Summers hired as Whittell football coach |

Summers hired as Whittell football coach

John Summers, who last coached the Whittell High football team in 1998 and 1999, was hired by athletic director Steve Maltase this week as the Warriors’ next football coach.

Summers replaces Dennis Young, who resigned over Christmas break after two seasons with the program. Young, who also is the boys’ basketball coach, thought coaching teams in consecutive seasons was hurting the basketball program.

Young went 0-15 the past two seasons and battled limited numbers and declining interest in football among the student body. However, he has been credited with bringing the program back after it was there wasn’t a team in 2003 because of a low turnout.

“The important thing is we got the program back going again,” Young told the Tribune last week. “It will be going into good hands. I know it’s going to be taken over by a perfect person.”

That person is Summers, who went 2-15 as head coach of Whittell during the 1998-99 seasons. But the Warriors were also competing in the Northern 3A then, playing against traditional powers such as Bishop Manogue and Truckee.

Whittell now competes in the Northern 2A, where it hasn’t won a game in two seasons and brings a 16-game losing streak into the 2006 season. Maltase said Summers won’t be expected to turn the team around in one year but believes he will build a foundation for the future.

“He’ll give the program the structure, discipline and attitude it needs,” said Maltase, who also likes that Summers will be an on-campus coach. “He’s certainly the man for the job. I know we hired the right guy, but he knows he has a tough road ahead of him.”

Summers was an assistant to longtime Whittell head coach Gary Lundergreen, who coached the football team for 20 years before resigning in 1988 after leading the school to its last state football title. Summers was also an assistant for Richard Brandt, who led the Warriors to the state championship game in 1992.

Summers will attempt to turn around a program that has gone 10-58 since 1997. Whittell’s last winning season came in 2000, when it went 5-4 and lost in the first round of the regional playoffs. The Warriors also qualified for the postseason in 2002 with a losing record.

“We got good kids at Whittell,” said Summers, who teaches business and computer classes. “They need to be pointed in the right direction. It’s not going to happen overnight, and the kids know that.

“One thing about being an on-campus coach is you have a lot of advantages. You can keep an eye on the kids and can make sure they are following some sort of offseason workout program. That’s our first goal right now. Just getting mentally and physically ready to go in August.”

With just two winning seasons in the past nine years, Whittell has had trouble retaining coaches. Summers is the school’s eighth in the past nine years and only Young has coached more than one season since 2000.

There was speculation that Whittell would play a JV schedule in football this fall and not field a varsity team, but Maltase said that won’t happen and Summers added that it wasn’t necessary.

“I wasn’t in favor of doing anything like that,” Summers said. “I don’t think that would ever benefit the program. We need to rise up to the competition, not bring the competition down to us. We have enough kids that are big enough and smart enough.”

Although the application process is still ongoing for assistant coaches, Summers plans on hiring David Atherton. A 1996 Whittell High graduate, Atherton played two years at a community college and finished his career at Missouri Valley College, a Division III school.

“That was a pretty big factor, knowing that he would be here, too,” Summers said of Atherton. “We’re kind of co-coaches right now. In the next year or two, the roles will switch and he will probably be the head coach and I will be his assistant. He’s kind of the young blood. As a younger kid, he has a future in the area.”

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