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Hellgate football coaching pool narrowed to 3 finalists

Missoula’s Hellgate High School narrowed the pool of candidates for its vacant head coaching position to three this past weekend, including one local man.

Missoula’s Matt Softich is joined by Emmett Dougherty of Lewiston, Idaho, and Shaun Murgel, of Winnemucca, Nev.

The field was cut to these three men late last week with a hire expected as early as Monday this week before the decision was delayed a few more days, Hellgate athletic director Lynn Farmer said.

In the meantime, let’s see what we know about the three men left in the Hellgate hunt.

Matt Softich was the first head coach of the Missoula-based semi-pro football team, the Missoula Phoenix. The team came into existence in 2005 as the Raptors and Softich coached two-plus years before he resigned mid-season in 2007.

He led the team to two straight Northern Division titles in the Rocky Mountain Football League prior to leaving the helm.

Before that, Softich also served as an assistant coach for the Montana Grizzlies in the early 1980s and played his prep ball in Anaconda.

More recently, Softich has been working in youth sports with the Missoula YMCA while also running his own computer consulting business

Emmett Dougherty was most recently the head football coach at Lewiston High School in Idaho, which competes at the highest level of athletics in that state, Class 5A. Lewiston’s enrollment is quite comparable to that of Hellgate with just over 1,000 students.

Dougherty served as coach of the Bengals for 13 years before resigning after the 2011 season to spend more time with his family.

The coach had two runner-up finishes in the state playoffs for Lewistown and had a 70-58 record at the school.

In late 2013, he was hired as defensive coordinator for the Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers, a community-based football program for students of Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston and nearby Walla Walla Community College. Neither school supports a football program.

Shaun Murgel has been a defensive assistant at Albert Lowry High School in northern Nevada’s Humboldt County since 2004, but played his high school and college football in Montana.

Murgel went to Helena High before attending Montana-Western in the early 90s. The coach then bounced around the Montana prep circuit — Townsend (95-96) and Shepherd (96-00) — before returning to Western as defensive line coach until 2003 when he left for a stint coaching at the University of San Diego.

Lowry, which competes at Class AAA in the small town (pop. 7,396) of Winnemucca, made the second round of the 2013 state playoffs before losing out and finished the year with a 10-2 record. It was the school’s second straight 10-2 season and fourth second-round playoff exit in a row under Murgel and head coach Tim Billingsley.

Murgel also recently applied for a head coaching gig with Fort Pierce Westwood High School in Fort Pierce, Fla., around this time last year.

Who will fill the hole left when five-year head coach R.L. Boyles resigned in November? Hopefully we’ll know for sure by the end of the week.

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  • 03 Feb 2015

    UPDATED: 2015 national signing day's western Montana football commits

    UPDATED: With fall camps just around the corner, the list of western Montana natives in the Missoulian's coverage area has swelled near 50. Take a look:
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  • 23 May 2014

    Makena Morley gets creative to fund trip to track nationals

    Ever wanted an autographed photo of one of Montana's all-time record-breaking prep runners? Now's your chance. Bigfork High School junior and State B champion of champions Makena Morley is raising money through technology and grass roots to help her reach the New Balance Outdoor High School Track & Field Nationals meet in Greensboro, North Carolina in mid June. And any donors of $25 or more through the fundraising website receive a Morley original complete with signature.  As of this posting, Morley is about 75 percent of the way to her goal of $2,300 for travel and lodging costs for her and her father to the national meet. Events run June 13-15. Morley isn't new to the national running scene, but she appears to be getting create in funding her trips there. She won the West Regional of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships back in December and then finished eighth in the ensuing national race. "As a junior I have been to 4 national championship races (three in cross country and one for indoor track) but I have never won a national title, so this one is very important to me because I would love for this to be the year for me to win," Morley wrote on her fundraising page. "It is an important year for my college recruiting process, because this is the year when all colleges are looking at you and at what you have accomplished!" IndieGoGo is a kind of online kickstarter to raise money for a cause or idea. It's "the world’s most established crowdfunding platform," according to the organization's website. Crowdfunding is the process of pooling money from many different people for a cause. Morley, a three-time winner of the State B cross country title and Gatorade Runner of the Year for Montana, plans to run the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Nationals along with either the one or two mile. For more about her trip to nationals, or to donate, you can visit her page here.

  • 12 Feb 2015

    Entry to Montana wrestling's Four-Timers Club just got tougher

    Winning four straight state wrestling titles is hard enough, but the reclassification of weight classes in Montana that began this year will likely make the feat decidedly more difficult. When the Montana High Schools Association shifted from 15 to 13 wrestling classes, it eliminated the weight at which many four-timers wrestled as freshmen. The 98 and 105 weights were combined -- as were 195 and 220 on the upper end -- to form a new hybrid weight of 103 that will leave fewer holes in brackets and dual lineups. But it also adds new competition for the lightest weight, the one typically housing freshmen, by doubling the participants. "It's going to be interesting with the weight changes," said Columbia Falls wrestling coach Jesse Schaeffer, who has a senior in his wrestling room chasing state title No. 4 this week in Shonn Roberts. "I think that's going to maybe reduce that." Twenty-three Montana wrestlers have completed their four-peats and 11 of those started at 98 pounds of lower -- Gene Davis of Missoula County High, the state's first four-timer, won his freshman year at 95 pounds in 1960 before a similar weight shift later in the decade. Add in Roberts, who will compete at 138 pounds when state action begins Friday in Billings but won at 98 in 2012, and that's exactly half. "It's kind of weird since that's what I wrestled at as a freshman," Roberts began, "but 103, the 98-105 mix, I think that's reasonable. It'll make things a little bit tougher." That's hardly the thinking behind merging weights, though. At either extreme ends of the weight scale (195 and 220 became the 205 class) fewer teams -- especially at lower classifications -- could field a full lineup. Many times, too few entrants there led to a state bracket marred by automatic byes and regular season duals that might as well skip on to 105 pounds anyway. The unintended consequence is that 2015 may be near the last time wrestling fans will get a trio of four-time possibles all on the mats at the same time. Sidney's Gresh Jones joins Roberts in the Class A tournament this week at 126 pounds searching for his fourth, while Forsyth's Matt Weber will be the talk of Class B-C with a potential fourth title. Both boys won their first -- and lightest -- at 112 pounds, though.