The Sports View
|Gene Plaga as a junior at Carbon High.|
Until last week, when Gene Plaga's sister called me to tell me about his death, I didn't know he was originally from Carbon County.
But that didn't mean I didn't know about him.
Gene Plaga was the football coach at West High School for almost 30 years and despite the fact that I don't remember our high school ever playing West in football, I had a girl friend who went to East High, their bitter rivals and for two years I went to the West-East rivalry game that came up each fall. I remember him standing on the sidelines, handling his players and the opposition as well. I remember East's coach yelling at his players continually. I noticed as I watched the game all the energy being expended on that side of the field, while on the other side of the field Plaga was calm and talked with his players as they came off the field.
That was 1969, and he was a coaching legend already.
I remember too that after I graduated and went to the University of Utah I got to know some guys that had gone to West High and had not only played football for him, but baseball as well. They told me stories about Plaga, but they were never negative. They all respected him a great deal, despite the fact that one of those guys had gotten into a bit of trouble a couple of times with him.
Watching television the other night I noted that one of his former players said that he never raised his voice, but he had this stare; a stare that scared the hell out of them. That was enough.
Plaga grew up in Helper and graduated from Carbon High in 1949. He was known as the "Carbon Flash" when he played running back, and went to the University of Utah on an athletic scholarship.