Joe Davidson

Prep football notes: Local legend Kundert still gets into the game

Gerry Kundert coached Mira Loma to great success in the 1960s and ’70s. Inderkum coach Terry Stark, a former Mira Loma quarterback, uses the wing-T attack Kundert taught him.
Gerry Kundert coached Mira Loma to great success in the 1960s and ’70s. Inderkum coach Terry Stark, a former Mira Loma quarterback, uses the wing-T attack Kundert taught him. Sacramento Bee file

Gerry Kundert still has the old wheels.

You might have seen him tooling up and down the Sacramento roadways over the decades, the retired Mira Loma High School football coach who helped usher in the wing-T a generation ago peering out from under a faded blue fishing hat, the ride and the driver both topless. To be sure, Kundert’s 1967 British classic Austin-Healey Sprite, a convertible about the size of your traditional nose guard, is as treasured as the owner.

Kundert, 84, remains a Friday night fixture, soaking in Inderkum games like a proud papa as he keeps tabs on protégé Terry Stark, the Tigers’ veteran coach whose teams offer a modern-day Mira Loma look with the tricky and wildly effective wing-T, championships in tow. Every so often, Kundert will drive his Sprite to Inderkum and zip under the swinging gate to enter the parking lot, low enough to not even have to duck.

“Oh, the kids love when Gerry does that,” Stark said. “They go crazy. Shoot, we all get excited.”

Stark learned the game from Kundert as a crafty, skilled and driven quarterback at Mira Loma in 1977, and he caught the coaching bug from his mentor. Stark coached Mira Loma in the mid-1990s, returning the program to a glimpse of its storied past. On Friday, he won his 100th game in 10 seasons at Inderkum, 62-21 over Rio Linda, to secure the program’s seventh Tri-County Conference title since 2007. The wing-T is the constant at Stark’s stops, an offense that uses smaller linemen and relies on deception and quickness.

Inderkum has four wing-T gems in quarterback Jonathan Henry and backs Larry Hardy, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Thurman. Kundert was there Friday, grinning well after the game as Stark and his wife of 33 years, Christina, were presented with a large framed photo and a glass football that included the coaching milestone. For sideline duty, Kundert switches from one trusty set of wheels to another in the form of a wheelchair.

“I can’t stand as much as I’d like, so I’ll bring the chair out,” Kundert said, booming of good cheer. “It’s nice to get out here and see Terry doing such great work.”

As stubborn and unyielding as a rusty goal post, Kundert was bowled over in an early-season game at Inderkum when a mass of players rolled his way and spilled out of bounds. Kundert dusted himself off and asked how the others in the pileup were. The man didn’t retire from teaching and full-time coaching in the mid-1980s at Mira Loma to golf or fish. He retired to take in more football observation.

“I love having him here, and he loves being on the sideline,” Stark said. “I learned everything from him about coaching. I was a good player in high school, but that doesn’t carry over into coaching. I learned from Gerry that you need to learn how to coach everything on the field to be a successful coach – offense, defense, special teams, line, skills players. Everything. I became a head coach at Mira Loma at 30, and I didn’t know what I was doing. He was my assistant for three years and saved me. I’d go to his house and he’d pull out the 4-by-6 chalkboard and made me teach him – the 42-trap. ‘Draw it up and make adjustments.’ What a coach.”

Kundert and co-coach Don Brown brought the wing-T to Sacramento in the 1960s, having watched the Delaware Blue Hens run teams ragged with it. When Delaware played in the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento, Brown and Kundert hustled off to practices with notebooks.

“We saw what Delaware was doing, and we thought we could do it, too,” Kundert said. “It just fit us.”

Mira Loma produced some of the region’s greatest teams, winning 16 league titles in the 1960s and ’70s, including the pre-playoff era 10-0 club of 1968 that was in the midst of an area-record 27-game winning streak. That streak was topped in 1998 by Elk Grove’s 14-0 juggernaut that had a lot of wing-T elements. Also in the 1990s, Nevada Union won City and Sac-Joaquin Section championships with coach Dave Humphers, another Kundert protégé since retired.

The wing-T isn’t a regional fad anymore – as many as 22 area programs ran it 20 years ago – but Stark will never abandon it. Placer runs the wing-T under coach Joey Montoya, who learned it from Humphers. The Hillmen on Friday won their third consecutive Pioneer Valley League title.

Big Red surge – No. 3 Jesuit beat No. 11 and visiting Monterey Trail 28-21 Saturday, setting up a showdown next Saturday against No. 2 and visiting Grant for the Delta League championship.

Cole Brownholtz hit Luke Bagley with a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 left, moments after Jesuit stopped the Mustangs on downs. Denzel Perkins and Bagley had late interceptions to help seal the victory.

Brownholtz opened the scoring with a 1-yard run, and Beau Bisharat had two rushing touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to make it 14-0. Jesuit has won eight consecutive games after opening with a loss to national power De La Salle.

Follow Joe Davidson at Joe Davidson (@SacBee_JoeD).

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