When Bill Godsil was hired to be the new varsity football coach at Dobson High School, he was the third head coach in less than five years.
Godsil is putting history behind him and looking to move the Mustangs in a new direction.
Five years ago, then-coach George De La Torre led the Mustangs to a 5-5 record, the most wins for the program since 2007. Since then, Dobson has only eclipsed five wins once.
With the program in disarray, Dobson principal Gabrielle Buckley knew Godsil was the best fit to fix the program.
“His dedication to the kids who haven’t always been winners and bringing kids in and building the program the right way,” said Buckley. “Wahlheim was good for the boys we had at the time but when we looked at what we wanted after he decided to leave, we both agreed Dobson needed somebody who could come in and build a legacy.”
During the hiring process, Godsil wanted to make sure he had support from administration.
“The first thing was making administration was on the same page and that it was going to take time to build the program,” Godsil said.
Buckley found that Godsil had already set a foundation for progress.
According to Godsil, he wanted to instill accountability, making his players stay on top of their academics and trust with their teachers.
“They wanted to change the perception around school,” Godsil said. “They were tired of being known as the screw-ups and the kids who messed around all the time.”
Before coming to Dobson, Godsil was at Coolidge High School, where he was hired in a similar situation he’s now in with Dobson. He was the coach there for two years, during which he compiled a 9-12 overall record.
He led the program to a 7-4 record last season and to the 3A playoffs.
At Dobson, Godsil faces a program with a troubled past.
Dobson has had a history of undisciplined players who struggle in the classroom. With no coach around them, players have a tendency to slack off and individualize.
Godsil knew the task at hand when he took the job at Dobson and took the challenge head-on.
The first thing he did as a coach was instill the accountability in his players. He did that by making them their way to camp instead of prior years where the boosters would subsidize the kids who didn’t raise enough money.
“We gave them avenues to pay and earn money for camp,” said Godsil.
To connect with the kids, he tries to tie a lesson into every practice.
“We focus on their everyday cultural needs, home life and relationship life and try to tie that into what we’re trying to accomplish,” Godsil said.
Godsil expresses excitement with the entire football program, especially the freshman class.
“There’s going to be some ballers in that class, I’m excited to work with them in the offseason,” Godsil said. “When the season ends, we won’t do that much football-related drills until we come back for the second semester.”
While the freshmen will have three more years to play, the seniors are running out of time.
Senior quarterback Michael Gundersdorf is excited to see what happens to the program. Gundersdorf, who’s been a part of all three coaching regimes, has seen the perspective of football players change around school.
“In recent years I have noticed that the football players have almost been looked at as a source of trouble, or bad influences to other students,” Gundersdorf said. “Now I feel that the teachers look at the football players and are glad to have them in their classes and know that they will do everything they can to be respectful.”
Godsil still sees Dobson as long-term process that’ll take many years before he gets the program to where he wants it. But he’s happy with the progress that has been made.
The new era of Dobson football has brought excitement to the rest of the school. There’s a certain buzz that hasn’t been felt at Dobson since the Mustangs won their only state title in 1987.
Though 2-5 on the season, the Mustangs have already matched their win total from last season. They also won their first region game in three years.
Godsil believes the future is bright for the Dobson football program. It will take time, but he believes it will happen.
“It’s going to take three four years before we build something where we want it to be,” Godsil said. “It’s going to take time to build that continuity that we want.”
Marco Salas is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Dobson High School athletics.