Hockinson football coach steps down

Steele was only coach in Hawks' nine seasons

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The only head coach Hockinson football has known is stepping away from the position.

Rick Steele announced his resignation, citing a change in his schedule in his full-time job as a firefighter in Vancouver.

"Part of it is I'm just tired. I could really feel it this season," Steele said.

A promotion at his job changed his hours from shift work to day shift, which he said cut into his ability to coach. That was not fair to his players.

He leaves with so many great memories. The Hawks won three league championships in Steele's nine seasons. He compiled a 40-47 record after starting the varsity program in 2004.

"It's pretty rare that a football coach, his first job as a head coach, he gets to build a football program," Steele said. "When you build a program from the ground up, it gets to be pretty special for you.

"That's what made leaving hard. It's tough, tough leaving. Not a bad kid in the program. To see the look on their faces, that was hard. That was hard."

He also believes he is leaving the program in a solid shape. He said the juniors and sophomores are great classes, and this season's freshman team went 8-1.

"It's going to be fun for me to watch them and cheer them on," Steele said.

Beth Tugaw, Hockinson's athletic director, said the position will be posted this week. She wants to name a new coach by January.

"It's going to be a challenge to replace a man that is loved by players and parents," Tugaw said. "He is a man of great character and integrity."

Steele, 48, said he has a two-year commitment to his current position at the fire department. After that, he might consider a return to the sideline.

"I love coaching football," he said. "I can definitely see myself coaching again, if work allows it."