CHERRYVALE — Two coaches at different ends of a spectrum — one a longtime staple of the community and another still shy of 25 years old — have been hired to lead the football and boy’s basketball programs at Cherryvale High School.

Rodney Vigil, the school’s athletic director and former girl’s basketball head coach, was tabbed as Aaron Rehmert’s replacement for boy’s basketball while Travis Young, a 24-year-old Caney native with college coaching experience at Pittsburg State, will fill Harry Hester’s shoes as the new football head coach.

Vigil, whose hiring was formally announced by the USD 447 board on Tuesday, has been at Cherryvale since 2003 when he took over the fledgling girl’s basketball team. Vigil inherited a girls team that endured a 75-game losing streak from 2000-04, then believed to be the longest ever in Kansas history regardless of classification, and took the Chargers to back-to-back state tournaments in 2008 and 2009 before stepping down.

Since then, Vigil has served as the school’s athletic director while occasionally serving in middle school coaching roles.

“I’ve been out for a while, but I haven’t been out from the game,” Vigil said. “I’ve helped out and coached at the middle school level. There, you’re teaching the game of basketball from a very ground level. It’s enjoyable and fun being a head coach there. You get more seasoned and understanding and tolerant. You find different approaches to reaching kids.” 

Now Vigil takes over a program on solid footing. The Cherryvale boys went 14-7 last year and were among the top teams in the Tri-Valley League. 

“Aaron did a great job. I was very pleased with his leadership of our boys basketball program,” Vigil said. “He was always providing opportunities and bought in during the summer time. We’re losing some seniors that gave us good minutes. They’re tough players to replace. But I’m fortunate that I’m stepping into a program that’s already developed. Now there’s pressure to continue that.” 

Vigil also teaches weightlifting at the school and hopes his already-established relationships with the players carries over.

“Relationships are huge and I’ve been fortunate enough to be around the game and around athletics,” Vigil said. “Teaching weights a few hours a day really helps. I see these kids on the football field and at track meets. So that’s an advantage because I can continue to strengthen those relationships.” 

As for Young, who was hired in April, he takes over a football team that went 5-4 in 2019 and earned a berth into the Class 2A playoffs.

“My whole goal has always been to be a head coach,” Young said. “I know this league well because I went to Caney Valley. I saw this open up and I figured it could be a good fit.” 

Young has spent time on the Pittsburg State University and Coffeyville Community College coaching staffs in various roles. He graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Pittsburg State in May 2019.

“I want to be the hardest working team and come together as a family,” Young said. “Coming from the college level, I can teach the kids a lot about football knowledge. I’m meeting with the quarterbacks and talking about coverages. We’re having a leadership class to learn those roles.” 

The Caney native added that he hopes to continue the legacy left by Hester.

“I want to build on the things Hester started here,” Young said. “I want a family atmosphere and a championship culture.” 

The Cherryvale football team will bump up to Class 3A next year and join a district with Parsons, Baxter Springs, Caney Valley, Columbus and Galena.

“We’ve got 12 seniors coming back so that’s really strong for us,” Young said. “I want to be a player-led and coach-led team. That comes down to building relationships and a family atmosphere. It’s an extremely hard district, but we’re going to keep getting better day after day.” 

The biggest obstacle facing both Vigil and Young’s implementation of their programs is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Schools across the state can’t hold in-person workouts and the summer is traditionally a critical time for first-year coaches in laying down roots.

KSHSAA has said it will allow schools to hold workouts starting on June 1 contingent upon approval from local health departments and boards of education. USD 447 is tentatively aiming for a June 15 start.

“From an athletic director’s perspective, our number one concern is the safety of our kids,” Vigil said. “We’re bouncing around ideas of how to maintain social distancing. But it’s also an opportunity to focus on the mechanics of the game. We can bring them in on an individual basis and focus on shooting on dribbling.” 

“Not being face-to-face has been pretty difficult,” Young added. “But we’ve still communicated weekly to install the offense and general culture. It’s been difficult, but it’s been manageable. All of us are putting in extra effort.” 

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