While some of Wes Hobbs’ friends in the business of teaching and coaching are charting new paths in and towards retirement, the head football coach at Medical Lake High School continues to charge ahead in both of the family businesses.
Earlier in the summer Hobbs spent a few weeks, as he always does, on the family farm near Pullman. Then he scrubbed off the dust, shook out the chaff and hung the whistle around his neck, like his dad, Ray, did for so many years at Pullman High School, and later at Colton.
As he approaches his mid-50s later in October, Hobbs, a resource room teacher at Cheney High, is charging full steam ahead.
“You bet your bottom dollar I am,” Hobbs enthusiastically confirmed he is still having fun as the Cardinals prepare for their season opener, Friday at home against St. Maries. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Holliday Field. The Lumberjacks were 48-7 winners over Kellogg at home last Friday.
That will be the start of Hobbs sixth season calling the shots on the sidelines and he’s jazzed about trying to keep the Cardinal program moving ahead, little by little.
His 2012 team finished 6-3 and reached the postseason for the first time since 2003, but suffered a 44-14 hammering at the hands of Cascade of Leavenworth in their playoff opener. “We got schooled there and learned another good lesson,” Hobbs said.
But the past five years have been a lot of lessons that have led to helping turn the page from five years of slim pickings in the win column. After ML’s last playoff appearance, following a 10-1 finish in 2003, the next five years – the first one under Hobbs – saw the Cardinals go just 6-42.
Hobbs left head coaching in 2003 after a stint in the Greater Spokane League at North Central in the late 1990s, did some assisting at Cheney, and then jumped on the Medical Lake reclamation project.
He celebrated his 50th birthday in memorable fashion, coaching Medical Lake to a 22-13 Great Northern League win over Riverside, a victory that ended a 28-game league losing streak for the Cardinals.
It was his – and his team’s – one and only win of the season. But it was a start and seemed to help his kids turn the corner. They won just two games in 2009, but six of the Cards’ eight losses came by a total 27 points, a 4.5 point-per-game average.
“The first year or two we just kind of hung in there trying to turn the program around and get all the kids acclimated to what we wanted to do,” Hobbs said.
After an application to move to the 1A ranks was denied by the WIAA, Medical Lake spent two seasons playing an independent schedule, including in 2011 where they finished 4-5.
“I think we’ve made a natural good progression doing something better than we did the year before,” Hobbs said. “Luckily it started turning into wins.”
And that’s turned into bigger turnouts, this year approaching 70 in a program that not long ago struggled to attract 50. Hobbs is quick to share the credit. “I have a great administration at Medical Lake and I’ve got a great (coaching) staff.”
That’s where it all starts, he said.
“The Medical Lake kids, they give us everything they’ve got,” Hobbs said. “Sometimes we don’t have a lot to give but they give it all.”
Medical Lake’s got better numbers this year, but more importantly, “We’re getting more young kids out, which is a big plus,” Hobbs said. “We’ve got a solid bunch of kids who have been with the program for the last three or four years.”
“Hopefully it’s going to equate to success,” Hobbs said. “We’ll see.”
The Cardinals and Lumberjacks have played some dandy games in the home-and-away series that began in 2010 when a broken play on the extra-point resulted in a 28-27 St. Maries win with no time on the clock. Last year’s game, a 39-32 shootout on the road, was decided by Kasey Kelly’s 56-yard interception return.
“We’re all excited to start a new year and we start at home,” Hobbs said. “We’re just excited to get one going.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.