Longtime assistants tinker under the hood taking over successful programs
As first-time head coaches, Heights’ Terry Harrison and Rose Hill’s Ray Boese are in the fortunate position of taking over established football powerhouses.
At the same time, though, they replace the men responsible for building the programs.
At Heights, Harrison replaces Rick Wheeler, who took a perennial loser and turned it into a yearly contender that played in the Class 6A title game three straight years, winning in 2010. At Rose Hill, Boese replaces Greg Slade, now at Campus, who turned a program that had 11 wins from 1991-99 into a Class 4A champ in 2011.
Harrison and Boese want to put their mark on their programs. But that will come.
Right now, they’re focused on keeping the winning tradition alive.
The young one
Harrison had dueling emotions — apprehension and excitement — when Wheeler, still Heights’ athletic director, talked with him about the opening. After all, he had only been a Heights assistant for a season and spent the previous six seasons at Valley Center, which won eight games in those years.
“A lot of guys say I have the hardest job in the state, some have even compared it to taking over for (Hutchinson) coach (Randy) Dreiling,” Harrison said. “For me, I had been at Valley Center, and I wanted to be somewhere that had high expectations of winning and playing deep into the playoffs.”
But with those expectations comes pressure.
“I’m sure he feels like he has big shoes to fill,” senior defensive lineman Aderio Ammons said. “He does have big shoes to fill.”
“I guess I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure,” he said. “But hopefully no more pressure than our kids feel. I think being at Heights, there’s a lot on the line. I’m telling myself, ‘They’re fortunate to be in a place where 7-3 is not OK.’”
Heights again has the talent to be a 6A contender. After finishing 2012 at 7-3 with a first-round playoff loss, the Falcons return an experienced, talented team.
Harrison, 30, doesn’t plan to change much now that he’s the head coach, but then, little change is needed.
“My hope is if Coach Wheeler came and watched practice, it would look a lot similar,” Harrison said. “It’s not like we were doing things wrong before. I hope that people would consider me old school, a lot like Dreiling, a lot like Wheeler, as far as the brand of football we play.”
He might mix up the game-night music, but he’ll talk to his players about it. Maybe down the line a uniform change will happen. For now, even the way Heights warms up will stay the same.
Harrison will stick with the flexbone offense, which he ran while in college.
See, Harrison doesn’t feel the need to sell anything at Heights. The program is already top-notch. It’s unnecessary to change simply for the sake of change.
“It doesn’t mean I don’t have my own ideas and opinions,” Harrison said. “… A lot of our guys who are seniors were around when Heights won state. Those guys saw the way Heights warmed up, and they don’t want to change it because it’s what they’ve been looking forward to.”
They’ve also been looking forward to success.
The longtime assistant
During Rose Hill’s rise to becoming a 4A power in 15 seasons under Slade, always by his side was Boese, the Rockets’ defensive coordinator. They worked together to turn around a program that was mired in losing, becoming close friends along the way.
As Boese, 49, contemplated his own future as a head coach, he tried to look elsewhere, but in the end, stayed at Rose Hill as an assistant. Leaving for another school never felt right.
While he takes over a program that was 4-6 in 2012 with 11 winning seasons in the past 13, two title-game appearances and eight playoff appearances, the winning isn’t the important aspect for Boese.
“The No. 1 thing I love at the end of the game is when I start to walk off the field,” Boese said. “I see kids from 15, 12, eight years ago, and they come and give me a big hug. We grew up with these people. They’re such an important part, and that’s the most special thing about staying here.”
Boese knows the inner workings of Rose Hill’s program. He knows about the difficulty of building a program that had 10 straight losing seasons, including two winless and two one-win years before going 5-4 in 2000.
Winning the 4A title in 2011 was special, and Boese wants to get the Rockets back there. He’s got a talented group, including senior running back Garrett Forsberg.
“(Boese) brings a lot of energy and he’s making everyone excited,” Forsberg said. “It’s not different, though, in that he’s coming out with the same, ‘We’re going to win mentality.’”
Boese has moved to the offensive side and plans on a faster-paced game.
“It’s just a little more uptempo, and we’ll try to take advantage of our skill players,” said Boese, who also plans to platoon as much as he can. “We have to hit people inside, outside… hit Harrison (Haydock). We have to make the defense spread the field. We have fast offensive linemen who will get in people’s way.”
It’s a fairly significant change, and Boese has other plans, too.
He has three community service programs planned for his team, including working at Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine and helping at a fishing derby.
“We want to show we’re not just about football; we can also do some good things,” he said. “… The second aspect is leadership. We’ll have a full-blown leadership program.
“If I leave here, I want them to have really good life experiences, to be a part of the community, carry a torch for our town and show that we’re bigger than a football field.”