Gateway High School has a new head football coach for the 2020 season in Robb Wetta, who emerged from a large field of candidates and four finalists. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | Robb Wetta looked very much at home in the weight room at Gateway High School Friday, even though he’d only been there for a week.

At the end of a roughly six-week search process that saw a significant amount of interest in the job, athletic director Brendan Netherton and a panel of players and community members chose Wetta from four finalists to lead the program.

He began to teach weight classes and work in Student Engagement on Monday and is putting the groundwork in place for preparations for the 2020 season.

“I’m in a completely new environment,” Wetta told the Sentinel. “So far, I’ve been highly impressed with the administration, the people that work in the building and the support personnel. …My passion is kids and coaching and when this came up, I was interesting. I think this is a great opportunity to do what I enjoy, helping kids.”

Wetta will be a head football coach for the second time after a two-year stint at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, where he coached the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He also has experience as an assistant coach and has also trained quarterbacks privately.

His hiring leaves two openings among Aurora prep programs: at Overland (which has begun to interview candidates) and at Hinkley, which is still taking applications for the job vacated by Michael Farda prior to winter break.

The Gateway High School football team opens the 2020 season in a new conference with a new head coach on the heels of a 2-8 2019 season in which it was statistically much improved on both sides of the football. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

While Wetta is completely new to Gateway, he does have some ties to the current administration. Both he and Netherton played football in Colorado Springs at Mitchell High School — roughly a decade apart — under the same head coach in Tom Sandoval.

Netherton — who made a somewhat unpopular decision in December to part ways with popular Taylor Calvert after three seasons — became familiar with Wetta in coaching circles and thought he would be well-suited to become Gateway’s next head coach.

At the end of a process in which he had to close the job posting early because of high volume that saw roughly 50 coaches express interest, Netherton was pleased to see the two separate panels that helped make the decision (one comprised of players and the other of adults) came to a consensus on Wetta from four finalists.

“I think any time change happens, especially for your seniors, that’s a difficult piece,” Netherton said. “I talked to the team and let them know that if they are going to be upset, that’s OK, but they take that out on me, not on whoever was going to come in here and try to make relationships with them. We brought four players, all good leaders, in to the process and you see the lightbulb switch on.

“We gave a lot of great leaders and they are mature enough to take the change and turn it into something positive.”

The Olys are coming off a 2-8 2019 season in which they were statistically much better on both sides of the football.

Gateway will compete in a new conference — the 4A Metro 2 division with fellow Aurora Public Schools programs Aurora Central and Vista PEAK along with Centaurus, Denver South and Grand Junction.

Wetta is initially focused on establishing and building personal ties with his players and the Gateway community before he worries about the win-loss record.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the kids will buy into what needs to be done, because ultimately it’s not my program, it’s their program,” he said. “I just want to teach kids accountability and how to be committed. To me, that seems to be what’s lacking. They need to know how to be accountable to their teammates and their school. At some point, you’re going to get the right people and the right kids who understand that and hopefully wins will come by that.”

New Gateway head football coach Robb Wetta — a former prep and college quarterback himself — is looking forward to coaching senior-to-be quarterback Erick Covington (13), who accounted for nearly 2,200 yards of total offense and 29 touchdowns in 2019. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

Though Wetta is more concerned with non-football things at the outset, his pedigree in the game speaks for itself.

After a distinguished prep career at Mitchell as a quarterback, Wetta played two seasons at Idaho State, transferred to Fresno State — where Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was an assistant, his offensive coordinator was renowned quarterback guru Jeff Tedford and his position room included future NFL players David Carr and Billy Volek — before moving on to finish his career at Black Hills State, which was then an NAIA school.

Wetta and his wife opted to return to Colorado Springs and start a family instead of pursuing some opportunities he might have had to play in the Arena League and he went into coaching.

As a coach, Wetta spent time on the staff at Mitchell — which was coached then by his same coach, Sandoval — served as head coach at Coronado for two seasons (going 1-9 in 2015 and 3-7 in 2016 and has also conducted a number of private workouts with quarterbacks in Colorado Springs.

Wetta is looking forward to working with senior-to-be quarterback Erick Covington, a 4A All-Metro League first team performer last season who threw for 1,311 yards and 13 touchdowns (against 11 interceptions) and also rushed for 869 yards and 16 scores.

The new Gateway coach has experience at various levels in all sorts of offenses and plans to tailor the team’s attack around the strengths of the players as he evaluates them.

Other than football, Wetta watches a lot of girls basketball as he has two daughters who attend Valor Christian and play on the varsity. His oldest daughter, Kindyll, is a junior who is the second-leading scorer for the 9-1 Eagles at 15.4 points per game, while his younger daughter is recovering from a serious knee injury.

“I watch a lot of girls basketball and football,” Wetta said with a smile.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports