The most effective means of coaching is to get down and dirty, in the trenches.
So say a couple of 200-game winners.
On Tuesdays, Dave Humphers supervises the offensive linemen at River Valley High School in Yuba City. The big guys unleash on a blocking sled, and their co-coach trails the action with a hurried trot, barking, “That’s it! Hit!”
On Wednesdays, Terry Stark stands amid guards and tackles to go over line technique at Inderkum, located a Hail Mary throw from old Sleep Train Arena. Hand and hip placement, feet aligned just right, and go. He also leads the charge in other speed drills, imploring, “Faster!”
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Humphers and Stark played in Mira Loma’s wing-T offense in the 1970s, learning this craft of blocking and tackling from the same mentors. They remain loyal to an archaic offense that stresses attention to detail, execution and deception.
Time hasn’t dulled their passion. They can raise their voices and turn various shades of red with the best of them, though both believe that positive reinforcement is the most powerful motivator.
Stark has 205 victories spanning 27 years, the last 13 at Inderkum, where his Tigers (7-0) are third in The Bee’s rankings. Humphers has 200 wins, 195 during his 27-year tenure at Nevada Union and five this season as the co-coach at River Valley, where his input has jump-started a program that improved from 3-7 last year to 5-1.
Humphers and Stark are among eight area coaches to win 200 games, including active leaders Mike Alberghini of Grant (273 wins) and Terry Logue of Bear River (226).
Stark, 56, professes to having one real passion outside of family. He doesn’t golf, fish or gamble, and he’ll only shop with his wife of 36 years, Christina.
“I really enjoy coaching football,” Stark said. “It’s a hard thing to give up. I really don’t know what I’d do without football. I can fill 13 hours this way.”
Humphers, 60, dabbles in fishing and has an affinity for working on old cars, but he is especially revved up by the scent of football. He was out of the game for four years after his Nevada Union tour but was lured back by co-coach Brennan McFadden, whom he coached and mentored in high school. Humphers won four Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships at NU in one of the great coaching runs in regional history.
“I really missed it,” Humphers said. “I needed a break, but it’s so good to be back. And football is still the same. It hasn’t changed. It’s the greatest team sport. One of the great truths about this sport is that winning a game or championship is a byproduct of everyone working together. Brennan and I love teaching that.”
Humphers and Stark have given the wing-T a lifeline of continuity in an era of wide-open spread-option football. They learned it from Mira Loma coaches Don Brown and Gerry Kundert, who introduced the offensive scheme to Sacramento in the early 1960s, borrowed from the University of Delaware.
Kundert, who died last spring, regularly attended Humphers’ and Stark’s games, tattered fishing hat and all.
“I learned so much from Gerry, and not just just the fundamentals of the sport, but also the behavior and commitment of the players,” Humphers said. “I owe a lot of success of my life to him.”
Said Stark, “I knew nothing about football and he taught me everything. I’m thankful.”
Humphers was a 150-pound all-league guard at Mira Loma in 1974, and he won plenty at Nevada Union with similarly sized linemen. He introduced the wing-T to River Valley in the spring and summer, and the Falcons embraced it. So much so, that their helmets are adorned with Delaware wing-T decals, just like those worn by his Miners.
“We have great coaches teaching us this fun offense,” Falcons quarterback Dawson McPeak said. “We feel lucky to have Humphers here.”
Stark was an all-league quarterback at Mira Loma in 1977, and he continues to stress that deception and fakes are paramount by the signal callers in this offense.
The formula worked to the tune of 133 wins at Inderkum and 11 consecutive double-digit winning seasons, the longest current streak of any regional program. A section championship has eluded Stark, who has reached a final three times at Inderkum, including last season.
“The wing-T is what I know,” Stark said, “It’s what I studied, what I teach, and to me, it’s the best offense. It’s run-based, but you can pass. I’ll always stick with it.”
Inderkum has become something of a factory for college recruits over the last decade. That next-level talent showed itself last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Josh Falo caught a touchdown for USC. Hours later, C.J. Spencer rushed for three touchdowns for UC Davis. On Sunday in Oakland, Vince Mayle of the Baltimore Ravens rushed for a score.
“We love our coach and he believes in us,” said Inderkum receiver Isaah Crocker, who counts Alabama among his scholarship offers. “I don’t see him quitting coaching. He’s too good at it.”
Stark didn’t realize he was closing in on 200 until Inderkum custodian Raymond Ames brought it to the attention of the coaching staff.
“I never expected to win 200,” Stark said. “Then we kept winning, 10, 11, 12, 13 games, and they kept coming, and then I thought, ‘Wow! This is crazy.’ ”
Assistant coach Tod Hamasaki, who has worked with Stark for 17 seasons, said, “One thing about Terry after all these years is he won’t let the kids fold. He pushes them.”
Personal thrills for Humphers and Stark include coaching their sons, Gabe and Hank Humphers and Christopher and Miles Stark. But for all of their milestones and moments, Humphers and Stark have never faced off. They will on Oct. 20, likely with the Tri-County Conference championship on the line.
“We did football camps with Humphers when he was at NU,” Stark said. “NU played the right way. It was something to teach my players – how to compete, how to be really good.”
While at Nevada Union, Humphers wore a weathered, faded-blue fishing hat in honor of Kundert. It was bronzed in appreciation after he stepped down at NU.
With a new school came a new hat. But he lost the one he wore for River Valley’s season opener.
“Forgetful old age,” Humphers said with a laugh. He now prowls the sideline with a floppy hat.
“It doesn’t look right,” said McFadden, his co-coach, laughing. “But the coach is still the same guy. He hasn’t lost a thing.”