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Engle’s decision right

EAGLE-VAIL – Why now?That’s the $64,000 question left for Huskies football and its fans after head coach Pat Engle dropped the bombshell that he was stepping down at Wednesday’s awards banquet.Of all the fall coaches in Eagle-Vail, weren’t volleyball’s Brian Doyon and cross country’s Rob Parish priced to move? Thankfully, they are staying put, but when you’re coming off state titles your opportunity for moving on is pretty high, if you’re so inclined.We insert the disclaimer that soccer coach David Cope has the ample ability to do so also, but he seems very much rooted here, and Huskies Nation should be very grateful for that fact.But Engle leaving? Didn’t the team just got 4-6? (For those not familiar, 4-6 is definitely trending in the right direction. The team won six games in the five years prior.) Didn’t the team have a shot at its first playoff spot since 1995? Isn’t Huskies football about to turn the corner?The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes.Is Engle’s leaving going cripple the future of Huskies football? Did Engle consider the kids when he made his decision? What was Engle thinking leaving?The answers are no, agonized over it, and just trying to be a good human being.Engle made the right decision for himself and his family, has left a solid foundation for Battle Mountain and a smooth plan for the program’s continuity.Let’s all take a deep breath.

I don’t claim to be Engle’s best bud, nor even a friend. (No biggie. A reporter just hits it off differently with different coaches.) But having worked with and observed Engle for four years, this guy just bleeds football.Go back to his remarks after the final game of the season against Steamboat, which capped a five-game losing streak.”I must be the worst coach in the Western Slope,” Engle said. “I had a team at 4-1 and lost five straight. I couldn’t seem to get it done. All’s we needed to do is win one game and we’re in the playoffs. So it’s on me.”In coach-speak, Engle jumped on the hand grenade for the team. The skid wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t going to let his players take the blame. Don’t consider for a moment that he doesn’t have the best interests of the kids close to his heart.Throw in the fact that he has been doing everything affiliated with Huskies football for four years. There was no weight training before Engle got here. He got these guys going to summer football camps. These kids were over at his family home often for dinner.This didn’t start in the last four years. There has not been one fall since Engle was a tyke that he wasn’t playing or coaching this game. Engle started his family with his wife, Janet, at a very tender age. His three kids are growing, and he realized that he needs to spend more time being a father.Nobody should have a problem with that.When Engle was talking to me Thursday about missing his kids’ games and wanting to see his eldest daughter off to school, I flashed back to an interview I had with Pat Phelan five years ago.Phelan is living Battle Mountain history. He has 100 wins as a football coach for the Huskies. Seeing as the Huskies have 19 wins in the last 10 years since Phelan stopped coaching, the guy’s got cred.”Before a Steamboat (football) game, I was in the gym and my daughter (Tracey) was on the volleyball court,” Phelan said in 2001. “I thought that I’ve never seen my daughter play volleyball. I thought all of a sudden, I keep telling parents to follow their kids and be part of their lives. And here I hadn’t seen my daughter play.”Engle is putting first things first, and in a decision like this, the timing as it impacts the football program is not an issue.

That having been said, my money says that things are going to continue trending in the right direction, thanks to Engle. Expectations got raised a little too high a little early this year when the Huskies started 4-1, including a 14-6 win over Moffat.(By the way, Engle said the right things about molding his football players into fine young men, but let’s face it, beating Moffat was awfully sweet, and is doubtless his most memorable win in Eagle-Vail.)It was unfortunate that the season ended with a five-game losing streak, but 4-6 was right about where this rebuilding process should be. The Huskies are losing a stalwart senior class, but there’s a lot coming back.



Anybody else besides me like the idea of Ryan Hedrick and Josh Kundolf as a backfield combo? I thought so.Toss in the kids coming up from the JV ranks as well as continued hard work, and good things lie ahead.Battle Mountain athletic director Rich Houghton said Thursday that he wants a coach within two weeks and would prefer that Engle’s successor come from the current assistant staff, barring Mike Ditka moving into town.Hedrick in a dress on the cover of ESPN Magazine? Please no. OK, if Houghton wants a coach in place in two weeks, it’s got to be someone from the staff, and defensive coordinator Jason Sedlak, Engle’s choice, is the right pick.Houghton and the new administration have done a lot of things right when it comes to doing everything to help Battle Mountain athletics succeed. Give them credit there. Let’s hope it continues with Sedlak’s selection.So thanks, Pat, for four years of helping Battle Mountain. You deserve to enjoy the next few years of Huskies football with your family.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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