Six-Eight-Eleven is a photo-essay project about small town high school football focusing on the small town football games and programs in the bypassed communities of Wyoming and Montana (mostly). Despite the decadence of American Football at the professional, college, and some high school levels, this body of work illustrates that there are still places in this country where football’s innocence is preserved and celebrated in a grass roots setting. This project commenced in 1997.
Following her head-coach debut and home-opening loss to Wind River, Jeny Gardner faced her team in the east end zone and informed them that she would be reviewing the film with her staff and making notes about who was engaged in each play and who was standing around. She specifically alluded to the juniors and seniors on the team saying that she believed there were some people on the team who think they have a starting position because of their seniority. This was followed up with a threat to start a freshman if they were willing to do more than just stand around.
As historic as she was in becoming the first female to lead a high school football team in Wyoming, standing in the end zone after the game, I thought she made a better argument for simply being a legit coach. Surely Gardner’s post-game monologue would have scuttled any concerns on her coaching prowess.
Watching her work the game, she looked every bit the example of a head coach. There’s nothing about watching her on the sidelines that seemed out of place—the headset, the matching coaching staff outfits, the gestures she made… she appeared to be in her happy place from my perspective.
She coached a good game and Lovell was well prepared—as much as any high school team in their first outing of the season. Both teams made their share of mistakes, attributed to such first-game-of-the-season blunders. Neither team was clearly dominant either.
Although Lovell absorbed an 18-7 loss, it clearly wasn’t an embarrassing one. I’m not sure how she felt after the game—certainly not great, but I reckon there must have been a little relief once it was over. Getting that first game out of the way and in the bag… there had to be some deliverance in that alone.
Sure, no head coach in their debut game wants to lose—especially at home—but, it happens and even to those coaches who go on to be legacies at all levels of the game.
I read somewhere that Wind River is considered a contender, albeit a dark horse, when it comes to the schools for the Wyoming 1A title. I realized that Lovell is a 2A school, but Big Piney and Cokeville have been beating up on 2A schools for years. In fact, I recall a year Cokeville defeated the eventual state champions in the class above them during the regular season.
And, of course, there is this FCS team called North Dakota State who has a pesky history of beating up on BCS teams.
There’s probably more worthy discussion of this contest from the Wind River side than that of a first-year head coach who just happens to be female. The Cougars’ winning their first game of the season, played on the road in Lovell against a retooled 2A team under the direction of a first-year head coach, is certainly more telling of Wind River’s championship contention this season than anything about Gardner’s Bulldogs.
Sure, it was an historic event, and it was inspirational to see a woman handle her football team the way she did. I was happy to see she was the real deal, but beyond that I was impressed not because she was a good woman coach, but that she was simply a good coach—so impressed, I even bought me some Lovell swag before the game was over. More Six-Eight-Eleven images HERE.