Search Narrows for Flathead’s New Football Coach

By Beacon Staff

Four finalists have emerged to take over the head football coaching position at Flathead High School.

A nine-person committee that includes school administrators and former Brave standout Lex Hilliard has whittled down the list of potential candidates from 13 applicants, and the finalists will be interviewed this weekend.

The four finalists are Emmett Dougherty from Lewiston, Idaho; Jon Helmandollar from Wendell, Idaho; Mark Kessler from Alamo, Calif.; and Helena native Kyle Samson.

“The finalists selected all have quality experience coaching at the high school or college level,” stated Flathead activities director Bryce Wilson. “Each was able to show how they would move the Flathead football program forward.”

Russell McCarvel stepped down after seven seasons at the Braves’ helm last month.

Further background and reference checks will be conducted leading up to Saturday’s interviews.

Dougherty most recently served as head football coach at Lewiston High School in Idaho, a school with roughly 1,000 students that competes in Class 5A, the highest level of athletics in the state. Dougherty coached for 13 years before stepping down in 2011 to reportedly spend more time with his family. He was a finalist for the head coaching position at Missoula Hellgate.

Helmandollar is a former running back at Boise State University who has served as the head football coach for three seasons at Wendell High School in Idaho, a Class 3A school.

Kessler most recently served as head coach at San Ramon Valley High, a school in Danville, Calif. with an enrollment of roughly 2,100. Kessler was head coach from 2009 to 2013 and was abruptly fired before the Wolves’ playoff game last November for unexplained reasons. The school has not released further information.

Wilson said the Flathead committee would make sure to find out what was behind Kessler’s firing.

“We’ll certainly address that topic,” Wilson said.

Samson is a former Class AA all-state quarterback from Helena Capital and was the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2002. He attended the University of Montana on a football scholarship and played quarterback for the Grizzlies as a true freshman. He transferred to MSU-Northern in the spring of 2004 after his dad was named the new head football coach. He was Northern’s starting QB from 2004 -2006 and a three-year captain. He has served on the football staff at MSU-Northern in Havre since graduating, including the past six years as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Flathead’s search committee hopes to have a top candidate tabbed after Saturday’s interviews and would offer a recommendation to the school district board of trustees early next week, Wilson said.

The school assembled an interview committee to find McCarvel’s replacement and the members include: Wilson; Hilliard; Pat Reilly, the current sub-varsity coach and former Brave; Dan Zorn, assistant superintendent; Peter Fusaro, Flathead principal; Joel Robinson; current varsity coach and former Brave player; Tom Clark, school board member and current Brave parent; Becky Toelke, past Touchdown Club president and former Brave parent; and Mike Thiel, the current KEA president and Flathead staff member.

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