By Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor
Saying that he is “at peace,” Shane Blake ended his career as Monticello High School’s head varsity football coach last week.
Blake turned in his resignation Oct. 16, and it was approved at a special meeting of the Monticello School Board Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 17.
He will remain as a social studies and P.E. teacher at the high school.
Blake coached his final game for Monticello on Friday, Oct. 19, as the Panthers shut out Northeast of Goose Lake 35-0. Several former Panther players were on hand to greet Blake afterward.
“I’m really at peace,” Blake said in an interview Oct. 18. “I did everything I can, and I can look myself in the mirror and be proud of what I did at Monticello. I gave it my best shot, so I feel good about it.”
Blake coached the Panthers for 10 seasons, and steps down as the second-winningest coach in Monticello football history. His teams were a combined 47-43. The all-time leader is the legendary Dean Nelson, who amassed a record of 182-117-4. Dave Strang is third, having coached Monticello to 28 wins from 1990 through 1997.
Six of Blake’s 10 seasons were winning ones. The strongest era was 2005-06, in which the Panthers were a combined 15-3. The 2006 team finished in a three-way tie for a Class 2A district championship with a 6-1 record, and went 8-1 overall.
That season included what was likely the most memorable game of Blake’s Monticello coaching career. The Panthers rallied from an 18-3 second-half deficit to defeat second-ranked Solon 25-18 on Solon’s home field.
Despite the big win and outstanding record, however, the Panthers were denied a post-season berth that year. They finished in a three-way tie for the district championship, and lost out due to a tie-breaker. Back then only two teams from each district qualified for the post-season.
There were down years as well, including the 2012 campaign, in which the Panthers finished 3-6, including 2-4 in Class 2A, District 4.
Blake said the resignation was his choice.
“I was not fired,” Blake said. “I could have coached next year; I could have coached for five more years.
“I could fight things, but I don’t think it’s fair to the kids. I don’t think it’s fair to my family, I don’t think it’s fair to me.
“It’s not one thing that pushed me out of the game. It has nothing to do with the kids, nothing to do with the parents, nothing to do with administration. It’s circumstances. It’s just a confusing time for everyone. I just want to get back to some things where it isn’t so confusing.”
Blake’s tenure as head football coach is the second-longest in school history.
“We appreciate the work he’s done, and thank him for his years of service,” Superintendent Chris Anderson said.
“I don’t think anyone could ever question coach Blake’s love for football,” athletic director Tim Lambert said. “I think he poured his heart and soul into the job as far as his time commitment and his work ethic.”
Lambert said the administration will take its time searching for a successor.
“We’re really in no hurry to name one immediately or in the near future,” Lambert said. “I’m sure Chris and I will sit down and talk and come up with our vision for the person we see leading the program, and then go from there.”
Blake said he is “probably done” coaching.
“I want to spend more time with my family, and I want to look at other things,” he said. “I (am not) bitter. I think the only anger I have is toward where society’s going. And that’s no one’s fault here.
“It was an honor to coach at Monticello. I have built friendships here for a lifetime. Whatever people think, I care about kids. And that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.”
PHOTO: Shane Blake congratulates Monticello football player Tanner Felton following Felton’s touchdown in Friday’s home win over Northeast. It was the final game of Blake’s Monticello coaching career. (Photo by Pete Temple)