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Hurt takes over Gila Ridge football as interim coach
Tom Hurt certainly didn’t expect this.
A day after learning that his longtime friend Jay Denton stepped down as the football coach at Gila Ridge, Hurt was chosen to take his place as the interim coach for the Hawks on Tuesday -- less than three weeks before the first game of the 2013 season takes place on Aug. 30 at Poston Butte.
“Coach Denton came by my house (Monday) night and told me, ‘I had to resign today,’” Hurt said. “I was available and not a lot of guys are available and have experience this time of year.”
On Monday, Denton resigned as coach because diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, an inner-ear disorder which can cause a loss of balance. He was worried it could become a distraction if he had an episode during the season. Hurt wasn’t the only one left surprised at the whirlwind of events to take place at Gila Ridge this week. Many of the players were shocked when Denton called the team into the cafeteria to let them know he was stepping down.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Brandon Kehl, a junior who will likely fill in as the starting quarterback for the Hawks. “Denton’s been working with me since my freshman year so it was really surprising that he retired. It’s a big adjustment but I think we’ll get through it.”
“It definitely caught me by surprise,” said senior Kainoa Renaud. “I was with (Denton) earlier at school and I just didn’t see it coming. Most of it is the same. There’s just a few things that are different but it’s just something we have to get used to over time.”
Hurt coached at Yuma High from 1988-91 and at Yuma Catholic from 2000-2004 -- along with coaching stints at Mohave and several other schools.
“I’ve been around a little bit,” said the 68-year-old Hurt, who hasn’t coached since 2004.
According to Gila Ridge athletic director Derek Bosch, it was that experience that was a major reason they decided to go with Hurt instead of making one of the Hawks’ assistant coaches the interim coach.
“We really thought about it but we didn’t want to put somebody in a tough situation. It wasn’t fair to put somebody in that position who didn’t have experience,” Bosch said.
Bosch said that Hurt will be the coach for at least the entire 2013 season.
With the clock ticking toward the start of the season, Hurt said that he’ll most likely not change a lot of the things the Hawks did under Denton, who Hurt spent all Tuesday afternoon with. However, he admits he might sprinkle a few of his own ideas into the mix, as well. While Denton was the primary play caller for the Hawks, Hurt said on his first day on the job that the duties may be split among a couple of the coaches.
“I’m excited to do what I can. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into this program in the last four years,” Hurt said. “These kids are really nice kids and they’ve worked hard the last four years so I was excited to be a part of that.”
Hurt inherits a team that went 7-3 last season and returns a handful of key players, including Renaud, who finished with 41 tackles on defense and scored six rushing touchdowns. On offense, Kehl, who was a major force on defense for the Hawks, will take full control of the quarterback position. Last season, Kehl had strong numbers in limited action.
“There’s a little weight on my shoulders because we’re coming in with a new coach, new season, but I think I’m ready for it,” said Kehl, who went 9 for 17 for 152 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception as a backup to Scotty Nickerson. “I think we have a good team here and we have a lot of potential.”
Kehl, who looked sharp during Tuesday’s practice, will have a major weapon on the outside in junior wide receiver Dalon Perkins. In 2012, Perkins hauled in 34 receptions for 558 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We have a solid D and our offense is going to be quicker,” said Perkins, who feels that he’s much stronger and faster this season. “We have a lot of speed coming back.”
Despite the drastic coaching change at the 11th hour for Gila Ridge, Renaud isn’t worried about things under Hurt.
“I think the season is going to be just fine. We just need to go out there and do it,” he said. “We have a chance to do some damage this year if we execute”