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Warriors working toward changing football fortunes

Steve Yingling

While South Tahoe High’s troubled football program has hogged the headlines of late, the feel-good gridiron story of the year could be developing in Zephyr Cove.

“New” head coach John Summers was turned off of high school football during his second stint at Whittell back in the late 1990s because of a lack of commitment and interest from some of his Warriors. But Summers has many reasons to enjoy the start of his third term as the Warriors’ head coach.

They are buying into Summers’ disciplined program, which first, and foremost, needs players who love the game. Secondly, the players need to be willing to work – and they are. As many as 18 as players – and as few as 12 – have been attending offseason workouts. In past years, the Warriors had trouble getting that many bodies to practice once the season started.

“It’s better than I anticipated and we’ve accomplished quite a bit this summer,” Summers said. “I’ve had flashbacks to that second time around when we were real short on numbers. We had some good kids but didn’t have enough of them and we were playing in the 3A at time. Now we’re down in the 2A where mostly the schools are our size, and I feel pretty good about it this time.”

Among the players turning out for workouts with regularity are the skill position players – athletes who will be handling the ball much of the time. Sophomore quarterback Roberto Concha-Foley has been religiously preparing for the 2006 season since Christmas break. Senior wing back Curtis Humbird, senior running back Travis Swoger and sophomore tight end Steve Mick have also been putting in the time. Speedsters Philip Gielow, a freshman, and newcomer Casey Coates also have jumped right into the program and should be exciting to watch this fall.

“I look for some big things for some of those kids,” Summer said.

Furthermore, Summers isn’t alone in trying to resuscitate Whittell’s football tradition. First-year assistant coach David Atherton, one of the school’s best-ever running backs, is sharing his wealth of football knowledge with the Warriors.

“He played four years of college football and can relate well to the kids,” Summers said. “He knows when to be tough and when to let off. And he has a great bag of drills that he’s learned from college.”

Summers and Atherton shouldn’t need any more than the school’s recent futility to motivate their players. Whittell has one of the state’s longest winless steaks, dating back to the 2002 season. Whittell didn’t field a team in 2003 and the Warriors have been 0-17 over the past two seasons.

Summers announced on Wednesday that he plans to honor the late Adrian Norman at the Warriors’ home opener on Sept. 9 against Rite of Passage. Norman, who was a starting running back for Summers back in 1998, died last Friday at the age of 25.

“He was a good Whittell kid,” Summers said.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or by E-mail at syingling@tahoedailytribune.com.


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