By BEN JOHNSON
Gary Riley has been spent an ample amount of time with well-respected high school football coaches in Oklahoma. He worked on Allan Trimble’s staff at Jenks, along side assistant coach Antwain Jimmerson, who eventually went on to succeed on his own as a head coach at Booker T. Washington.
Now Riley will get to put all the knowledge he’s absorbed to the test in 2013.
On Monday, Riley was named Hulbert’s new head football coach by the board of education. He takes over for Mitchell Crittenden, who was let go by the school district at the school board meeting in May.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Riley said. “I think Coach Crittenden had it going in the right direction with all the work that he put in.”
Riley takes over a club that went 3-7 in 2012. In 2011, Hulbert made the playoffs in Crittenden’s first season before losing to the eventual state runner-up, Woodland.
“I’m going to continue the success they’ve had the last couple of years,” said Riley, 44. “I will try to continue what’s been happening, where things were getting better, better and better. I’m just trying not to mess it up too much.”
For Riley, it’s his first head-football coaching gig. It comes after being an assistant on Crittenden’s staff and after spending time at Jenks in 1990s as the head junior varsity coach and strength and conditioning coach.
“He’s done an excellent job as the baseball and cross country coach,” said Marilyn Dewoody, Hulbert’s superintendent. “I'm confident he'll do as good as a football coach as he has with the other sports.”
However, just because Riley is now the head football coach doesn’t mean he’s going to relinquish his other coaching duties. He will continue to coach both the cross country teams — also in the fall with football — and the baseball team.
Riley said his upcoming school days will consist of cross country practice at 6:45 a.m. and junior high football practice at 7:30 a.m. Then, after teaching class, he’ll have varsity football practice, and on some days will assist coach David Young with softball.
“I just have to be really organized,” Riley said. “Whatever they need, I’m doing. It’s better than being unemployed.”
When Crittenden was released by the school district, Riley said he took over as the new head football coach because of the players.
“It’s just such a good group of boys,” Riley said. “When you stop, you just go, ‘well, I have a good relationship with the players.’ Just having a little stability is a good thing.”
Riley, though, did have to take a couple of days to talk things over with his wife.
“We took two, three or four days to go through the process and think about it,” Riley said. “Just wanted to see how we were going to manage the busy schedule.”
Riley said the football team has already started its summer pride program. And he said he foresees very few changes to the Riders’ game plan.
“Crittenden was a Wing-T guy and I’m not really,” Riley said. “So we’re having to change things up a bit, in that regard.”