Engle resigns as Huskies football coach
VAIL – Battle Mountain head football coach Pat Engle surprised the Huskies’ gridiron community with his resignation Wednesday night at the team’s postseason awards banquet at Donovan Pavilion.Citing a need to spend more time with his family, including his three children, Engle, 36, stepped down after four years at the helm of the program.”At this point, I don’t think I can take it much further,” Engle said. “When you do something like this, you look at the program and say, ‘I’ve got to do 10 percent more.'”I feel I’d be cheating the kids because I don’t think I have the extra 10 percent. There are parts of me when I kind of knew it was time said, ‘Maybe I can do 10 percent less.’ That’s when I said, ‘Nope.’ I would never want to short the kids.”Engle wrote in a letter to friends and supporters of Battle Mountain football that he had come to his decision “six months ago” that the 2006 season would be his last as the head coach.”I just knew that it was time. It’s time for me to do something different,” Engle said. “I wanted to see the seniors through. Whether we went 14-0 or 0-10, it was going to be the last year.”Though surprised by the timing, Battle Mountain athletic director Rich Houghton understood Engle’s rationale.”A little (surprised), but I understand Pat’s motives for doing so,” Houghton said. “Every once in a while a coach needs to take a break and it seems like what Pat needs to do, spend time with family. … I certainly respect that.””It was kind of a shock,” Huskies junior running back Ryan Hedrick said. “He kind of had hints throughout the season, but it was really just a surprise.”… I think the program will be just fine. He did build it, and he will be recognized throughout it for the rest of its time.”
Why now?Engle’s announcement was a surprise since he was widely viewed in Battle Mountain circles as the coach who had helped the school’s woebegone football program finally start to turn the corner.Engle accurately described Huskies football as “a train wreck,” when he inherited it from interim coach Fred Koetteritz in June 2003. Engle had to battle the culture associated with Battle Mountain football to begin to increase its numbers.”As I said in that (letter), it was a rude awakening when I got to this school, and I heard boos at a pep rally,” Engle said. “I was like ‘Oh my God.’ I wish our guys would have responded and played a little better, but the pep rally this year for Rifle (before Homecoming) hurt my ears. It was incredible.”In his four years, the Huskies took their fair share beatings, but the junior varsity program was blooming. The JV went 10-1 this year with its only loss coming Rifle, a perennial state contender.Engle was also successful in raising the interest for football in the middle school ranks with roughly 120 seventh and eighth graders playing the sport this fall at Minturn Middle and Berry Creek, the two traditional feeder schools for Battle Mountain.At the varsity level, the Huskies made great strides in 2006, finishing 4-6, including a huge 14-6 win against playoff-bound Moffat County in Week 2. But the duties of a head football coach often interfere with family. Engle and his wife, Janet, are raising three children – Cindy, 17, Samantha, 14, and Jake, 12. “I have a 17-year-old daughter, and I want to see her safely off to (college),” Engle said. “I have a 12-year-old son, and I think I missed five (of his football) games out of seven. I have a daughter (Samantha) who ran cross country, and I think I saw her run one time. I think I need a little time with the family. That’s what I’m looking for.”Houghton made it clear that he very much would have liked to have Engle return to Battle Mountain, and that this was Engle’s decision alone.
The Huskies started 2006 with a very promising 4-1 mark only to lose their final five games, a stiff stretch which included four meetings in five weeks against teams which are playing in this weekend’s 3A state quarterfinal playoffs.Engle insisted that the team’s finish had no impact on his decision. Had the season finished more successfully, his decision to resign would have been the same.”Still gone,” he said. “It had no bearing on the outcome. My wife and I had talked quite a bit about it.”The search beginsBattle Mountain needs a new football coach, and soon. In past years, the program has struggled with stability, especially in the coaching ranks.Houghton said that he would like a new coach in place in two weeks. He said that the school would advertise the position in the Front Range newspapers as well as with CHSAA. But Houghton does appear to have a preference toward a member of the current staff.”We’d hope to hire from within from his existing staff,” Houghton said. “There is a preference. For continuity’s sake, we’d like to have someone on staff already. Who knows if Mike Ditka comes out?”Ditka’s contractual obligations with ESPN aside, Engle knows who he would like to succeed him – defensive coordinator Jason Sedlak.”Obviously, I want one of my guys to get it off my staff,” Engle said. “I don’t want to pull any punches. There’s a very special person. who’s done an incredible job. He’s a man of high character and integrity. He’s beloved by the kids. He’s young. He’s single. He’s got the time to do the things which I can’t do. To be quite honest with you, he’s my best friend.”Engle said he would be open to helping in the transition, and Houghton indicated that he wanted the coach to be involved in the interview process. As for Sedlak being a candidate, it’s early in the search.
“We haven’t even talked, so I don’t know,” Houghton said. “I’d have to talk to Jason before I could even comment on that. I wanted to make sure that Pat had made the announcement first before I wanted to announce (the vacancy).”Not doneEngle emphasized that he’s not done coaching football. He said he just needs a break from being the head coach.”I’m kind of hoping that Berry Creek needs an offensive line coach next year,” Engle said. “Maybe at Battle Mountain in 2008, they night need a volunteer coach who knows a little football, not a lot, just a little. I’m not leaving. Right now, this program needs someone to put their own ideas on it.”As for leaving the Huskies, it was a difficult decision. In his letter to the Huskies football community, Engle noted that his career mark in Eagle-Vail of 8-32 could “probably be judged a failure.”He has a different view.”As I said to the kids and the parents at the banquet, ‘Yeah, we may not have finished the way we wanted to, but I’m not so sure we’ve even started yet,'” Engle said. “By that I mean, ultimately in football, you’re going to win or you’re going to lose. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. “If all I’ve ever done in football is taught them how to play football, then I’ve miserably failed. If these kids go on and become incredible fathers, and incredible friends and well-educated men, if they treat women correctly and have respect for themselves, then I’m 10-0.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.