By Kyle LoJacono
When the Gaither High football team begins spring practice in May, Jason Stokes will be their new coach.
Stokes, who led Middleton’s program the previous two seasons, was named the Cowboys new head man Jan. 14. He takes over a program that went 3-7 in 2010.
“We felt he is a great fit for our football program,” said Gaither principal Marie Whelan.
Stokes was not available for comment before press time, but Whelan said he is excited about the chance to lead the Cowboys program. He met with his team for the first time the day he was named coach.
Whelan was an assistant principal at Middleton when Stokes was hired as coach in 2009. She left that summer to join her alma mater at Gaither before Stokes started as a teacher at Middleton.
Middleton went 10-10 with Stokes as the coach, but he was let go in November following the season. Last year his team went 5-5, 3-3 in Class 2A-District 5 including three of the last four contests to end the year. He also coached at Bloomingdale High before moving to Middleton.
Stokes will finish this year as a driver’s education instructor at Middleton while coaching the Cowboys during spring practices and workouts. He will be a teacher at Gaither next year, but his department has not been decided
Gaither athletic director Henry Strapp said about 30 people applied for the position. One of those was former Land O’ Lakes High coach Matt Kitchie. Stokes was one of five finalists for the job along with former Gaither assistants Brian Emanuel and Kirk Karsen, current junior varsity coach Bob Griffey and former Armwood High assistant Ron Johnson.
Stokes takes over for Mark Kantor, who stepped down from the program in December after learning administration wanted to go in a different direction. He remains as a social studies teacher.
Kantor led the program for nine years, the longest of any coach in Cowboys history, compiling a 42-55 record and three straight playoff appearances from 2006-2008. He is a finalist for the Mitchell High head football opening and has applied for the same position at Land O’ Lakes High.
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