Craig community welcomes new football coach, athletic director
Football practices start Aug. 11
Craig — Moffat County High School sports will have a lot of new faces this fall, and parents and athletes got a chance to see two of them Monday night.
The MCHS auditorium was full of football players and their families meeting newly hired head football coach Keith Gille and Athletics and Activities Director Mike Mitchell. The two were brought in by the school last week and will start immediately.
This season with the Bulldogs will begin the 29th overall year Gille has been a coach in the sport, most notably taking the Yuma High School Indians to a 1A State Championship. The game has been an important, enduring part of Gille’s life, and it’s an activity he thinks can bring out greatness in everybody involved and doing their part whether they’re on the field, on the sidelines or in the stands.
“It takes 11 people doing one thing right, their job, on each play to have success,” he said. “If not, it gets crazy.”
The coach, who also will teach English at the school, stressed that he intends to keep the first half of the term “student-athletes” just as much a priority as the second. Additionally, he brought up the subject of player health and safety. Before practices officially begin Aug. 11, players will gather Friday at MCHS for baseline testing for concussions, hearing a brief presentation from Luke Geer, physical therapist at The Memorial Hospital, on the matter.
TMH also will bring in an expert on the health condition to meet with parents and players in the weeks to come.
Gille added that it’s important he personally be aware of the status of equipment like helmets before he clears them for use.
“I don’t want to be visiting any of you in the hospital, ever,” he said.
More than anything, the new head of the Bulldog gridiron wants to involve the entire community in MCHS football. Besides getting to know his players through things like team-building exercises and discussions of goals and expectations, he hopes to meet with residents, get on good terms and get them to be a part of the MCHS family.
“I want to know how they can get involved, and if they don’t want to be, then why not?” he said.
The search continues for a full coaching staff, but Gille will be joined by Mitchell as an assistant coach.
Mitchell has experience at virtually every level of the game, as a player and later a coach for University of Northern Colorado, as well as coaching at University of Colorado, signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos. He will oversee all sports and activities at not only MCHS but also Craig Middle School.
“I’m really big on making sure kids come away with work ethic, that’s my biggest thing,” he said. “We’ve got to be thinking about preparing them for the real world through athletics.”
Players and parents later interacted with the new sports personnel, whose hiring comes after an alleged hazing incident between upperclassmen and incoming freshmen during the Bulldogs’ time at a training camp in Evanston, Wyoming. Five members of the coaching staff were asked for their resignation as a result, several of whom were at the Monday meeting. Mitchell’s predecessor, Rick Schmitz, resigned for an unrelated matter.
Gille declined to comment about the incident, saying he does not want there to be negativity surrounding the team or coaches past or present.
Sarah Scott, parent of incoming freshman Chace Marshall, said “a breath of fresh air” could be good for the football program.
“I’m really excited to hear somebody that has such a passion for football and is ready to get us on track,” she said. “I appreciated the other coaches very much, but I think this is what we needed.”
Gille said he plans to make this a memorable season for seniors and freshmen alike, and even though transition is unavoidable, the phrase “rebuilding year” is not allowed, meaning a trip to the postseason should remain in players’ sights.
“If we’re setting goals for the future, seniors are wondering, ‘What the heck’s he doing for me?’” Gille said, adding that upperclassmen have just as much of a shot at glory if they’re willing to work for it. “We’re here to get the job done. Once you put that helmet on, every eye is on you. We have got to be the best, gentlemen.”
As part of Moffat County High School’s Class of 2019 graduation ceremony, outgoing students took the opportunity to express their creativity, honor their past and look to the future atop their mortarboards.