Pete Wahlheim is out of the norm and routine.
He’s having to think about everything again, redesign the way things are done and figure out last names.
The only thing that is second nature is coaching the game of football, but taking over a struggling program after 10 years at another school has Wahlheim seeing things for the first time again at Dobson.
“After 10 years, the program runs itself so some things just get done automatically,” the former Highland coach said. “We are starting from scratch here and it is going to be hard, but in a good way. It’s fun to start over again and if you have a bunch of guys willing to work it’s fun to start over again.
“I’m enjoying myself. It’s a different world and we are putting some things in place that will help us down the line.”
The Mustangs got through spring ball with their new mentor after Wahlheim, who went 46-60 in 10 seasons at Highland, was selected to replace George De La Torre. Packages were implemented, issues were addressed and names were placed on helmets as the coaching staff went to work.
The transition to Wahlheim, who was hired in mid-April, led to the team missing out on most of the 7-on-7 opportunities so the Mustangs will head up to a Camp Tontozona in the weeks to come to build relationships and begin the circle of trust.
“It’s earlier than normal, but I wanted to do it as quick as possible so we could get to know each other,” he said. “Building that trust and getting on the same page is vital, and the sooner we get started the stronger we will be when we start to get going.”
The program hasn’t had a winning season since 2007 when the Mustangs went 7-5 under Tom DeMassa and have a 32-64 record over that span. It means there will be plenty of work to do as Dobson looks to find its place in the 6A Conference East Valley Region.
The Mesa District administration feels it has the right guy in place to do just that as Wahlheim, a Mountain View graduate, becomes the third Mesa District product to run a program along with Kyle Ide at Westwood and Kapi Sikahema at Mesa.
“We are excited to have another high character, high quality coach in Mesa,” Mesa District athletic director Steve Hogen said. “We appreciate everything coach De La Torre did at Dobson and look forward to great things with coach Wahlheim.”
Wahlheim is being realistic when it comes to expectations early on as he tries to change the culture by addressing academics, discipline and getting more players out for the teams considering the size of the school.
In order to make it work, he knows he must have plenty of help from the coaching staff. There will be a bridge to the previous staff with some holdovers, but there are plenty of new faces there to shake things up as well.
Joining Wahlheim will be former Hamilton line coach Tony Conrad, former Highland linebacker coach Joe O’Hara and former Highland assistant Jason Redd, who will be the offensive coordinator.
“It’s a bit of an old-school staff,” Wahlheim said. “We will have guys in the school so they will be able to get some of those kids out. We will slam that fullback up into the line and we will have a hand down tight end. We can’t get into a track meet. I think we can be competitive on defense right now. We have some good guys returning.”
The team will have to figure out the quarterback situation with three candidates in place to take over for the departed Angel Hermosillo. In fact, the starting lineup throughout the depth chart will be first-time starters especially the offensive threats considering the top 10 all-purpose leaders for the Mustangs were all seniors a year ago.
“It may get worse before it gets better,” Wahlheim said. “If they decide they want to buy in and do it our way then we are not that far away. There are enough kids to make it work and if we keep them focused and working every day we can make some strides.”
The early portion of the schedule – Rincon, Central, Gilbert, La Joya – is conducive to a good start, the Mustangs started 4-0 before finishing 5-5, in preparation for the East Valley Region schedule.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “There is an awful lot of potential. It is about learning how to practice and to work hard. We have a lot of kids that want to get after people. We have to channel some of that the right way, keep them busy and not get off task. They are hungry and are excited.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.