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Taber puts down roots to grow athletic program

Taber puts down roots to grow athletic program
FELIPE SALAZAR “The big thing is to change what our expectations are.” La Vernia’s new Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Chris Taber is looking forward to building a program that expects to hang State banners on the wall.

“A good friend of mine always said, ’Everyone wants to discuss the fruits of your labor.’ We’re trying to put in the roots now,” said La Vernia’s new Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Chris Taber.

After starting off in a “real job” right out of college, Taber began his coaching career in 2001 at the age of 28 as a defensive coordinator and head baseball coach in Jacksonville under Danny Long.

From there, he went on to serve as offensive coordinator and head baseball coach in Nacogdoches, followed by a five-year stint in New Braunfels as head track coach and offensive coordinator. He moved on to Chapel Hill in 2009, where, as offensive coordinator, he helped lead the football team to two State appearances, winning the championship in 2011. He knew that he ultimately wanted to run his own program, though.

“You always have little things you want to do, but you know you can’t because it’s not your program,” he said.

An opportunity came in 2012, when he returned to Jacksonville as its new AD. After leading the football squad to the playoffs the first year, the program experienced a winless season, followed by a 4-6 finish in 2014.

“We had some big wins, just not enough of them,” Taber said, highlighting some big wins in the softball, basketball, and soccer programs, as well.

He returned to Chapel Hill as offensive coordinator in 2015. When La Vernia ISD put out its feelers last year, he threw his hat in the ring.

“From my time in New Braunfels, I knew it was a nice community,” he said. “I felt like this would be a good place to put some roots down and build a good program.”

Those roots will have to be strong, as he will be the fourth head coach in four years in a district that insists on success.

“The big thing is to change what our expectations are,” Taber said. “We don’t want to be playoff teams, we want to be State championship teams, and we have the kids to do that. ... It’s a mentality a mindset when you come to work every day what is our goal?”

The rubber meets the road Aug. 7, when football training begins.

“The first four days will be shorts and helmets, so we’ll review and reinstall our offense and defense,” he said. “Our biggest question is who is going to be physical, who is tough, who can make the plays.”

But more than that, it’s about building men and women of exceptional character, Taber said.

“The better we are character-wise, the better we are on the field,” he said.

The eyes of the entire community will be on him in this regard. In addition to an athletic program, Taber also has inherited a hazing scandal that led to several student-athlete arrests on sexual assault charges last spring. This has left some parents wondering about their children’s safety if they participate in sports.

“The big thing is how we preach to the kids about right and wrong and the choices we make,” Taber said.

Better monitoring and keeping the buildings locked will be important, he added. The boys’ teams have been moved to the field house near the stadium, so they will be in one central location. However, he stresses that these steps must be taken within the context of building a great program.

“We have to make sure we stay the course and remember why we’re here to compete, to create a family atmosphere, and to make lifelong memories,” Taber said.

New faces on the sidelines

¢Jamie Palmer - offensive coordinator, formerly at Liberty-Eylau ISD

¢Logan Cordes - defensive coordinator, formerly at Chapel Hill

¢Judd Guidry - defensive line coach, formerly at Chapel Hill, also Head Baseball Coach

¢Shawn Denzer - receiver and kicker coach, formerly at El Paso ISD, former NFL kicker

¢Tim Markgraf - defensive coordinator of inside linebackers, formerly at Bandera ISD

¢Ben Ramirez - offensive line coach, formerly at Marion ISD

¢Veteran La Vernia coaches Gerald Huber, Matt Luddeke, and Kevin Schier will round out the coaching staff.

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