Janesville Parker tabs Clayton Kreger football coach
JANESVILLE--Clayton Kreger wore kelly green and gold when the Janesville Parker football program put itself on the map.
Fifteen years later, he’s now charged with restoring life to the Vikings program.
The School District of Janesville announced Friday morning that Kreger has been hired as Parker’s next head coach. Most recently the junior varsity team’s head coach and a math teacher at Parker, Kreger takes over for Eric Skrzypchak, who resigned in January.
“He’s a leader; he makes other people better,” said Joe Dye, Parker’s current athletic director and Parker’s coach when Kreger went through the program in the early 2000s. “I get to teach in the room next to him on a daily basis. He makes everybody better in our department. And he makes students better when you walk through his classroom.
“He will resurrect (the program) and be competitive a lot faster than people think.”
Parker won five Big Eight Conference championships between 2000 and 2006 under Dye, who retired in 2011 with a 123-74 career record. The Vikings are 7-20 since.
Kreger said he was busy much of the day Friday seeing teachers, students and coaches who are excited about the future.
“I’m just excited to get started,” he said. “We’re ready to move forward. I think we need to bring some energy back into the program.
“I know the kids, and I know their goals already. I know what we need to do to make those goals.”
Dye said there were 17 applicants for the open position and he was not one of them, despite rumors he might be interested in coaching again. The search committee—which consisted of Dye, Parker principal Chris Laue and six other Parker administrators or head coaches—interviewed four candidates. Kreger was the only internal candidate.
“It’s a great football job, and the interest in the job was high,” Dye said. “You want to make sure you’re doing your homework along the way. We’ve talked to lots of people that had passion for the position.”
Dye lauded Kreger as a sharp, young coach who is particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball. Kreger coached the JV squad the past three seasons.
He said his top immediate goal is to increase the expectation levels at Parker in all areas, including in the classroom and on the field.
His hope is to not only develop winners on the football field, but also to unite the team and community and to “grow up and grow through this thing together.”
Kreger understands what the Parker program is capable of because he was part of Dye’s breakthrough teams. He was a junior on the 2000 team that won the Vikings’ first-ever Big Eight title. They won it again his senior year, when Parker went 8-0 for just the third outright league title in Janesville history.
“I tell my wife (former Parker basketball standout Emily Gunn) all the time that a lot of what makes me who I am today is some of the things I learned when I was playing football,” said Kreger, a 2002 Parker grad. “My work ethic, coming together as a team, how to be a good winner and a good loser, handling adversity—a lot of that I learned through the Parker program.
“That’s why I want to coach these kids.”
Dye pointed back to a play during the 2001 season that shows Kreger’s drive to succeed.
The Vikings trailed by one point at Madison La Follette, and the Lancers were in position to score again. On fourth-and-three and in field-goal range, they elected to go for the first down and pitched the ball to all-state running back Nathan Brown.
Kreger stopped Brown in the open field short of the line to gain. Parker took over on downs, marched downfield the other way and kicked a game-winning field goal on the way to a 12-10 victory.
“He’s tied to resurrection our program, in some form, as a player,” Dye said. “One-on-one, Clayton made the play, and that really gave us the opportunity to drive 86 yards and beat La Follette.
“He’s deeply invested in our program. The people in our community are going to be impressed with the enthusiasm and his positive attitude.”
The Vikings face an uphill enrollment battle.
Parker ranks at the bottom of the Big Eight in enrollment, with it and Madison La Follette hovering below the 1,500 mark. Sun Prairie and Madison West each have more than 2,000 students. If the Vikings had made the playoffs this past season, they would have been slotted in the Division 2 bracket.
Kreger was quick to note that the Vikings have almost always been the smallest school in the conference, but it didn’t stop them from winning five league crowns.
“We just all have to buy in together,” he said. “I know it can be done. If you get a group of guys that believe in each other and a group of coaches who believe in each other, you can do anything.”