Doug Sommer has spent the last 13 seasons assisting in programs on the east side of the Portland area. (Photo by Paoa Bentz)
Doug Sommer has spent the last 13 seasons assisting in programs on the east side of the Portland area. (Photo by Paoa Bentz)

Since he last was a head football coach in 2009, something has kept drawing Doug Sommer to Gladstone.

He's had three stints as an assistant coach for the Gladiators. And he applied for the head coaching job three times, getting passed over twice for JJ Jedrykowski and once for Wayne Harris.

Now, after serving as the defensive coordinator under his son Cam at Gladstone for the last two seasons, Sommer has been hired to take over the Gladiators.

“Working with Cam as he tried to build the program, and adjust the culture, I remembered how much I love that community and how important it was to me,” Sommer said. “When he stepped down, it made total sense to apply for the job. It was the only job I was going to take. I just loved it and really wanted to be in that community.”

Cam Sommer went 5-5 and 6-4 in the last two seasons at Gladstone before resigning to concentrate on his career as a financial adviser. On his way out, he gave a little shove to his father, who went 12-34 at Milwaukie (2001-05) and 24-19 at Wilsonville (2006-09) in his previous two head coaching jobs.

“He said, 'You really need to do this. The community loves you, you love the community, and you'll take great care of the kids. They respect you,'” Doug Sommer said. “It's not that I needed that much encouragement, but he was so sincere about it. Because he's had such a great experience there.”

Since leaving Wilsonville, Sommer has made the rounds as an assistant coach. His winding trail veered through Gladstone (2010-11), West Linn (2012-13), Gladstone (2014), Milwaukie (2015-17), Grant (2018), Putnam (2019-20) and Gladstone (2021-22).

“After I left Wilsonville, it was pretty much just, I want to help out my friends,” said Sommer, who retired from teaching at West Linn last year.

Sommer was the defensive coordinator for the Gladiators when they won the 4A title under Jedrykowski in 2014. He has fond memories from the magical season.

“It was great to support Jed,” Sommer said. “He knew they were loaded, his only concern was, 'Gee, I don't want to mess it up.' He did a great job. The community was excited. The kids responded really, really well. We put in a new offense and defense that year. That was so much fun.”

Sommer has been a defensive coach for most of his career, but will run the offense in his first season at Gladstone.

“I couldn't find a coach that wanted to run the wing-T the way I wanted to run it,” he said. “So I thought, 'I'd better do it myself.'”

Vincent Rininger, a member of Gladstone's 2014 title team who has assisted at Milwaukie, will share the defensive coordinator duties with Marcus Campbell, a former West Linn player who assisted at Portland State in recent seasons.

Doug Sommer said he expects Cam Sommer to remain connected to the program.

“I think he's probably going to be in my box on game day as we call stuff,” Doug said.

Gladstone will have heavy roster turnover this season.

“Athletically, we lost some really good seniors from last year,” Sommer said. “We'll be young. We don't have a lot of seniors, but our energy and work ethic has been great. And I think we'll be pretty good athletically.”

Gladstone's freshman/sophomore team went winless last season in part because many of the players were used to patch holes on varsity. The Gladiators lost seven starters to injury by Week 3.

“Part of the reason I think we're going to be pretty good is a bunch of those kids got a chance to play,” Sommer said.

The team is led by senior receiver and cornerback Gabe Rodriguez and senior linebacker and fullback Fynn Brechbiel. Three players will compete to start at quarterback.

The Gladiators will get tested early as they open on the road against Scappoose, Stayton and Astoria, facing off against highly respected coaches Sean McNabb, Randy Nyquist and Howard Rub, respectively.

“Whatever we do wrong, we're going to know about it before we play league,” Sommer said. “I think we'll be pretty darn good before we're all done.”