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Doering eager to work with new coach

Doug Doering didn't get the prize but he feels like a winner. The top job went to Jon Konold.

Doering, who has coached the Cardinal sophomore football team this decade, was a finalist to replace Ken Heitzman.

Before his one-on-one interview with the new coach on Tuesday, Doering insisted he has no hard feeling.

"I was ready to be a head coach, but the way I see it, the committee hit a home run with this guy," said Doering this week. "There's a lot of difference between calling plays for the sophomores and calling plays for the state championship team. He's got a great résumé."

Konold has been the offensive coordinator at Mankato West the past two seasons, following 10 seasons as an assistant coach in Austin, Minn., and Dallas, Texas.

Doering, a 1989 Willmar graduate, will move up to varsity and be responsible for the offensive line. Doering's co-coach, Jon Gubrud, remains with the sophomore team.

Bob Bezdicek said he will return as defensive coordinator. He has been an assistant football coach here since 1981, sharing the sophomore duties with Mike Hanson for 16 years. Bezdicek was on the five-person selection committee.

Steve Grove, who is the head boys basketball coach, said he will be back as Bezdicek's defensive assistant with responsibility for the defensive linemen. Bezdicek will work one-on-one with the linebackers.

Grove and Konold are both Concordia College graduates -- Grove in 1988 in the same class with Willmar native Terry Horan, who is now the Cobbers' head coach, and Konold in 1996.

It's been a long six months for Doering since Heitzman announced his retirement as head coach at the football banquet.

Not much moved forward until the teaching retirements were clear in late spring, allowing coaching candidates to be matched with openings. Konold will teach sixth-grade math in the middle school.

Doering isn't a teacher but he's somewhat of an educator as program director of Devine House for 12 years.

A record-setting running back at Willmar Community College (now Ridgewater College), Doering later played for St. Cloud State. He began coaching Willmar football as a volunteer in 1999 and again in 2000, the Cardinals most recent championship season.

He was encouraged by the support he received from the community.

"It was humbling and flattering," he said. "I couldn't go out without people stopping to ask me if I'd heard anything yet."

While he didn't get the head job, he sees this as part of a natural progression up the coaching ladder.

Konold, who grew up in Minneota, directed the offense under West head coach Mark Esch. The Scarlets tumbled Northfield 33-14 in the Class AAAA title game to finish 13-1 in 2008. In the 2007 section playoffs, the Scarlets scalded Willmar in Mankato, 46-13.

There hasn't been a lot of turnover in the 64 falls since World War II. Hall of Famer Bill Hansen guided the program from 1945 to 1977 followed by Deryl Ramey. Heitzman became head coach in 1997, after 10 years as an assistant coach.

Doering emphasized that when Heitzman decided to step back from coaching, he "didn't leave the cupboard bare."

Look for Konold teams to run a spread offense and put the ball in the air, not unlike Heitzman's last three teams (Heitzman, admittedly, adopted aspects of the Scarlets' wide-open offense). Willmar has a number of promising players returning at the skill positions and also coming up from a 5-3 sophomore team.

Just as importantly, Doering points out unusual heft among last fall's blockers. "We finally had some kids who actually looked like offensive lineman."

And he added: "I'm ready to go. I wish the season started tomorrow."

Atchison steps aside in football

Varsity assistant football coach Brad Atchison handed in his resignation last week to activities director Jamie Thompson.

"It's time to step aside and get some good younger people in," said the Moorhead native, who has coached football for 32 years, starting at Clara City in 1977. The junior-high physical education teacher will continue as the Cardinals' girls basketball head coach, a position he's held since 1995.

"I'll miss working with the coaching staff," he said. "We were like a big family. And of course you miss the kids and the Friday night lights."

Atchison was head football coach at Clara City, later Midwest Minnesota, for 14 years and then four years with the junior-high program before coming to Willmar. He was head girls coach in Clara City for 18 years.

FL4 and cakes

The Foot Lake 4 Run/Walk around lower Foot Lake is June 27. Just to clear up any confusion from its mention in last week's Notebook -- the All-You-Can-Eat Firefighter's Breakfast is free to registered runners and walkers, not the general public.

This is the 15th year with over 150 awards to be presented. Special awards to walkers include "Best Jersey with the 'No. 15'", wearing the "Best Heart-Themed Costume", the oldest walker and grandparent with the most grandkids.

The FL4 is a fundraiser for "Heart Health in our Community".

On the fly

- At the Class AA state meet, Mary Erickson was two inches short of medaling in the discus. Her best throw in prelims of 116-4 left her in 10th place, behind the ninth-place heave of 116-6. The top nine advance to finals assured a medal. Senior Shelby Morton went 5-0 in the high jump, which put her in a five-way tie for 11th place.

- The Minneapolis Marauders finished second at the NJCAA Division III men's basketball tournament. Coach Jay Pivec's junior-college powerhouse, which plays in Ridgewater's division, has since been told by its own Student Senate and Budget Committee that they have been axed. It's a big loss for the MCAC, now more than ever an outstate conference.

- Joel Barta's Thunder Bay Border Cats are 2-10 after losing two to the Mankato Moondogs this week. Chris Braaten (0-2), who played for Barta at Ridgewater College, started Tuesday's game and was tagged with six runs in the first three innings. The Moondogs lead the Northern Division of the Northwoods League.

- Kari Rosengren represented Ridgewater College at the NJCAA Women's Golf Tournament at Orlando, Fla., last month. She shot a 96 to tie for 80th in a field of over 120 golfers. The 72-hole tournament was cut to 18 holes by rain.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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