BREAKING: Coach Cooper to again give up football coaching duties at GBHS (updated 4:14 p.m., Feb. 19)

BREAKING%3A+Coach+Cooper+to+again+give+up+football+coaching+duties+at+GBHS+%28updated+4%3A14+p.m.%2C+Feb.+19%29

Football coach Ernie Cooper, his daughter and the Grizzlies celebrate the team’s state championship in December 2012. After resigning in the summer of 2013 because of the pace and demands of coaching, Cooper returned to the helm of the program a year ago and coached GBHS last fall. But Thursday afternoon, Feb. 19, Cooper resigned again. He will be replaced by offensive  coordinator and GBHS teacher Jeff Evans.
–Gazette file photo 2012, CEVIN MEADOR

For the second time in less than two years, Granite Bay High School football coach Ernie Cooper has resigned.

Cooper resigned in the summer of 2013, saying he couldn’t keep up with the exhausting demands of the job; less than a year later, he was re-appointed to the position. But on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 19, Cooper called a mandatory meeting in the school theater with next year’s prospective players to announce his decision to again give up the varsity football coaching position at GBHS.

Cooper will remain on the GBHS teaching staff, and he will be the team’s strength and conditioning coach. Cooper’s replacement as head coach for next year will be current offensive coordinator and GBHS teacher Jeff Evans.

“I came back (after the first resignation) to see if that fire was still there, plus I missed it,” Cooper said after the Thursday meeting with the players. “I came back because there was direction needed in the program, and we didn’t have the on-campus people to handle the program at that point, but we do now.”

Cooper said the time is right for him to step away – and he’ll still be working with players in the weight room.

“We’re in a great spot for the program,” Cooper said. “We have great coaches and we have money in the bank. … I wouldn’t have gotten out if I wasn’t confident (leaving).

“Coach (Steve) Smith is going to be a great defensive coordinator, and he’s worked with the freshman and JV guys and now he’s up to varsity. It’s going to be a good marriage with three guys spreading the work, but coach Evans is in charge.”

Last fall, the Grizzlies finished with a 9-4 overall record and in a three-way tie for second place in the Sierra Foothill League. In postseason play, GBHS beat Napa and Chavez of Stockton in the first two rounds of the Division 1 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs before losing  27-21 to Tracy in the section semifinals.

Until his first resignation in the summer of 2013, Cooper had been the school’s only varsity head football coach and had built a respected football program since the opening of the school in 1996. He was replaced for one year by former GBHS assistant coach and retired GBHS teacher Skip Albano.

Cooper’s career record as GBHS head coach is 164-47-1. Under Cooper, the Grizzlies have won two state championships. One came in the fall of 2012 when GBHS came back to beat Long Beach Poly 21-20 in the Division 1 state championship game in Carson. The other state championship for the Grizzlies came in 1999 before the current state playoff system was in place. GBHS, which went 13-0 and won its first-ever section championship with a 25-21 victory against Oakdale, won the mythical state Division 2 championship when the Grizzlies ended the season as the top-ranked Division 2 football program in the state.

In addition to the two state titles during Cooper’s 17-year coaching career at GBHS, the Grizzlies have won or shared 10 league championships, five section titles and a regional championship, and they had one undefeated season.

Evans returned to GBHS last fall – he was a coach and teacher at GBHS several years ago, but he’d left for coaching and teaching opportunities at Rocklin High, and then at Antelope. The plan, he said, was that he would be able to eventually transition into the role of head coach.

But he didn’t think it would be this soon.

“I was kind of hoping he’d give me five more years to get ready, but you’ll never be ready to fill his shoes,” Evans said. “That was my reason for coming back (to GBHS), but I didn’t think (taking over as head coach) would be so soon.”

Evans said he thinks the varsity players will make the transition without any hiccups.

“We feel really good about our group of seniors and younger guys coming up,” Evans said. “I have a great relationship with them. … I think they’ll be ready to roll.”

As far as any possible changes that will be coming on the football field, Evans said he’s planning to stick with the status quo for now.

“No sweeping changes,” he said. “I’ve coached for eight years under coach Cooper running the same stuff, and a lot of that stuff will look the same. That’s where the pressure is (in this job), to get the guys playing at (a high) level.”

The GBHS players weren’t necessarily surprised by the announcement Thursday afternoon, although they didn’t officially know it was coming.

“I kind of saw it coming throughout the season,” junior quarterback Brad Fina said. “He didn’t have as much enthusiasm at the end of the year as he usually does.”

Fina and his teammates are looking forward to continuing their high school football careers under the guidance of Evans.

“I’m sad to see coach Coop go, because I love his enthusiasm he brings every day, but I’m excited to see where things go with coach Evans,” Fina said. “(He) knows a lot, and I think we’re going to be all right. Once (the news of Cooper’s resignation) dies down, it will come down to playing football again.”

Some players said the coaching change will give new meaning to their efforts next fall.

“I think if anything it will motivate us to play better and have a good season,” junior Sam Cusano said. “We’re going to do it for Coop.”

Junior Reed Homen agreed.

“Coach Cooper has done so much for us and he continues to do so much for us,” Homen said. “He’s the greatest coach I’ve ever been coached by. He’ll rise with our success and he’ll fall with our defeat – he’s still part of us and he’s definitely part of the football player I’ve become.

“Everyone plays for Coop, and losing him is only going to make us play harder.”

GBT.org staff writers Maggie Bell and Amanda Nist contributed to this report.

 

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