Next year, every 3A Washington high school football team will take aim at the Islanders’ biggest natural rival, Bellevue High School — the defending state champions.
But the man who laid the foundation for the Wolverines’ success, Bill Heglar, will try to end it as the new head football coach of Mercer Island High School.
“I hired [Bellevue High School football head coach] Butch [Goncharoff],” said Heglar, who was inducted into the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005. “We are good friends. I still do a lot of the same things.”
Those same things include running the deceptive wing-T offense, which he plans on bringing to Mercer Island.
“I am so wing-T you can’t believe it,” said Heglar, who is 63 and will enter his 39th year of coaching, all but one as a head coach at nine different schools.
The decision to hire Heglar did not come fast or easy for Mercer Island High School athletic director Craig Olson and the panel of parents and players chosen to help interview candidates.
“We pondered it for about two weeks,” said Olson. “Our concerns with this program had to be fixed by an experienced head coach. He has a good vision for what a program should be, including community service programs [for the players].”
Heglar beat out Mercer Island High School teacher Brett Ogata. The MIHS graduate had been an assistant under former head coach Dick Nicholl for six years, along with being the current junior varsity coach for boys basketball and junior varsity coach for the girls tennis team.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get the job but I wasn’t too down,” said Ogata. “It is a win-win situation for me because I would have had to give up the other coaching positions and I am really excited to be a part of those.”
Ogata said that he will have to sit down and discuss his future with the Mercer Island football with Heglar before he makes any decision on what he will be doing next fall.
“We really want Brett to stay on with the team,” said Olson. “A lot of the kids love playing for him, he could be our next head coach. But this just wasn’t the right time.
We expect Bill will keep some of the same coaches, but he will ultimately make those decisions.”
Heglar left the door open on what his coaching staff will look like in 2007.
“I plan on talking with all the coaches that want to stay on,” said Heglar, who has a career mark of 153-203 and will make a little under $5,000 next year as the team’s head coach.
Heglar, who coached at Bellevue from 1994-1999, spent the past four years at Decatur High School in Federal Way. He left with sole purpose of taking the Mercer Island job. Despite a stint at Seattle Prep and eight years away from 3A KingCo, Heglar knows the talent he has to work with at Mercer Island.
“I have talked to some of the coaches in the league about Mercer Island and they have given me a handle on that already,” said Heglar.
That familiarity with 3A KingCo also comes with a friendship and respect for Nicholl.
“It’s is always going to be Dick’s football team,” said Heglar. “I am just the caretaker. I can’t imagine MI football without Dick. Part of the attractiveness of this job is to be associated with this type of program.”
But Heglar has a reputation of his own in turning programs around.
“We were lucky in Bellevue, we won several league titles and the first year I was at Decatur we won the league title for the first time in school history,” said Heglar.
One advantage that schools like Bellevue and Skyline have had is a great feeder program.
“The junior football program here is getting better,” said Heglar. “I want to build on the positives like the fact that this is a one school district. I want to do what is best for the kids and provide them with a great experience.”
Heglar grew up in the tiny town of St. John in Whitman County located in the south eastern corner of Washington.
“The high school coach (Bill Hays) lived across the street from us,” said Heglar. “He was a big influence.”
Heglar said that he got into coaching thanks to Hays.
He played football, baseball and swam in high school. He attended Eastern Washington University where he played football and baseball for two years.
Heglar is a proponent of student athletes cross training during the year as opposed to focusing solely on one sport.
“I would rather they play multiple sports,” said Heglar. “It keeps them from getting burned out.”
The chance of Heglar getting burned out at 63 years old was not a concern for Olson.
“He has a proven track record and at this time he is the best choice for our program and we are excited to have him,” said Olson.