Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Edwardsville in state of Bliss with coach

Posted on Wed, Feb. 27, 2008
Edwardsville in state of Bliss with coach
Hands over reins of stable program


Confident he has finally landed in the right place, new Edwardsville High football coach Mark Bliss hopes his nomadic tendencies are over.

Bliss was hired by the District 7 Board of Education on Monday night, replacing Tim Dougherty. It's Bliss' fourth job in five years, following one-year stints at Palmetto Ridge High in Naples, Fla., and Derby High in Derby, Kan., followed by a two-year stay at Odessa High in Odessa, Mo.

"I know that anybody probably would have a realistic concern about that," Bliss, 44, said of his frequent job changes. "But my thing is this: Based on what I've seen and based on how everyone has treated me and my family, I can't wait to get moved in and establish our roots here.

"I've made a commitment to Mr. (Brad) Bevis (Edwardsville's athletic director) and to (assistant coach) Andre (Collins) that we're going to stick it out here and have some fun. I plan on being here for the long haul."

Stability has been one strength of the program. Dougherty, who resigned in January to become the new coach at Lincoln-Way Central High in New Lenox, was with the Tigers for 16 years. Dougherty, 51, was 132-40 and led Edwardsville to seven Southwestern Conference titles, 12 playoff appearances and runner-up finishes in Class 7A in 2001 and 2002.

"This is, without a doubt, the most excited I've ever been about taking a position as a head football coach," said Bliss, a native of Medford, Okla., who was a quarterback for two seasons at Tulsa. "Hopefully, we can build on what Tim has done here. He set a high standard. I look forward to the challenge."

Bliss' first two head-coaching jobs were in Las Animas, Colo., and Blackwell, Okla. He made his mark at Conway Springs High in Conway Springs, Kan., going 81-4 and winning four state championship in seven years. Bliss coached 10 Division I athletes and five All-Americans at Conway Springs.

In 2004, Bliss moved to Naples, Fla., to build a program from the ground up. But he spent just one year at Palmetto Ridge, finishing 5-5.

While there, Bliss became entangled in some controversy. The former athletic director at Palmetto Ridge, Mario Doria, was accused of making two illegal in-home visits to a prospective player, quarterback Derek Woods, in early 2004.

On one of those occasions, Bliss went to Woods' home with Doria. But Bliss said Tuesday that his visit came in April. By that time, Bliss said, Woods had decided to attend Palmetto Ridge and the team already was in spring practice.

"Myself and my coaching staff did not even get there until April to start preparation for spring ball," said Bliss, adding that Palmetto Ridge Principal Roy Terry already has talked to Edwardsville District 7 Superintendent Ed Hightower "to verify that I had nothing to do with anything that took place there."

Bliss left Palmetto Ridge after one season, moving to Derby, Kan., when a family member of his wife of 19 years, Jill, began experiencing health problems. Derby High finished 0-9, and Bliss moved to Odessa, Mo., where he spent the last two seasons. Odessa was 6-4 in 2006 and 8-3 in 2007.

"Odessa was a situation where I could have stayed there as long as I wanted to, but when I was approached about the job in Edwardsville, it intrigued me very deeply to where I wanted to pursue it and see where I stood with the other applicants," Bliss said.

Bliss, who turned down the head-coaching position at Carbondale High in late December, was offered the Edwardsville position Feb. 18 and immediately accepted.

Bliss runs a "single wing" offense and a 4-2-5 defense. He said his offense is complex and like no other team's in the area.

"It's all shotgun, spread and two tight-end personnel. That makes it a little unique," Bliss said. "There's a lot of deception, but it's also got the capability of being a true power offense. If you want to line up and hit somebody in the mouth, it's got that capability, too."

No comments: