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South Whidbey gets only third football coach in 49 years

"New Falcon football coach Mark Hodson (left) helps his linemen with body positioning during a blocking drill last week. Hodson takes over for longtime head coach Mick Heggenes, who retired last year after 19 seasons with the Falcons.Matt Johnson / staff photoVarsity footballSept. 7 Nooksack Valley 7:30 p.m. AwaySept. 14 Meridian 7:30 p.m. HomeSept. 21 Lakewood 7:30 p.m. AwaySept. 28 Mt. Baker 7:30 p.m. HomeOct. 5 Blaine 7:30 p.m. AwayOct. 12 Kings 7:30 p.m. HomeOct. 19 Lynden Christian 7:30 p.m. HomeOct. 26 Sultan 7:30 p.m. HomecomingNov. 2 Granite Falls 7:30 p.m. AwayHodson takes over from HeggenesMark Hodson, 33, is South Whidbey High School's new head football coach.If he follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he'll be here a while.Hodson takes over from Mick Heggenes, who spent 19 years at the helm before retiring from coaching after last season. And Heggenes followed the legend known simply as Coach, Jim Leierer, who headed Langley High School's football program for 30 years.As Hodson coaches his players, the link to the past is very much alive. Coach Leierer is still volunteering as an assistant, after having spent 19 years at Heggenes' side. Hodson's other assistants are Jeff Greene, Damiene Green and Mark Eager.Hodson got to know his players during a two-week spring practice period, and he's glad he did it early. I introduced them to the new coach, he said. That doesn't change very much around here.He's well aware of South Whidbey's football tradition. Despite a few down years in recent times, he said it's still a highly regarded program statewide. He no doubt would like eventually to return the Falcons to their glory days. Leierer took one of his teams to the Kingbowl for a state title game, while a Heggenes team advanced to the semi-finals in the Tacoma Dome.Hodson is no newcomer to Falcon tradition. He played football for the highly-regarded program at Kings High School in Edmonds, one of South Whidbey's traditional rivals, especially during the 1980s when both were Class A powers. Hodson played middle linebacker and remembers cracking heads against Coach Heggenes' troops in 1984, '85 and '86. They were good games, but South Whidbey won every one of them, he recalled.Hodson's high school coach was one of Heggenes' good friends from college days, and Hodson spent his last month in high school at South Whidbey, learning coaching from Heggenes.Hodson went on to play college football at Pacific Lutheran University, playing on coach Frosty Westerling's 1987 national championship team. He earned a degree in history, then while advancing his education coached in colleges, including Mid-America Nazarene College in Kansas City and Olivet Nazarene University in Chicago. He was offensive coordinator on an Olivet team that lost the national title game 17-14 in 1998.Prior to moving to South Whidbey last winter, Hodson was offensive line coach for two years at the University of South Dakota.Hodson said it was a family decision to leave college coaching for the high school ranks. He and his wife Zaleri have two daughters, Abby, 4, and Sarah, 2.Hodson has a big job ahead if he wants to make South Whidbey a contender in the highly competitive North Cascades 2A Conference. Last year South Whidbey fielded a young team and had rough going, finishing with 2 wins and 7 losses, scoring a total of only 8 points in their final four games.As the new coach, Hodson has no reason to look back. Nor does he have to make predictions for this year or even be in a hurry to name his starting lineup. Hodson was pleased that some 60 athletes turned out for football, up considerably from recent years. He describes overall team size as average, but team speed as above average. Two young veterans, juniors Bryan Wenker and Jeremy Iversen, are battling it out for the starting quarterback position.People will be surprised by the speed of our team, Hodson said. Andy Wills is back after spending last year on the cross country team. Other speedsters include Nick Plastino, Chris Martin and Timmy Gathing. Those four are a very pleasant surprise with their athletic ability, Hodson said.By next week, Hodson will have his offense and defense in order and be ready for his first game as South Whidbey High School's head coach. He hopes to start with a win at Nooksack Valley. That would be fitting, because it's the last team Coach Heggenes beat in his 19-year career. "

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