One last hurrah: Don Carthel embraces one last dance on the sideline


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Stephen F. Austin State interim head coach, Don Carthel, right, greets Angelo State head coach Jeff Girsch after the Lumberjacks 31-12 win Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches. [Photo by SFA athletics]

Sometimes a misfortunate can bring light in a positive way one would never expect.

That was exactly the case for the Stephen F. Austin State football program when second-year head coach and Friona graduate Colby Carthel tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday.

Instead of panicking or wondering what to do next, Colby, had a plan in place to put his father and legendary college football coach, Don, in as interim head coach for the Lumberjacks home contest with Division II Angelo State.

“I feel fine as of today,” said Colby during an interview with Press Pass Sports on Monday. “I had limited symptoms. No one else on our staff or the team had the virus. It was unfortunate not to be able to be there but we had a plan. That plan was to roll dad in as interim. That way we would keep all the other coaches game-plan together, the week would stay the same and there wouldn’t be much adjusting.”

For the past eight years Don has served as a special teams quality control coach for his son Colby at Texas A&M-Commerce and currently at SFA.

However, Don’s reputation in the coaching ranks runs much deeper. He’s been coaching the sport he loves for over 40 years with his most recent head coaching success coming at West Texas A&M from 2005-2012. During his tenure with the Buffs, Don became the all-time winningest coach in program history turning a dismal Buff program into a Division II power. In those eight years Don became the school’s all-time winningest coach at 79-22, while leading WT to the NCAA Division II national semifinals in 2012.

“It was neat to get to be on the sideline and head coach one more time,” Don said. “It was a very special week, but I’m just glad Colby is feeling better.”

During the week Don lives in Amarillo, farms in Friona while doing game-planning in his downtime. He then hops in his truck and makes the drive to meet the team every weekend.

With the circumstances unfolding around Colby last week, Don had to change his plans making the long haul to Nacogdoches on Wednesday, then led Friday’s practice to get acclimated once again to being in charge.

The rust wore off quite quickly for Don as the Lumberjacks were able to send him off with his 125th career victory beating Angelo State 31-12.

“It’d been embarrassing if we lost and I got fired by my own son,” Don said. “But seriously it was fun. There was so much energy with the players, you can feel it more than in the press box. It was very special.”

Colby echoed his fathers comments.

“I watched it and rooted hard,” Colby said. “It was awesome to see him back in his element. Just seeing him walk the sideline, holding court with the referees, you could tell he was loving it. And the entire staff loved it for him. Most of those guys on staff played for him at WT.”

Anyone thinking this gave Don the itch to get back into running a program and head coaching again, he says he’s quite content on where he’s at in life.

“This was a one-time deal,” Don said. “I’m happy watching Colby develop his program. I just want to volunteer and help when I can.”


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