Sedlak takes over at Battle Mountain
EAGLE-VAIL – It took three months, 21 candidates and six interviews, but Battle Mountain football finally has a head coach. He’s none other than Jason Sedlak, a Huskies assistant coach for the last three years and the defensive coordinator for the last two. Sedlak replaces Pat Engle, who stepped down in November to spend more time with his family.”It feels good and overwhelming all at the same time,” Sedlak said. ” Obviously, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.””He’s worked with the program for years,” Battle Mountain athletic director Rich Houghton said. “He impressed the (hiring) committee in his character and his willingness to continue turning the program on the upward path. We had 21 candidates. We interviewed six, and he came out on top.”
When Engle abruptly stepped down during the team’s awards banquet in November, Houghton said that he wanted a new coach in place in two weeks, and indicated that he had a preference toward an in-house candidate.Engle made it known at the time that Sedlak should be his successor, saying, “Obviously, I want one of my guys to get it off my staff. 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.”Sedlak threw his hat into the ring for the job after Engle stepped down, e-mailing Houghton. Despite the initial intention of moving quickly to fill the position, the process dragged along.”We never anticipated having 21 candidates, so we had to go through resumes and references,” Houghton said. “I would have liked it to go a lot faster. What you want to do is what’s right for the kids. I feel like we made the right choice.”Sedlak admitted that he was frustrated by the process, but added that having 21 candidates was ” a pretty good indicator of what Pat was able to do in the last four years,” given Battle Mountain football’s struggles since 1995.”When the opportunity presented itself, I was really excited,” Sedlak said. “Of course, there are times when you’re frustrated. I would just say in the end I wouldn’t want to be named the head coach by default. … So in the end it feels pretty good to be selected out of 21 candidates to get the job. The process, I think, worked.”
Sedlak played high school football at St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota, starting for two years at middle linebacker. From there it was off to West Point, where he played for two years for Army before a pair of knee surgeries ended his playing career.Ironically, Engle spent some time at the Naval Academy, but the two are close friends despite the rivalry.Sedlak spent six years in the Army before he moved up to the mountains, and served three years under Engle. In his first season, Sedlak was a line coach and got bumped up to defensive coordinator before the 2005 season.Having been in the program for three years, Sedlak has the advantage of knowing the challenges associated with Battle Mountain football.”I learned the hard way with the Palisades and the Rifles. They’re pretty stout and they have a tradition,” Sedlak said. “The one thing that Pat had to do when he showed up at the school was not only teach Xs and Os, but also make a culture shift at Battle Mountain as far as football went.”Things appear to be turning the corner last fall when the Huskies went 4-6, including the program’s biggest win in recent memory, a 14-6 victory over Moffat County.
A 4-6 record is not much to celebrate in most places, but considering the Huskies won four games in the three years running up to 2006, it’s considerable progress. Sedlak’s task is to keep that momentum going in the years ahead.Unlike Engle, he does not inherit an empty cupboard. Battle Mountain’s soon-to-be-senior class is headed by running back Ryan Hedrick and likely starting quarterback Jeremy Windham.The JV program has 6-2 and 10-1 seasons under its belt the last two years, so there appears to be talent in the pipeline.”We’ve got a nice group of kids coming back,” Sedlak said. “Also, where we’ve got to pick up the pace is at the middle schools. They had more than 100 kids playing football at Minturn and Berry Creek (middle schools) this year. Getting the young ones and staying real positive will carry us into this next year.”Battle Mountain football continues to need to build on its numbers, though it has made strides here. In the gauntlet that is the Western Slope, depth is key. Getting players in the program as freshmen is vital.”Every year I’ve been here, we’ve had kids who have come out their junior year, and everyone of them by their senior year is like, ‘Why didn’t I do this for all four years?,'” Sedlak said. “If this kid was in the program for four years, he would have been a starter.”
Battle Mountain’s defense definitely is headed for an overhaul. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a 5-2 front to appear next season.”We’ve been out there looking for other schemes, looking to change it up – somewhat for flexibility and somewhat to play to our strengths,” Sedlak said. “We’re never going to be as consistently big as Palisade. The defense right now is in progress. I would be very surprised if we came out in a 5-2 next year.”Sedlak is also hoping to improve the pass defense with Glenwood’s Dakota Stonehouse in the league for two more years, not to mention Cortez’s pass-happy offense.Battle Mountain’s offense should still be run-oriented with Hedrick leading the way and Josh Kundolf coming up from JV, but Sedlak would like to be able to air it out.”(Offensive coordinator) Jeff Whitaker is from Florida, and he has a very fine grasp of offensive football,” Sedlak said. “We had a bunch of stuff that we didn’t do or weren’t able to do. We have quite a large offensive package. We’d like to get some more things and throw the ball a little bit more.”With the Slope looming as well as nonconference Summit County, a state semifinalist, on the schedule, Battle Mountain football has a lot of work to do. Football players not involved in winter and spring sports have been hitting the weights. Sedlak wants his players to continue 7-on-7 work, as well as attend summer camp.”We expect to win at Battle Mountain,” Sedlak said. “We expect to compete every Friday night we come out and play. With what we’ve got coming back. I know we’ll be competitive with some of the mental hurdles we got over last year. I definitely think we could get to .500.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.