WHS knows solution to football problem | TahoeDailyTribune.com

WHS knows solution to football problem

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

If you intend to watch a local varsity football team this fall, then don’t plan any Saturday afternoon trips to Zephyr Cove.

Declining interest in football by both students and administrators has forced the school to cancel the program for the 2003 season.

After three players were injured during preseason scrimmages, Whittell only had 10 healthy players ready for its season opener at White Pine on Saturday. Given the demands of the sport, the school had no choice but to shut down the program.

But I feel horrible for the 10 students who wanted to play the game. Some of them may be able to catch on with a South Lake Tahoe Pop Warner team, while others will have to wait for next year.

Shame on the school for not rectifying a problem that has been clearly evident over the past five years.

You just can’t continually throw together a football team in a few months. It’s a year-round sport now and if players see their program isn’t operating as such, they will find a sport that does.

Soccer and volleyball are the fall sports of choice at Whittell because students know who Steve Maltase and Dan McLaughlin are. Maltase has been a teacher and coach at the school for the past nine years and McLaughlin, a resident, has invested seven years into the Warrior program.

Whittell students don’t know who their football coach is going to be from year to year. Last year’s graduating class had a different coach in each of their four seasons.

This is no fault of Nick Samaras, who took over the Warrior program in late June after Mike Evans resigned following an unexpected playoff season. Samaras is the Warriors’ fifth coach in five years. How could Samaras be expected to build enough interest in his program during summer vacation, even though he tried his darndest.

A week after accepting the job, Samaras sounded like a man who should have held onto his assistant position at North Valleys. Only eight to 10 players were regulars in the weight room and there were rumors that no freshmen were planning to turn out for the team (four actually did).

“The last week has been a whirlwind, from making contact with the kids to making schedules for weights and conditioning,”said Samaras after taking the job.

Samaras, an off-campus coach who lives in Carson City, hoped to increase his roster to 25 by the first week of school, but the students balked.

Evans, who led the Warriors into the postseason last year, knows why.

“What they need is someone on staff and absolute stability. They need to get someone in their 20s who will be there for a long time,” he said.

Evans wanted to be that man, but the school couldn’t accommodate him with a staff position. Commuting from Reno every day and becoming a first-time father made Evans’ decision not to return an easy one.

Whittell needs a staff member to monitor the program on a daily basis, not during the summer when potential players are at the beach. Whittell’s most successful coaches in the past — Gary Lundergreen and Richard Brandt — instilled the program with pride and made students covet those red and gold uniforms. They transformed their teams into large families because as campus coaches they were always there for their players.

Athletic Director Brian Mehrer had no one on staff express interest in the job in June and Evans doesn’t see the lingering problem going away.

“They have an aging staff and none of the aging staff wants to coach,” Evans said. “You can show up for golf and track when the season begins, but you need to do something year-round for football and basketball.”

On Tuesday, Mehrer said the school is tentatively planning spring football and weight conditioning in hopes of rekindling interest in the program.

What they should be doing is looking for a young teacher who desperately wants to coach football.

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

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