Flathead Coach Kyle Samson Takes College Football Job

Just months after leading Braves to state championship game, coach lands offensive coordinator job at Montana Tech

By Andy Viano
Head coach Kyle Samson celebrates a touchdown in the first half. Flathead beat Missoula Big Sky 52-13 on Sept. 18, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Kyle Samson, who took the Flathead High School Braves to the precipice of a Class AA state championship last year, has resigned after five seasons to become the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Montana Tech.

In a press release issued Thursday morning, Flathead Activities Director Bryce Wilson noted Samson was leaving his post to “pursue his dream of being a head coach in college.” Samson came to the Braves after spending six seasons as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Montana State-Northern, where his father, Mark, was head coach at the time.

Reached later by phone, Wilson called Thursday a difficult day for both the school and the former coach, but that Samson’s departure was not entirely unexpected, particularly after he led the Braves to the Class AA state championship game in 2018. That accomplishment raised Samson’s coaching profile significantly and prompted interest, Wilson said, from a number of college programs.

“I look at it from a sports side, and I understand timelines,” Wilson said. “It’s not that I was unaware there was interest in college from him; I think it’s a way that he’s going to be a (college) head coach in the near future.”

Samson has also resigned his physical education teaching position at Flathead and will be in Butte to begin his tenure at Montana Tech next week. Meanwhile, the search for the next Braves head coach will begin immediately and candidates are expected to include some members of Samson’s Flathead coaching staff.

“You always look for the best coach and the best fit, and I think there are some candidates internally that would fit that bill,” Wilson said.

Flathead went 27-27 overall in Samson’s five years at the helm, including a 15-8 mark since 2017, and last year’s team was his best, coming within eight yards of snapping a 48-year state championship drought and played for a title for the first time since 2000.

The 2018 Braves were 7-3 during the regular season, earning the fourth seed in the Class AA playoffs, and ended Billings Senior’s two-year reign as state champion with an emphatic 52-35 win at Legends Stadium. The win was Flathead’s first in the postseason since 2006. One week later, the Braves stunned undefeated Bozeman on the road 21-17, before dropping a heartbreaking 20-14 decision in the title game at Billings West. After the season, Braves players were showered with individual accolades, including senior running back Blake Counts, who was named the Class AA co-offensive player of the year.

The Braves had gone just 23-50 in the seven combined seasons before Samson arrived in Kalispell in 2014 as a 29-year-old with no head coaching experience. One year later, the Braves were in the Class AA playoffs, and they would advance to the postseason three times in Samson’s five-year tenure.

At Montana Tech, Samson joins a staff led by ninth-year coach Chuck Morrell. The Orediggers were 5-5 in 2018 but won the 2016 and 2017 Frontier Conference titles, advancing to the NAIA Football Championship Series quarterfinals each year. Samson replaces former Offensive Coordinator Pete Sterbick, who recently accepted a job at the Colorado School of Mines.

Samson comes from rich coaching family, including his father, Mark, who is currently the head coach at Great Falls High School. Samson’s late grandfather, Bob Petrino Sr., had a hall of fame 28-year career as the head coach at Carroll College. Samson’s sister, Tricia Dean, is Flathead’s girls basketball coach.

Before entering coaching, Samson had a spectacular career as a quarterback, first at Helena Capital High School and later at MSU-Northern. Samson was the Gatorade Montana Player of the Year in 2002, a season that ended with an undefeated state title.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.