After three successful years as both the head football and softball coach in Conrad, Mick Morris is going back to Missoula.
Morris has accepted an offer to become the new head football coach at Missoula Hellgate High School. He first interviewed for the position in February and was offered the job, but at the time a teaching position wasn't available. That changed last week, and Morris soon after accepted the offer.
In his three seasons in Conrad, Morris certainly made his mark. Coupled with star pitcher Tristin Achenbach, he led the Conrad-Choteau softball team to back-to-back B/C State Championships and led the football team to the state playoffs in two seasons including the state semis in 2014. He says telling his players he was leaving was very difficult.
"It was emotional. More emotional than I thought it was going to be. You get to see their faces and their disappointment. You know, you get in a small town like this and you build such good relationships, it was like saying goodbye to a family member. It was tough," Morris says.
Speaking of tough, that would be a kind way to describe the road ahead at Hellgate. The Knights haven't won a game in the last three seasons and have won just two in the last five years. Morris and his wife are University of Montana graduates and his brother and sister live there, so that was certainly a draw. As was the challenge of turning the Knights football program around.
“You can look at it one way, where, yeah, it’s a mess, but at the same time, people want to turn that around. There’s a commitment from within the school and within the community to get it turned around and I think that alone generates excitement, especially with a new coach so I think the challenge of it and hopefully putting Hellgate football back on the map,” Morris says.
When asked if the Knights will even field a Varsity team next year, Morris wasn't sure. The team had to forfeit games in 2015 because it didn't have enough players and those issues still exist. As for Conrad, principal Ken Larson issued this to KFBB via text:
"Mick is a great coach and will be hard to replace with it being June 21st already. Losing his wife as K-3 principal is going to affect many students as well. We were lucky enough to find Coach Morris through a strong teacher search and were blessed with Mrs. Morris as well. That is rare. However, we've already sent out advertisements and feelers looking for another gem."
Principal Larson also adds that football is the immediate priority since they have time to search for a softball head coach.