Wed, April 08

Gebhart takes over Lobos football team

Staff photo by Jared Dort

JACK Gebhart, a successful High Desert Youth Football coach, takes over a CMS program that has never lost in football.

Since the middle school started its program in 2001, Cottonwood has not lost a game.

This year a new coach will take over. Jack Gebhart, of youth football acclaim, replaces Jack Stapelton, who is now helping with the freshman team at Mingus.

Coming into a program that's already proven itself, feeling pressure is a given.

"Is there any pressure? Heck yeah. It's scary," Gebhart said. "When I start thinking about it I have to remind myself that it's about the kids getting better, having fun and making Mingus better. There's definitely some big shoes to fill here."

Gebhart's goal is to do just that. His plan for his players is simple. By the time they get to Mingus, they'll be ready to step on the field and play at the high school level.

"When we hand them over to coach (Bob) Young, he can skip over the basic fundamentals and start fine tuning," Gebhart said. "Our ultimate goal is to win another state championship for Mingus."

It was the Marauders' run to a 4A title in 1997 that brought Gebhart to the area in the first place. At the time, he lived in Oklahoma — after a 15-year stint in Wickenburg — but followed Mingus via the Internet.

He actually considered moving to Camp Verde before arriving in Cottonwood in 1999, but chose the heart of the Verde Valley because of Young and the football program.

Since his arrival, Gebhart has been one of the most consistent coaches in youth football. Last year his Colts won the district title and took second for its division at the national tournament in Las Vegas. It was the first time a local team has been invited to the biggest event of the season.

Joining the Lobos will give him a chance to coach that group again over the next two years.

"That was a magical season," Gebhart said. "That group coming up is special. Mark my words, something's going to happen with these kids. We're hoping it's another state title."

Some from that group are on his team now but others will be new faces. Most of the players, however, know who he is.

Practice "officially" begins the first week of school, but Gebhart is already ahead of the game. He started his preseason mini-camp this week.

"I'm just thrilled to be a part of it," Gebhart said. "It's a tremendous opportunity and a great program."

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