New coach optimistic about Weed High School football in 2013

Steve Gerace
Steve Van Ert

New Weed High School head football coach Steve Van Ert says the focus will be on fundamentals as the Cougars begin spring practices.

In his first year as a Weed High School teacher and coach, Van Ert said he expects to field both varsity and JV football teams in the fall of 2013.

A year ago, a player shortage left the Cougars with a JV team only.

A former head football and track coach at Dunsmuir High, Van Ert said he and assistant coaches Darren Lonnon, Byron Mathes, and Adam Zwanziger are all contributing to various aspects of the Cougar program at both the varsity and JV levels.

Zwanziger and Mathes were both assistants with last year's JV team. Lonnon and Mathes have both been involved with the Siskiyou Knights youth football program.

Van Ert is taking on the defensive coordinator duties, Lonnon is offensive coordinator, Zwanziger is focusing on defensive backs, and Mathes is the line coach.

"They all bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Van Ert said of the assistant coaches.

Last year's JV roster had just four sophomores and 15 freshmen. Next year's senior class will feature a strong group of athletes, and Van Ert said the school expects a good group of incoming freshmen in the fall. He said he sees potential in the current sophomore and junior classes, including some who haven't played football in the past and some who are new to WHS.

During his five years as the head coach at Dunsmuir, Van Ert oversaw the Tigers' move from two 11-man teams to a varsity-only 8-man football program in 2009. Dunsmuir has been a playoff team ever since.

Weed High School's enrollment is slightly too high for the 8-man football cutoff of 149 or less.

Van Ert said the emphasis for the 2013 season will be fundamentals and conditioning. "We'll run a simple offense and defense," he said. "We don't have a scheme; you have to base your scheme on who the kids are and the talents they bring. We want to teach sound fundamentals, so we'll be able to adjust and work in any situation."

Because most or many of Weed's football players will need to play offense, defense, and special teams, Van Ert said, "Conditioning is critical... We'll run drills to continuously improve sound fundamentals."

Van Ert taught for six years at Dunsmuir High, then spent two years as athletic director and assistant principal at Yreka High. He started at WHS in the fall of 2012, is teaching biology, integrated science, and personal fitness, and coached the Cougar softball team this spring.

This summer, the Cougars are planning to participate in the Cascade Team football camp at McCloud High School, scheduled for July 10 to 14. It is led by Central Valley High School head football coach Matt Hunsaker and his staff.

"It's a great camp," Van Ert said.

Funds raised from Weed's Rent-A-Cougar program will be used to help with the cost. The goal, according to Van Ert, is that no Weed player will have to pay. Anyone interested in renting a Cougar to help with chores can contact Steve Van Ert at Weed High School, 938-4774.