Former defensive coordinator takes over Valiant football

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic senior offensive lineman Joe Engstrom and the Valiants have a familiar face at the helm in new head coach Nick Hegwood, who was the Valiants' defensive coordinator for three seasons.

In the unofficial pecking order of the bountiful Valley Catholic athletic program, football has admittedly found a place near the bottom of the food chain.

The football program, which in essence is still in its adolescent stage having been instituted less than 10 years ago, has made the playoffs just once in its short history. The basketball, baseball, cross country, track and field, volleyball, golf and swimming programs have all produced abundant amounts of success and championships, both league and state crowns, at both the Class 3A and 4A classifications. Valley, it’s been said, is recognized as a basketball or baseball school.

It’s a story that new head football coach Nick Hegwood would like to change.

Hegwood, a 37-year old middle school teacher at Valley Catholic, coached the Valiant defense for four seasons under former head coach Doug Ierardi and was handpicked to lead Valley into the future when Ierardi stepped down at the end of last season.

With so many high quality programs to choose from in the Beaverton School District, Hegwood hopes to make Valley a football destination for potential players when they’re deciding where to spend their high school careers.

“I want Valley to be a place kids want to come to because not only do we play a high level of football, but we play a fun brand of football,” said Hegwood. “We’ll throw the ball around on offense and fly around on defense. I hope guys want to be at practice instead of feeling like they have to be there because it’s a place where you can be with all of your buddies and play a game you love.”

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic senior running back Charlie Bevins and the Valiants have a familiar face at the helm in new head coach Nick Hegwood, who was the Valiants defensive coordinator for three seasons.

Hegwood has long been considered a player’s coach by who?, somebody who can see eye-to-eye with his young players, who’s fully invested in building strong bonds with them and to help his players improve both as athletes and young men. Being a sixth-grade teacher at Valley, Hegwood has an inside knowledge of what caliber players and what character kids he’s getting from year-to-year.

He’s a part of their maturation into into young adulthood, which Hegwood said played into his interest in the head coaching vacancy. The draw of being fully ingrained at Valley, a place that’s both incredibly supportive from the administration on down, also had a role when Hegwood applied for the gig.

“Valley as a whole is a unique place,” said Hegwood. “I’ve never been in a place like this. The students are all accepting of each other. There isn’t any class warfare. It’s a different community that has a lot of value for a lot of different kinds of people.”

As a younger coach who knows what it’s like to be a player, Hegwood plans on letting go of the reins a little bit more and allowing his players compete with freedom and attitude, so long as they play within the confines of the team with sustained effort.

“I try to allow them to have a little bit of independence or swagger about them, but also have discipline about things,” said Hegwood. “I’m here for their best interests.”

Hegwood said his players have bought in and he’s put together a coaching staff that’s energetic and on board with Hegwood’s philosophies. Offensive coordinator Aaron Tanabe played center at Linfield College in the early 2000s and will direct a spread offense that is basically a replica of what the Wildcats run today.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic senior quarterback Aiden Welsh will operate a true spread offense under new head coach Nick Hegwood and offensive coordinator Aaron Tanabe.

“He’s a football junkie,” said Hegwood of Tanabe. “He watches so much film, I think he falls asleep watching it every night. He knows what it takes to have that commitment and dedication to the point where I think most of the guys on our team are willing to fight for him. I think we’ll be really prepared to attack defenses in a way that they’re prepared to handle.”

Hegwood will stay in charge of the Valiants’ 4-4 defense, which he has simplified coverage-wise in the name of being more aggressive and bringing extra blitzes.

Hegwood is a 1998 Beaverton High School graduate, who played under then head coach Faustin Riley and was a special teams player on the Beaver squad that lost in the ‘97 state title game.

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2002, Hegwood moved back to the Beaverton area, where current Beaver head coach Bob Boyer brought his former player on to his coaching staff as a sort of graduate assistant. Eventually, Hegwood was picked as Beaverton’s freshmen squad head coach where he was slated to coach Sam Noyer, Eric Hurd and King Weatherly in 2013. However, Hegwood — who was hired at Valley as a teacher in 2009 — was persuaded into coaching the Valiant defense by Ierardi after seeing the first group of sixth-graders he taught in ‘09 move into high school.

“I thought if I could do something to help them have a better experience at Valley, I have to do it,” said Hegwood. “I had to do my part to help them have a better football experience than they had in the past.”

Riley and Boyer both had big influences on Hegwood as did Hegwood’s dad, Ray, a coach himself who taught his son how to be accountable and work hard. Boyer was Hegwood’s linebacker coach at Beaverton and is a mentor Hegwood mirrors his coaching style after.

“He held you to a standard, but also had fun with you and built a relationship with you,” said Hegwood of Boyer. “I learned a lot from him when he took over as head coach. You can’t find a guy who cares more about his program. Faustin is a guy who’s forgot more football than I’ve ever known. I wasn’t a big offensive guy, but we were so prepared every week.”

Hegwood’s long-term vision is to have 60 kids in the program within the next five years and to be battling for championships, whether that’s in the Cowapa League or beyond.

“It’s about being a relevant 4A football program and becoming a program that gets talked about,” said Hegwood. “I’d like to see the culture transition a little bit to where we can be a basketball and baseball school, but we can also be a football school.”

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