Steve Kizer was doing that college coaching thing, 22 seasons of it, in fact, when he came across a new opportunity.
Now in his eighth season as Skyview High School’s head coach, after one as an assistant, Kizer is loving every moment of that new opportunity.
“Right now, I would do this forever,” Kizer said. “I love my job. I don’t even think of it as going to work. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Kizer has led the football team to the program’s first state championship game appearance. Skyview will take on Skyline of Sammamish at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome for the Class 4A title.
Kizer, 52, coached for two years at Western Washington, 14 at Walla Walla Community College, then was an assistant at Eastern Washington University for six years.
Family life changed him, and Vancouver came calling. When his wife, Karla, gave birth to their son Luke, Kizer started thinking about an alternative to the grind of college coaching. Football had to remain in the picture, and as most good coaches, he was a good teacher.
He saw the Skyview job open and jumped at it, without knowing much about Vancouver.
“I’d driven through on the way to Portland,” Kizer said.
That first year, a transition from college to high school, he was considered the assistant head coach, with the promise that the job would be his the next season.
It all has worked out perfect, Kizer said, for him and his family.
“What a great place to live,” said Kizer, who also is a full-time teacher at the school. “Really, from Day 1, everywhere we went, they treated me and my family awesome. Just a great community. And great schools, too. This district, and throughout Vancouver, these are the best schools you are going to walk into in this state. Especially Skyview.”
Oh yes, he is all Skyview blue, always talking big about the school, not just his football team.
But it is the football program that has made Kizer a mini-celebrity. In his third season, the Storm went 11-1, losing a close game in the state quarterfinals. In 2009, the advanced to the semifinals. The Storm have won four consecutive league titles and five of the past six.
Now, Kizer and his players are in Week 14 of the season, playing for that first-place trophy.
“I feel extremely fortunate and extremely proud to be running this, to be the head coach of this team,” Kizer said. “The kids bought what we were selling. They should get all the credit.”
Kizer also said he appreciates Kym Tyelyn-Carlson, the school’s principal, and former principal Ed Little for their support in hiring assistants who are teachers first. Kizer’s assistants consist of history, math, and English teachers at Skyview.
“That’s how we were able to turn this thing around, when we were able to hire young, energetic coaches who played college football and are great teachers,” Kizer said, noting that Skyview went a combined 6-14 in 2004 and 2005.
Since that 6-14 start, Kizer’s record is 53-17. And no, he does not miss college coaching.
“In high school, it’s more about the game and it’s still fun,” he said. “It’s just as exciting, just as much of a challenge, but without it feeling like a job.”
He also remembered playing the game.
“The best time of your life is high school football,” he said.
Now he is living that all the time.