the linebacker and defensive end positions.
“The freshman look awesome and they have some good talent,” Humbird said. “We have no problem with them playing. We’re all working a lot harder this year. We’ll stick in the games this year and not allow it to be a blowout.”
This is just the kind of confidence Atherton wants to hear. The school’s all-time leading rusher, Atherton attended last year’s season-ending loss to rival Incline and was hurt by what he saw.
“I watched Whittell play Incline last year and was sick to my stomach,” said the 29-year-old Atherton, who played football at three different colleges after graduating from Whittell. “When I left here in 1996, I thought I left when the program was growing. It was shocking to see they didn’t even have a team in 2003.
“When I got back here and started working as a substitute teacher, the general attitude of the school was volleyball rules and then there was everything else. So when John and I talked, we made a pact that we were both committed to the program and to turning this thing around.”
Coach: John Summers (first year)
2005 record: 0-9
Key returners: Sr. Curtis Humbird, Sr. Travis Swoger
Key losses: Jeff Young, David Sabistina
Top newcomers: Fr. Nick Warner, Fr. Jordan Morgan, Fr. Dylan Huckaby, Fr. Philip Gielow
Opener: Sept. 1 at Hawthorne
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 1 Hawthorne 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 Rite of Passage 1 p.m.
Sept. 16 Silver Stage 1 p.m.
Sept. 23 Yerington 1 p.m.
Sept. 30 North Tahoe 1 p.m.
Oct. 7 Lovelock 1 p.m.
Oct. 14 Independence 1 p.m.
Oct. 20 Battle Mountain 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Incline 1 p.m.
Note: Home games are in bold.