The hard part was saying goodbye.
Paul Doherty on Thursday called for one last mandatory meeting at Sacramento High School, gathering the football players he had coached and mentored for four years.
He announced that he had resigned as the Dragons’ coach after six program-defining seasons. Doherty accepted the same post at Whitney, replacing founding program coach Mike Gimenez, who stepped down last month to catch his breath from the rigors of the job.
“Leaving those kids, saying goodbye,” Doherty said Saturday afternoon, “was the most difficult and crushing decision I’ve ever made. I’m so invested into that group. Great kids, and they deserve the best. I gave Sac High the best decade of my life. It’s time for a change.”
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Doherty is entering a new phase in his life, beyond the field. His wife, Kari, is expecting their first child in April. And he craved a new football challenge. Doherty met with his new team – freshman, junior varsity and varsity players – on Friday. On Saturday, the Wildcats held their first team workout, in the weight room, which doubled as a deeper form of meet-and-greet.
“Fifty guys showed up,” Doherty said. “Wow. That’s great. A lot of emotions going on at both schools now, and for me, too. I haven’t slept for a couple of weeks. I told both groups, the Sac High and Whitney kids, that when a coach leaves, like Gimenez or me, there’s anger, uncertainty, confusion, sadness. All these variables are natural, perfectly normal.”
Doherty’s tireless efforts yielded breakthrough results. Sacramento won a playoff game for the first time in 2013 and last fall won a road playoff game for the first time. Whitney has been a regional powerhouse as well.
More football coaching moves – Ernie Cooper stepped down as the Granite Bay coach for the second time in three seasons, pleased to turn the program over to assistant coach Jeff Evans. Cooper will remain the Grizzlies’ strength and conditioning coach. Cooper led Granite Bay to 10 league titles, five section championships and the 2012 CIF State Division I banner.
▪ Mick Pettengill is the new coach at Rio Linda, replacing Justin Reber, who took a coaching job in Southern California. Pettengill had regional head-coaching stints at Delta and Las Plumas and assistant coaching stints at Yuba College and Butte.
▪ Darren Nill is the new coach at Cordova, replacing Vance Mueller, who led the Lancers to their first winning season since 2006. Nill was the Lancers’ defensive coordinator the past three seasons.
Folsom visit – MaxPreps founder/president Andy Beal presented Folsom with a “Tour of Champions” trophy to honor the team’s 16-0 season that culminated in a CIF State D-I championship. MaxPreps is presenting 50 such trophies to teams nationwide.
Wrestling – Del Oro won the CIF Section Masters team title Saturday in Stockton, amassing 188.50 points, beating out Oakdale (167.50), Folsom (164) and Elk Grove (155).
Del Oro had just one individual champion with Landon McBride at 113 pounds, but no team had more depth.
The local champions:
113 – Landon McBride, Del Oro.
115 – Devan Turner, Dixon.
145 – Brandon Claiborne, Oak Ridge.
152 – Zack Velasquez, Ponderosa.
160 – Lorenzo de La Riva, Folsom.
220 – Jerod Nooner, Folsom.
225 – Jake Minshew, Casa Roble.