Wyoming’s first female high school football coach has been relieved of coaching duties after just one season.
Jeny Gardner is no longer the head coach at Lovell. She tweeted as much on Wednesday afternoon, saying, “Well, it was fun while it lasted. Thank you to all my players this year for believing in what we were trying to do with Lovell Football.” Gardner confirmed the news with the Star-Tribune in a text message on Thursday.
Repeated calls to Lovell activities director Joe Koritnik on Thursday were not returned. Lovell went 1-7 this season.
Gardner took over the program on May 15 with two assistant coaching positions needing to be filled. She finalized her staff mid-summer, well after off-season workouts already began. Former Lovell head coach Doug Hazen stepped away in mid-November 2017.
“I am sad that there were lots of off-season ideas I never got a chance to try,” Gardner said in a text message. “But I am grateful to have had the opportunity for even the short time that I had it.”
Gardner had previously served as offensive and defensive line coach for three seasons under Hazen. During that time Lovell went a combined 16-11 and in 2017 had the classification’s second-leading rusher in Porter Nichols with 146 yards per game. He was also the team’s top defensive performer and graduated last year.
The Bulldogs lost size and skilled players from the year before, and even more between seasons to other sports. During the season-opening scrimmage against a Natrona County junior varsity team, Lovell suited up 23 of its 26 players.
The program was aware this most recent season was going to be an uphill battle. Koritnik admitted as much in previous comments made to the Star-Tribune when he confirmed Gardner’s hire in May.
“Next year we might be a little thin,” he said. “We feel like we have some solid freshmen, sophomore classes a year from now, potentially they could be a very good football team. ... We’ll see what happens at that point.”
Despite Lovell’s one-win record, the Bulldogs did contend at the end of the season. In their final two games they lost to contender Pinedale 14-6 and playoff-qualifying Kemmerer 12-0.
That runs nearly parallel with another comment Koritnik said back in May.
“There’s all these components that you look for instead of just winning all those games,” he said. “Doug (Hazen) was 4-5 (in 2017) but he did all the right things and ran a really good program. Sometimes you just don’t have the talent, you try as a coach to develop talent. There’s teams that are successful but they’re out of control some times.”
Gardner remains a math teacher in Big Horn County School District No. 2. She said she hopes that her record through one season won’t discourage other programs from hiring female football coaches in the future. She added that she hopes to be a head football coach once again.