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Executive Fumble

In the recent upheaval following an abrupt modification to the football program, many important questions have arisen, ranging from "Why?" to "What now?" -- people are scrambling for answers, many of which they will never find.

Photo by Jessica Tang

Photo by Jessica Tang

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Shock. That was the initial reaction of players, parents, and community members alike upon hearing that Trent Herzog, the head coach of the varsity football team, was not renewing his contract for the upcoming season. Herzog’s exit will be followed by a loss of much-needed funding to the program, ad the vacancy of some (if not all) of the assistant coach positions. In a statement released to the Casa community, Principal Eric Backman announced the news, without revealing a definite cause for the upset.

“As with all personnel matters, specific details cannot be shared with the public,” said Backman in a press release.

The vague explanation for this decision remained as follows:

“Casa Grande High School has decided to take the program in a different direction,” said Backman.

While this decision reverberates throughout the school and community, perhaps the most affected are the athletes, as they struggle to envision a season without Herzog at the helm, In a brief lunch meeting, many players gathered to hear Herzog’s side of the story. Senior Trevor Naugle described the somber mood.

“When most people think of football players, they think of tough people. To see that many football players devastated and with tears in their eyes, it’s something that you never think of, it was insane. It was crazy to see that many strong football players that you think of as strong figures crushed and devastated,” said Naugle.

Herzog’s influence did not end once the athletes stepped off the turf. Junior John Dooley was one of many players for whom Herzog was not only a coach, but a mentor with a positive impact on his life.

“He’s taught me off and on the field to have more respect and be more responsible, and to focus on not just football, but also on my work in school, because that’s the path that’s going to lead me to be more successful in life,” said Dooley.

Furthermore, he was also instrumental in aiding college-bound athletes with scouting and scholarships. Naugle credits Herzog for assisting him in obtaining a college scholarship.

“He nominated me for this scholar athlete award, and wrote me a letter of recommendation for it and helped me to receive this award. It’s a $1000 scholarship that I ended up winning, which is huge for me for college,” said Naugle.

The work Herzog put into the football program behind the scenes went widely unnoticed; the administration will be hard-pressed to find a successor able to perform all of his duties. From spearheading the funding for the new all-weather track and field to utilizing his connections in the industry to offer collegiate opportunities for his players, Herzog has expanded his job description exponentially. Dooley considers Herzog to be an irreplaceable figure.

“I think it will definitely affect the team because I don’t think there’s anyone that can do his job like he does. He puts so much time and effort into the job that there isn’t anyone I think that can replace him,” said Dooley.

Despite a few rough performances in the past few years, Herzog has led the team to playoffs every season. His unending belief in his players has helped them come back from huge deficits. Naugle recalls his support during the homecoming game, in which they were losing by 22 points in the fourth quarter.

“We ended up coming back and winning, and our coach was just in tears we’ve never seen him like that. He told us about how he had never seen a team fight as much as we did. To know that he never quit on us and he believed in us, and to see how happy he was for us was an amazing thing to see,” said Naugle.

As a team captain, Naugle maintained a very close relationship with Herzog; he witnessed the extent to which Herzog cared for the entire team.

“He would always check in with me on how our players were doing, because a lot of times it is easier for players to confide in a fellow player than a coach, I thought that was huge because that means he really did care how we were doing as players, he didn’t only care how it seemed to other coaches,” said Naugle.

The full impact of the administration’s unexpected decision remains unclear, as many issues remain unresolved. Who is going to step into Herzog’s shoes? In what “direction” does the new coach plan to lead the team? Will any of the assistant coaches return for the upcoming season? How will the program cope with the loss of funding as major donors withdraw their sponsorships? Players, parents, and community members alike know only one thing for certain: this fumble represents the end of an era, and they must find a way to uphold Herzog’s legacy as the program moves on without him.

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Executive Fumble