Coaching is something Justin Schanbacher has always wanted to do. But more specifically, he’s always wanted to help unite a school and a community.
As a football player at Cherokee, Schanbacher saw the Chiefs go through a four-year transformation. The football team went from having a “rough year” during Schanbacher’s freshman year to becoming a Class B state champion during his senior year.
“Seeing how the football team getting better had an impact on the school and the community as a whole, I kind of always thought that I wanted to do something like that,” he said. “Seeing that as a player, I wanted to try and do that as a coach.”
He will have that opportunity at DCLA as the Eagles’ new football coach. But the job won’t be an easy one. DCLA went 2-8 last season and has won a combined five games in the last three seasons.
Schanbacher spent the last few seasons as an assistant coach at Chisholm and coached the wide receivers and defensive backs. While working on head coach Joey Reinart’s staff, Schanbacher said he didn’t ask many questions. He was more of an observant learner and picked up “on the little details and how to manage a team.”
There’s no doubt the head coaching title carries more weight than an assistant coach.
“You’re the guy in charge so everyone is relying on you,” he said.
But the responsibilities of being the man in charge don’t intimidate the former Northwestern Oklahoma State tight end.
“I knew I still had stuff to learn just being an assistant the past couple of years,” Schanbacher said. “The way I see it, there’s no better way to learn than to just being thrown in there and figure it out as you go.”
Schanbacher’s past coach and third-cousin Bryce Schanbacher, however, will always be there to guide the new coach. Who better to seek coaching advice from then the head coach who helped lead Cherokee’s transformation more than a decade ago?
“When I first got into coaching, I didn’t hesitate to shoot him a text and ask him something,” Schanbacher said.
Lamle back home
If the right situation came along for Blake Lamle to return to his hometown of Medford, he’d take it. Sure enough, it came, and now he takes over the Cardinals program.
“I really think the administration and everything is really going good over here,” he said. “I think it was a pretty good fit and a pretty good time for my family and things of that nature.”
It will be his third head coaching job in as many years. After a season as the head coach at Buffalo, Lamle spent five years with Shattuck and spent his last two seasons there as the Indians' head coach. After a year at Garber, where the Wolverines finished 2-8, Lamle comes to Medford. It’s a move that places him closer to his family; his sister resides in Kremlin and his parents live in Medford.
“I think it’s going to be a good situation,” Lamle said.
Lamle and his players are still in the “getting to know each other” phase and the Cardinals' summer lifting program and off-season work have so far been good. But Lamle’s imprint on his new program will have to wait until the season officially kicks off.
“I really don't think you can put your mark (on a team) until you actually get into school, get into the classroom, walking up and down the halls, and get into practice,” he said.
The Garber Wolverines are excited.
Despite consecutive losing seasons and inconsistency at the head coaching position, the football team could have everything they’ve been missing with the arrival of Garber alum and new head coach Koy Hughes.
Hughes, who came over from Waukomis, can tell the team, especially the seniors, are excited.
“I can imagine how tough it is having four coaches in four years,” he said. “But I think they know they’re waiting to have a big year because we’re returning so many kids. I mean, they’re just hungry.”
The Wolverines will have seven full-time starters returning and an offensive spread system that helped Waukomis reach the playoffs last season. With Hughes staying in the same district, he won’t miss a beat in preparing for the upcoming district play.
The district, while winnable, will be “really tough,” Hughes said. Aside from district-winner Pioneer and runner-up Cherokee returning as district favorites, Hughes also pointed to Kremlin-Hillsdale as a possible dark horse. Kremlin-Hillsdale was a team hampered by injuries last season, Hughes said.
Father and son
There’s no place new Waukomis head coach Mark Timberlake and his boys would rather be.
“There's not a lot of places from the fifth- and sixth-grade team all the way to the high school, that get paraded around on fire trucks and the whole community comes together for celebration and focused around the kids,” Timberlake said.
When Timberlake moved to Waukomis nearly five years ago, both his sons, Dakota and Tyson, transferred over, as well, and have become embedded in the community. Now, Dakota, who is a sophomore, will be joining his dad on the football team.
“Pretty excited that he’s bought in and giving it his best in all the summer workouts,” Timberlake said of Dakota, who is making his return to football after a few years.