Wemberson Tackling Drill

Russ Emberson blows whistle during form tackling drill.

Brian Durkan has stepped into a unique situation.

The new Taft Union High School football coach stepped into the job this spring when George Falgout resigned and now he's putting together a team with players who haven't played football in two years and most who have never played varsity football.

"It's been quite a challenge," said Durkan. “Like defensive coordinator Russ Emberson said, it's a puzzle and were trying to figure out all of the pieces."

The good news for the Wildcats is they have a lot of players this year.

Well over 30 students have checked out varsity gear, and there are about 50 on the JV squad.

Most years teams return around half of their starters. But the juniors on the last football team, 2019, have graduated, and only a handful of sophomores were on that team.

Their teammates were all on the junior varsity.

Most of the players took part in a conditioning program through July and are in good shape.

Practice started last week and players who have five days of workouts are now in pads.

Durkan said the Wildcats will be using a spread offense to take advantage of their athleticism.

Tat will be playing six road games and just four at home this year.

Durkan is new to the varsity head coaching job but is a fixture at Taft High. He graduated in 1988 and, played football for Al Baldock at Taft College.

After brief coaching stints at TUHS,Tehachapi and Ridgeview in the 1990s, he returned to TUHS coaching in 2001 and was junior varsity head coach from 2001-2008 before becoming a varsity assistant since 2009.

The Wildcats open the season with a pair of road games against Kern Valley on Aug. 20 and at California City on Aug. 27.

They open the home season on Sept. 3 against Desert High from Edwards Air Force Base on Sept. 3.

After a final non-league game at Foothill, TUHS opens the South Sequoia League season at Kennedy High in Delano on Sept. 17, then hosts Shafter on Sept. 24 before a bye on Oct. 1.

After that, its a road game in McFarland on Oct. 8, home against Chavez on Oct. 15, back on the road to play Wasco on Oct. 22 and then the final regular season game at home against Arvin. 

Wdurkan Pointing

New Taft Union head coach Brian Durkan works with players during opening week of practce.

Wjackson Berry1

Jackson Berry throws pass in front of assistant coach Eric Newton. Berry is one of a handfull of Wildcats wth varsity experience.

This article originally appeared on Taft Midway Driller: Wildcats open season Aug,. 20 at Kern Valley