Former Sidney coach Ekart to coach Bulldog football team
     2015-02-12      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy photo - Todd Ekart will be the Gering Bulldogs’ new head football coach. 
When Todd Ekart took the position as Sidney High School’s head football coach for the 2011 season, the Red Raiders were coming off a winless campaign.

Four seasons and two Class B state playoff appearances later, Ekart finds himself in a similar situation when he will become head coach for the Gering High School football team next fall.

Ekart’s hiring comes after Jimmie Rhodes had resigned as the Bulldogs’ head coach in January after four seasons as head coach that followed his seven years as an assistant coach.

Gering had gone from making the playoffs in Rhodes’ first year as head coach to a youth-laden, 0-9 season last fall.

Glen Koski, activities director for Gering Public Schools, said in a Feb. 5 press release that Ekart is “regarded as one of the top football coaches in the area.”

His hiring also ends several months of uncertainty for Ekart, who had resigned his coaching position in November when an opportunity opened for his wife to take a job in Kearney.

Ekart said his initial hope was to join the new staff at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, but he was overlooked for any of the Lopers’ staff openings. No other high school vacancies in the Kearney area became open, so the Ekarts had to change direction and look elsewhere to secure their future.

“I had heard that Jimmie had stepped down, and I was talking to my wife and she said, ‘Hey, take a look at it,’” Ekart said of learning of the Gering coaching vacancy. “It’s a rebuilding program and it piqued my interest.”

Rhodes led Gering into the 2011 Class B state playoffs in his first season as head coach, with the Bulldogs finishing the year at 5-5 after a first-round playoff loss to Adams Central. Gering went 5-4 again during the 2012 regular season but missed the 16-team playoffs by one position.

An injury-plagued 2013 season resulted in the Bulldogs slipping to 2-7, and a young Gering team last fall went winless in nine games.
During that same period, Ekart took his first head coaching job at Sidney, which had been 0-9 in 2010.

Ekart slowly built the program through a pair of 1-8 seasons before the Red Raiders won the District B-8 championship in 2013 and into the Class B state playoff quarterfinals, where they finished the season with a 7-4 record.

Sidney completed the 2014 season with a 7-3 record after the Red Raiders earned a wild-card playoff berth and was seeded No. 9. Sidney lost to No. 8 seed Seward 24-14 in the first round.

The Bulldogs enter the Ekart era on a 13-game losing streak overall.
“I’m excited to rebuild a program again,” he said. “I think I have a plan with some things that worked and some things that didn’t, so we’ll focus on the things that did work. I’m a little bit wiser now after rebuilding a program, so we’ll probably use some of those things in Gering.”

Ekart said he hopes to make a visit to Gering at some point to meet with returning players to introduce himself and his plan and “get some guys going in the right direction.”

“When you have a young team, you worry that they get smacked around a little and don’t want to play anymore,” Ekart said. “You want to keep those kids around.

“It’s a learning process and it takes a little time for the kids to get used to what we want to do and how we want it done. Once they buy in, good things happen.”

Originally from Superior, Ekart returned to the western part of the state with his move to Sidney after he was the defensive coordinator at Beatrice High School. While Ekart was at Beatrice, he helped coached teams that reached the state playoffs three times and were state runner-up in 2008.

Before his time at Beatrice, Ekart was the defensive coordinator at Gothenburg High School, and the Swedes reached the state playoffs the two years he coached there.

Along with the coaching position, Ekart was offered a teaching position in Social Sciences in the Gering schools.

At Sidney, Ekart teaches physical education and weight training and serves as the school’s strength program director, and in past years taught World Geography. He taught American History while he was at Beatrice.

“While Mr. Ekart has coached many successful teams, he is also an excellent instructor,” Koski said.

Ekart was on the coaching staff for the West Nebraska All-Star Football Game last year.

“We know a lot people from the Gering and Scottsbluff area, and I think it’s a great opportunity,” Ekart said. “I think they have the kids and the talent and support there that they can be successful.”

Ekart said his wife will start working in the Scottsbluff-Gering area in the next few weeks. They have a daughter in first grade as well.

“It’s grown on us and we like it out here,” Ekart said of living and working in the Panhandle, “so we’ll stay for a while.”

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