Lodi High football coach George Duenas has a little extra work to do this school year.
The fifth-year Flames coach was named the school’s athletic director this summer after his predecessor, Robert Winterhalter, became assistant principal at Bear Creek High.
With the new duties, Duenas will wear three hats on campus – he also teaches physical education and weightlifting.
“I did this in North Dakota, so I had an idea of what it would be like. It’s just about getting used to the systems, like the home CIF campus, and refereeing” , said Duenas, referring to her days at Center Stanton High in Center, ND, “There I was the bus driver, AD, principal, football coach, eighth-grade women’s basketball coach, track and field. It was a such a small school to jump in. I think that kind of prepared me.
Duenas feels he has big shoes to fill – Winterhalter was the school’s athletic director for five years, and before him was Erin Aitken. The two are still with the Lodi Unified School District, with Winterhalter in Bear Creek and Aitken working in the district office.
“We’ve been meeting to talk about basic things for the past few months,” said Winterhalter, who has been at Lodi High for his entire 17-year teaching career. “And since I’m in the area and have ties to Lodi, I told him if he had any questions, I’m just a phone call away.”
Having the two former ADs so close is a weight in Duenas’ mind.
“That’s why I don’t think I’m as stressed, I have Robert to lean on and Erin to lean on. They’re still Lodi High inside so they have their roots here, they still want making sure we’re still successful. Those are two legitimate ads,” Duenas said. “Erin is in the district office, but still involved with CIF, and she knows her stuff. As far as questions go, I have rather luck.
Duenas said the most stressful parts of his new role are scheduling and transferring paperwork.
“That’s the most stressful part of making sure no one falls through the cracks,” he said. “You see horror stories of schools losing due to ineligible players, and that trickles down to the DA. I don’t want to see the program suffer.
The hiring party has begun, with new wrestling coach Jay Barnes in the fold. There is no turnover among fall sports coaches.
“I just want to continue the success. Last year we had a very good year with all the athletics,” Duenas said. “I’ve been lucky, we’ve had a lot of coaches who have been there for over 6 years. I just want to be a defender for them to continue to be successful. We’ve got a pretty good machine running here, I just want to continue like this.
Duenas, a graduate of Lodi High, is entering his fifth year as head coach of the Flames. Lodi made the playoffs last season for the first time in a decade, going 8-4 as the No. 9 seed in Division II. The Flames knocked out No. 8 Downey in the first round, lost a close one to top-seeded Central Catholic.