By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
McNary High School football players didn’t need to wait long to find out who their new head coach would be Monday, March 2.
“When Coach (Isaac) Parker said that he had another opportunity, I knew we had some big shoes to fill. He did great things to build this program through his relationships with you, the players, and in the community,” said Erik Jespersen, McNary principal.
Shortly thereafter players learned longtime McNary teacher and coach Jeff Auvinen would be taking the reins of the program. Most recently, Auvinen has been coaching the school’s freshman gridders.
Parker resigned from the program in January to take an assistant coaching and recruiter job with Lewis and Clark College.
“He’s been such a part of the program for so long that he’s been through the ups and downs and now he’s leading us,” said junior Jason Sperle. “It’s not a whole new beginning, we’re picking up right where we left off.”
Sperle went directly to varsity action skipping a tenure under Auvinen, but sophomore Kolby Barker was part of Auvinen’s team as a freshman.
“We actually didn’t have that great of a season, but we’ve got the right guys in the right places to be successful under Coach Auvinen. I’m excited, it’s going to be good,” Barker said.
Auvinen laid out the plan for the immediate future while greeting the troops for the first time as head coach.
“The goals we have are to develop excellent community members, develop our football IQ and become as much of a family atmosphere as we can. We’ll do the last part by having fun,” Auvinen said.
In football, Auvinen has served as varsity defensive coordinator, defensive back coach, head junior varsity coach, junior varsity offensive coordinator, freshman offensive coordinator and freshman head coach. He also led the Lady Celt softball program as head coach for six years and assistant coached the junior varsity basketball team for four years.
He said he’ll be looking for leadership in the ranks immediately, which will mean everything from marching in the Keizer Iris Festival Parade to mentoring youth football players on the field.
“We want people like you guys helping them get a good start. Some of them need a good male role model in their life,” he said.
After the meeting, Auvinen said he put considerable thought into taking on a “dream job.”
“I have thought about this job for twenty years or so, and have had some nice talks with my family about the biggest obstacle – time. We decided that we can make this entire endeavor a family affair and it really has turned into a dream job,” he said.
He said he’ll put an emphasis on getting stronger and quicker, but mostly developing players’ confidence in their own abilities.
“There are two big challenges for next year and they are mental and physical preparation,” Auvinene said.
As far as a game plan, Auvinen said there will likely be more of a mix of passing and running the ball, a slight change in direction from Parker’s vision for a run-first offense.
“We want to keep them guessing and cause paralysis by analysis. We want them confused as to what we’ll be doing,” Auvinen said. “Most importantly, we have to play as a team. We need 11 people doing their job. If we’ve only got nine, we don’t have a play.”