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Bart Jernigan was recently hired as the head football coach for the Kemmerer Rangers. He replaces Jason Ferrarini, who resigned as head coach to move with his family. Jernigan was the defensive coordinator for the Rangers for two years under Ferrarini.
Jernigan spoke to the Gazette about the football program’s challenges and his goals for the Rangers this season.
The Rangers currently hold Wyoming’s longest losing streak of 0-36. The Rangers last picked up a win in 2012, an eternity ago for football fans.
“Our goal is to win each game,” Jernigan said. “When this streak breaks, it’s going to be one week at a time.”
Jernigan is young and full of enthusiasm for his team.
“I’m optimistic, but I’m not blind,” Jernigan said. “I know there’s plenty of work to be done.”
KJSHS Athletics Director Phil Thatcher said he’s excited to see what Jernigan can do as head coach.
“I love the energy he brings to our school and athletic programs,” Thatcher said. “He knows these kids, having taught and coached many of them over the last couple of years, and he believes in them.”
Jernigan said he understands creating a quality football team is reflected in more than just stats and highlight reels.
“I want my team to be civically active, to be responsible in the classroom, and to produce a product on Friday nights that we and everyone else can be proud of,” Jernigan said.
Thatcher agrees that Jernigan can do more than just put up points on the scoreboard.
“I am confident that this is a coach who will bring success to our program, and that doesn’t mean just winning,” Thatcher said. “Although I believe (winning) will happen, I am more excited to see the growth of the student athletes under his charge. As a parent with a player in the program, I am looking forward to seeing things done on the field that haven’t been done in a few years.”
Jernigan grew up near Layton, Utah, in a small town he describes as having a “similar feel to Kemmerer.”
“I have loved to play football ever since I can remember,” Jernigan said. “I got lucky, and I had tons of great coaches. My dad was my coach for a long time”
Jernigan said his dream of coaching football started early.
“When I was a tenth grader, I started to think coaching could be a pretty cool gig,” Jernigan said. “It’s really what I was passionate about doing.”
Jernigan said he has fly-fished the Hams Fork River for many years, and loves the outdoors of the Kemmerer area.
“It was hard for us to move away from home, but we’re super happy to be here in this close-knit community,” Jernigan said. “I think you get something here that you wouldn’t get coaching in a big city.”
Forward-thinking is also one of Jernigan’s strategies.
“It’s easy to say ‘we haven’t done this’ or ‘we haven’t done that’ about everything, but that’s done and gone,” Jernigan said. “I think we have the kids, we just have to have a positive approach. We really want to be the kind of program that adds value to the community.”
The Rangers have lacked large numbers of upperclassmen for several seasons.
“We have great kids. Numerically, we don’t have a ton, we’ve got four or five seniors and a strong junior class of about 10,” Jernigan said. “We are young, and in the past we’ve really relied on freshman on Friday nights, which isn’t ideal. Our goal is to give those younger kids more experience on JV. We’ll still need to dip in a little to the sophomore class, but I hope we can turn a corner into that as the exception rather than the rule.”
Jernigan also spoke about his coaching style.
“I really think you become an accumulation of the people you coach with and the people you work with,” Jernigan said. “I have a passion for my relationship with the players, and that’s something that I want to stand out. They should know that I’ll go up to bat for them.”
Although Jernigan relates to the phrase “players’ coach,” he wants his players and Ranger fans to know he’s not a pushover.
“I want players to be accountable; we’ve got to take ownership individually,” Jernigan said. “I think if you have that strong relationship with the players, you can ask them to push themselves.”
Jernigan expressed thanks for the constant support of Kemmerer Ranger fans.
“I appreciate (the community) support, and I want the community to know that we’re looking forward to good things,” Jernigan said. “I want this team to be something the town and the school can be proud of.”
Jernigan understands the responsibility of coaching football in a small town.
“‘We are KR’ is a slogan that we’ve been using for a while, and that we’ll use as long as I’m here,” Jernigan said. “We really think about what that means to be Kemmerer Rangers and to be a part of Kemmerer.”
The Rangers held a football camp this week. They play Cokeville on Aug. 25, at 4:00 for a zero-week scrimmage, and their first official game of the season is on Sept.1, when they host Saratoga in Kemmerer.