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Winless Warriors have plenty of inspiration in football’s higher ranks

Column by Steve Yingling

While the Whittell High football team painstakingly endures one blowout loss after another, inspiration resonates at the next two levels of football.

Miami Dolphins second-year middle linebacker Mike Crawford never experienced a humiliating 17-game losing streak, but he understands what disadvantages the Warriors face.

Instead of making excuses, the Warriors can use Crawford as example of how great things can be accomplished if you ignore preconceived barriers. How else can you explain that a smaller-than-normal linebacker from a pint-sized school in Nevada is playing in the world’s- best football league?



Consequently, if the Warriors really want to win a football game, then they’ll need to train for their sport year-round and dedicate themselves to becoming the best football players possible.

Not to say some of the Warriors on this season’s 0-7 squad haven’t done that. But the consistently exceptional teams – Truckee, Wooster and McQueen – collectively commit themselves to football from the first day after the season ends all the way through the following campaign. It’s an obsession and no one wants to become the team that lets down the tradition.



Some players on STHS’s current squad feel that way. The Vikings two-year playoff streak is dust after several close division losses. They, however, are turning out NCAA Division I-caliber players in tight end/linebacker Corey Martin and offensive tackle Ryan Souza, so some of the players are buying into the formula of maximizing their potential.

There is no finer model of football dedication and preparation in this community than David Atherton. Put his work ethic and desire into the body of former Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich, and Marinovich would have been an all-pro the last five years instead of a beach bum.

“It couldn’t have happened to a better kid,” said Whittell football coach John Summers after learning that Atherton had overcome a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament to rush for 136 yards in Shasta’s 39-36 victory over Solano on Oct. 10.

Atherton, a 1996 Whittell graduate, only added to his remarkable comeback story last Saturday when he rushed for 200 yards and caught seven passes in the Knights’ record-setting 73-71 victory over Merced.

“He’s a good example for our kids … a kid who has worked real hard,” Summers said. “Every time I saw the kid he was working his butt off. He would come up to school at 6 a.m. and run when it doesn’t really count, and there’s not a whole lot of kids who will do that.”

The win-hungry Warriors should note that Atherton hasn’t only suited up for winners. Sure his Knights are 5-0 right now, but there was a time at Whittell that Atherton was ashamed of what the Warriors were doing on the gridiron.

“I’ve been down that road before during my sophomore and junior years when we were losing,” Atherton said. “It’s hard regardless of how many people they have on their roster.

“They need to overcome that. We all go through hard times. All I can say to those kids is listen to coach Summers. Win or lose, take pride in your sport and keep working your butts off. When in doubt, success will come to you.”

Dylan (Gibbs) Thomas, Atherton’s teammate at Shasta, also knows about heartache at Whittell. Besides some losing seasons, Thomas’ disappointment was compounded by a series of serious knee injuries that forced him to give up a sport he loved.

But his knees are sound again, and Atherton talked him into joining something special at Shasta.

“Whittell is a small school, but the kids have to want to play football. The coaches can’t make everything happen. There has to be some kids around there who want to play,” Thomas said. “I know those kids have a lot of heart, and I know Summers will turn that program around.”

Undoubtedly some Whittell students were scared to go out for football this fall. Losing has a way of chasing away potential players. But wouldn’t it feel good to be part of the team that ends Whittell’s losing streak and brings back the school’s rich winning tradition?

With games remaining against Hawthorne on Friday and Lovelock the following week, it’ll be shame if Summers’ outfit of nonquiters isn’t rewarded in the win column. If not, they should start rectifying their disappointment the day after their season ends.

“I respect those guys because they are sticking it out. Whether they win or lose they are giving their best to coach Summers,” Atherton said.

It appears former STHS two-way football starter Brad Cimino has latched on to best college program in the U.S. the past half-century.

Cimino, a 1998 Viking grad, is a redshirt defensive tackle at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. The Wildcats’ 20-19 victory over Willamette on Saturday clinched their 43rd consecutive winning season, bettering the national record of 42 held by Notre Dame (1889-1932) and Harvard (1881-1923).

Linfield is 5-0 this season with four games remaining. Incredibly, their record streak spans two wars and nine U.S. presidents. During that span the Wildcats have won 79.3 percent of their games- 321-80-10 – including three NAIA national titles and 25 conference championships.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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