WALKER – Moments after his first practice Monday as the team’s new interim football coach, Walker High’s Cecil Thomas was asked by an assistant coach whether he wanted to move into a larger office across the hall.
Thomas rebuffed the offer, saying he was comfortable in his smaller office located adjacent to the weight room in the school’s spacious brand-new fieldhouse.
“I’m good right here,” Thomas said. “Plus, I don’t feel like moving all of my stuff.”
Thomas directed the first day of Walker’s preparations in his new role for Friday’s home opener as the Wildcats (2-0) host Slidell at 7 p.m.
Thomas will serve as Walker’s interim head coach for the remainder of the year after the resignations of head coach Lester Ricard and defensive coordinator Marcus Brown earlier Monday.
Thomas said Walker principal Jason St. Pierre addressed the team with the news of the resignations after school. The Wildcats conducted a normal Monday practice that forced them into the school’s gymnasium because of lightning and thunderstorms.
“You’ve just got to go to work,” Thomas said. “Go to practice, stay busy and concentrate on the task at hand and get the distractions out of your way. The kids are fine. They have a special desire to finish their goals.”
They got a crash course in handling adversity in last Thursday’s 27-6 road victory over Broadmoor.
Three hours before the Wildcats were scheduled to kick off against Broadmoor, it was determined Ricard and Brown would not accompany the team and be on the sideline for the game.
Ricard’s final game as head coach took place Aug. 31 in a 35-18 win at Dutchtown.
Thomas, the team’s offensive line and strength and conditioning coach, was elevated to interim head coach, while Lewis Inmon, the last year’s co-defensive coordinator with Brown, will now run Walker’s defense.
Because Ricard handled the Wildcats' offense and called plays, Thomas said he would divide the duties and handle the passing game, while assistant Rusty Brown would take care of the running game and call plays.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Thomas said of his staff. “The kids know what we’re doing so there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Defensively, nothing changes. Coach Lew (Inmon) takes it back over and I have all the faith in the world he’ll get it done.”
Thomas is a native of Hammond, where he was a four-year letterman for the Tors in football. He signed with the University of Utah and was a three-year letter winner and two-year starter on the offensive line.
Thomas kicked off his 18-year coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah before joining the staff at Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City.
He spent four years an assistant and then took over the program for three years, leading it to a 31-7 record that included a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2008.
Thomas also coached at the collegiate level again at Weber State for two years and then returned to his native Hammond and was the head coach at his alma mater until joining Walker’s staff last season.
“These kids have worked so hard,” Thomas said. “We’ve had some adverse situations come up and this game and life’s all about adversity. That’s why football’s so great. It teaches you how to overcome things. You can go one way or the other and for our kids, they’re going to fight through it and be there in the end. That’s what makes this group so special.
“Obviously anytime you lose two coaches, it’s a heartbreaker,” Thomas said. “I know the kids loved them and the coaches loved them. They realize that the big picture’s at hand and we’ve got to take care of business to get to where we need to be.”