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Moffat County hires new grid coach, A.D.

Andy Bockelman and Erin Fenner
The Craig Daily Press

CRAIG — Moffat County High School will have a lot of new faces this fall, and parents and athletes got a chance to see two of them Monday night.

The high school auditorium was full of football players and their families meeting new 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.”

After the introduction, players and parents 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, in June. Five members of the coaching staff — including former longtime Moffat County coach Kip Hafey — were asked to resign as a result.

Mitchell’s predecessor, Rick Schmitz, resigned for an unrelated matter. Schmitz was a longtime girls basketball coach at Rifle High School and the former athletic director at Coal Ridge High.

Gille declined to comment about the incident Monday, saying he does not want negativity surrounding the team or coaches past or present.

According to parents of freshmen Moffat County students, upperclassmen targeted the incoming freshmen with physical abuse that allegedly went beyond typical hazing. Michele Dugan, mother of one of the freshman football players, said she intends to press charges over what she says her son experienced.

According to some of the parents of freshmen who attended the camp, upperclassmen physically attacked freshmen. Freshmen claimed they were hit with urine-filled balloons and attacked in the showers when they were naked.

A criminal investigation is being conducted by Evanston Police Department.

Gille, who also will teach English at the school, stressed Monday 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.”

Sarah Scott, parent of incoming Moffat County 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.”

Moffat County will open the 2014 football season on Aug. 22 at Rifle.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.


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