Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bliss will take over EHS football program

Bliss will take over EHS football program
Bill Yarbrough
The Edwardsville Intelligencer
The search is over.

After more than a month of sifting through resumes and conducting interviews, Edwardsville High feels it has found its man.

On Monday, the District 7 Board of Education approved the recommendation of a special search committee to hire Mark Bliss as the new Edwardsville Tiger football coach, taking over for highly-successful coach and athletic director Tim Dougherty.

Brad Bevis, who was named to replace Dougherty as athletics director last month, said that the search committee was pleased by the quality of candidates that applied for the position.
"When we looked at the depth of Mark's experience, however, he stood out as the person who best fit our needs," Bevis said in a press release. "We were looking for someone who can manage the whole football program - from our coordination with the Little Tigers program to oversight of the middle schools to building upon the success of our high school program. We believe that we have found that person in Mark."

Bliss will take over for Dougherty, who guided the Tiger football program the past 16 seasons before announcing on Jan. 6 that he was leaving his athletic director and football coaching duties at EHS to take the head coaching job and an administrative position at Lincoln-Way Central.
Dougherty was 132-40 in his 16 seasons, leading Edwardsville to seven Southwestern Conference championships, 12 appearances in the playoffs and Class 7A runner-up finishes in 2001 and 2002.

Bliss, 44, knows that there are big shoes to fill at Edwardsville High.
"This is an outstanding community with an outstanding football program and I'm committed to building on the tradition of excellence that is reflected in attitudes of everyone I've met," he said. "The program's record, personnel and facilities are exceptional. I am proud to have the opportunity to live and work in such a quality community."

Bliss has had plenty of his success in his own right.

He was a prep All-American quarterback at Medford High in Oklahoma and began his college career at Tulsa before finishing at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.

He has 19 years experience coaching, with 13 years as a head coach, most recently at Odessa, Mo., where he guided the Bulldogs to a 6-4 record in 2006 and an 8-3 record last season and a district championship and state playoff berth. His overall coaching record is 111-34.

He began his coaching career as an assistant in Austin, Texas, before taking head coaching jobs in Las Animas, Colo., and Blackwell, Okla.

Bliss then coached at Conway Springs, Kan., where he led the Cardinals to four state championships and one semifinal appearance. The Cardinals owned a 62-game winning streak, more than 50 of which came under Bliss's leadership. It is the second longest streak in Kansas prep history. Three of his teams achieved national rankings. Overall, Bliss compiled an 81-4 record at Conway Springs.

Bliss left Conway Springs to take the head coaching job at Palmetto Ridge High in Naples, Fla., in 2004, but left after a 5-5 inaugural season, saying his family was homesick. Bliss and his wife Jill have been married for 19 years and have four daughters.

"I've told people I couldn't afford child support on four kids, so I had to come back home because my wife and girls just wanted to be back home with all their family," Bliss told the Topeka Capital-Journal in 2005. "You live and learn in life. It's one of those things where they are more important to me than any job I've ever taken, so they're always going to come first in my life, and I want to make sure that they're happy."

Following his one-year stint in Florida, Bliss returned to Kansas as coach at Derby High, where he endured a winless season before taking the job in Missouri at Odessa, a school of 724 located just east of Kansas City.

Bliss has coached 13 Division I athletes and five prep All-Americans. He runs a no huddle, spread with single wing concept offense and a 4-2-5 defense.

Away from the gridiron, Bliss said that his philosophy of life evolves around being a person who strives to be three dimensional - from a mental, physical and spiritual standpoint.

"I believe that a person has to strive to make himself better in those three areas every day in order to reach his fullest potential," he said "Teachers and coaches play an important role in guiding and shaping young people to help them attain their educational goals, so we have an obligation to influence and inspire all students to reach their true potential to set the foundation for them to have the faith and belief that they can become anything they want to be in life."
District 7 Superintendent Dr. Ed Hightower said that more than 50 applications were reviewed for the head coaching position.

The search committee screened the applications and narrowed the pool to 12. The committee then completed a second screening, which included visits to some of the applicants' hometowns. The pool was further reduced to five. All five were interviewed twice, and the committee recommended three applicants to Hightower for a final interview and selection.

Hightower credited Bevis, assistant football coach Andre Collins and assistant principal Rick Everage for their outstanding work during the application and selection process.
"These men committed many hours over a short timeframe to help bring a football coach to our community who is dedicated to continuing the tradition of excellence that Tim Dougherty brought to the District 7 football program," he said.

District 7 Board President Jim Speciale said that the key to the district's ability to hire such an outstanding coach was beginning the search process immediately after naming Bevis as athletic director.

"Brad's ability to start the process quickly allowed us to have a large pool of qualified candidates available to us," he said. "That early start coupled with the reputation of the program that Dougherty built helped us attract many excellent candidates. Bliss is an outstanding teacher and coach and we are indeed fortunate to have him join the District 7 community."

A press conference is scheduled for noon today to introduce Bliss and his family to local media and the new coach will meet with EHS coaching staff and players at the end of the school day today.

A reception introducing Bliss to parents and the football community will be conducted tonight at 6 p.m. in the EHS Commons. Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be available.


Edwardsville Intelligencer -- Edwardsville IL.

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