North Wilkes has had an effective scheme over the better part of the past eight football seasons — lean heavily on its line to pave the way for the offense.
The Vikings’ new head football coach happens to know a thing or two about play in the trenches.
David Wojtecki, who was approved by the Wilkes County school board last month to be the program’s new head coach, spent his early football playing days in Northwest Pennsylvania on the offensive and defensive lines and plans to utilize that similar smash mouth style at North Wilkes.
“Absolutely, I see it a lot in the North Wilkes program. A lot of people have the perception that when people talk about spread or air-raid that it’s a finesse-type of thing but you can always have that power-run mentality and I’ve seen that on the film that I’ve watched on North Wilkes,” said Wojtecki. “They like to run the power-run and that’s really what the spread was developed to do with (former West Virginia and Michigan Head Coach) Rich Rodriguez. He wanted to be able to take people out of the box and still run the football, so that’s something that I’ve always believed in and done and seen that.
“(Former North Wilkes Head Football Coach Monty Chipman) did a great job of doing those things when he decided to go to the spread and air-raid type of offense too,” added Wojtecki. “There will be some difference in verbage, but a lot of things will be the same with what I do to what Coach Chipman was doing.”
Wojtecki, 40, faces another challenge before the Vikings set foot on the field since COVID-19 forced the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to cancel all athletic events for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
That also includes any practices, including spring football practices, and any instructional events. But Wojtecki, who began work at North Wilkes on May 4, has implemented certain things in an attempt to curb that challenge.
The Vikings finished 7-5 in 2019 (4-3 in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference) before falling to West Stokes in the first round of NCHSAA 2A playoffs.
But North Wilkes is expected to graduate 22 seniors off that squad, many of who were multi-year starters at skill positions.
The NCHSAA could allow summer workouts to begin as early as June 1, as it expires the dead period that has been in place since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Before summer workouts and other activities can resume though, state and local governments must give them approval, including local school districts.
“That’s a difficult thing now. We’re really trying to figure out ways that we’re going to be able to get in touch with the players and try to make sure that we’re not going to be way behind when it gets to the point where (the NCHSAA) lifts the ban on when we can do things face-to-face,” said Wojtecki. “Myself, the coaches, (Athletic Director Logan Call) and Mr. (David) Johnson, the principal, are trying to wrack our brains about what’s the best way to be able to get up with the guys and still be able to kind of move forward and start installing things and start building a good team report with each other.
“With everything going on, we want to make sure that we are very competitive in the conference, beat some teams that some people don’t think we have a chance to beat,” added Wojtecki. “I just want to make sure that we’re getting better week-to-week with what we’re learning and that’s going to be a learning process for a while, especially if we can’t start until Aug. 1.”
Following a successful prep football and track and field career in Union City, Pa., Wojtecki earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Glenville State College in West Virignia.
Wojtecki played two years before transitioning over to the coaching side as the Pioneers’ offensive line coach, a role he held until graduation in May 2003.
In addition to the eight years spent with the Rampants, Wojtecki also coached at Eastern North Carolina Football power Tarboro from 2003-07.
Wojtecki served as an offensive coordinator with the Vikings, primarily working with the offensive line. He was also the head coach of Tarboro’s wrestling program.
Wojtecki then spent the next five years, including the final two as the head varsity football coach, at Halifax County High School in Virginia.
“Coach Wojtecki was born and raised in a similar community and stressed his passion for coaching and living in a small-town environment,” said Call. “The one common theme with every person we spoke to was that Coach Wojtecki genuinely cares about his student-athletes and he prioritizes building young people of character by building relationships and leading by example. This is perfectly in line with who we are striving to be at North Wilkes and one of the main reasons we felt he was a great fit for our school.”
Wojtecki’s first season with the Rampants in 2012 was a tough one as the team went 3-7 while he served as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. He was also the head strength and conditioning teacher — the same teaching position he’ll hold at North Wilkes.
Wojtecki went 58-32 in his seven years at the helm as the Rampants’ head man, but his first three years (and to a degree, his fourth year), were arguably the most successful when his teams went 34-9.
During that tenure, J.H. Rose reached two NCHSAA 4A eastern regional finals.
“That first year, we totally changed the way that the weight room and offense operated. We changed to a high-tempo attacking program, the weight room, the offense, meeting, practice and daily tasks changed to a no-huddle system,” said Wojtecki. “We went 3-7 in that first season, but laid the foundation in the weight room and on the field for the success that was about to come.”
His most successful season came in 2015 when the Rampants went 12-3 and won a regional championship before falling to Charlotte Catholic in the 4A state championship game. During that season, J.H. Rose scored a state-best 740 points.
Wojtecki’s teams finished third or better each of his first four years in a very competitive 3A/4A Eastern Carolina Conference that featured 4A powers New Bern and D.H. Conley. The Rampants also won at least one postseason game each of those seasons.
During the 2016 season, J.H. Rose broke through and captured a share of the ECC championship after back-to-back second-place finishes.
Wojtecki’s teams finished .500 or better and reached either the 4A or 3AA state playoffs in six of his seven seasons. The Rampants finished 6-6 last season.
“You’d be surprised at the similarities between big schools and small schools, and a lot of it is just the number of kids that you have out. We were very successful early at Rose and we were averaging 10 wins a year, and a lot of things kind of changed there and I think it was a good time for a change to happen,” said Wojtecki. “I’d been there a total of eight years, seven as the head coach, and the change has kind of sparked a new excitement for me and hopefully, that success from that program will carry over into Wilkes County and I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to make sure that it’s a successful program there as well.”
According to Call, there were several candidates who the search committee felt were more than capable of running a successful football program.
He was also looking for someone who could build on the foundation that Chipman set during his eight seasons with the Vikings. Another common theme was finding someone who would be invested in North Wilkes and the community and Call felt Wojtecki fit that description.
“Coach Wojtecki quickly stood out as a candidate who checked all of the boxes we were looking for in a head football coach,” said Call. “He had the head coaching experience we were looking for and had been the head of a program that had experienced sustained success at the highest level of high school football in our state. He also stood out with his work in the weight room as a strength and conditioning coach.
“Every person we spoke to went out of their way to emphasize the positive impact he has had in the weight room every stop he has made,” added Call. “We want to make the weight room the center of our athletic program for all athletes and we felt Coach Wojtecki was a guy who could do this.”
The Vikings, who finished tied for third place in the eight-team MVAC last fall, is scheduled to open up the 2020 regular season on Aug. 21 at North Forsyth. North Wilkes isn’t scheduled to host its first game until Sept. 4 against North Iredell.