New approach, same results

Shane Baughman continues storied success of Dove Creek football

Two of the three winningest football coaches in Colorado high school history were at Dove Creek Saturday.

Neither one added to their win total and only one was one the sidelines. The other was a spectator rooting for the team he coached for a half century and amassed 305 victories.

Shane Baughman was on the Dove Creek sidelines for his first playoff game, and he led the Bulldogs to a 39-12 victory. It was Dove Creek’s first playoff win since 2006.

“The biggest thing I told the kids this week was, no matter what happens, just go out there and have fun,” Baughman said.

After what has been a rather bitter and nasty few months off the field and behind closed doors, that’s really all what matters.

Kids playing a great game and having fun. That’s what matters.

But ever since Ken Soper was unceremoniously booted as the Bulldogs’ coach, opinions remain strong in the small farming town.

Soper, just two wins away from setting the all-time high school record for victories by a Colorado coach, was sent packing. The decision came from the Dove Creek administration, some of whom are now assistant coaches under Baughman.

Time for new coaching blood was their mindset.

The situation wasn’t handled well. Loyalty and commitment to a school for 50 years was thrown out with the dish water with a strike of a pen.

Soper wasn’t ready to go. But what is done is done.

After shaking hands with West Grand coach Chris Brown, who has 288 victories Saturday, the 74-year-old Soper slowly strolled away from the field where he helped shape the lives of youngsters for 50 years.

“It’s fun to watch the kids and see them succeed,” Soper said. “But it’s difficult, you really want to be out there.”

Now that the season is coming to an end and the Bulldogs are in the final 8, Soper nods, saying that maybe it’s time to get past the controversy.

“I think so, there’s still some hard feelings, but I guess it’s just time to move on.”

Soper does admit that frustration still lingers over the way things were handled.

“I feel like I got backstabbed, so that’s hard to take,” he says.

For Baughman, he gives credit to his four assistant coaches and to the players for their hard work and dedication, as they prepare for their game against Granada.

The Bulldogs have seniors in a number of key positions and they were expected to succeed this season. And they have.

As far as the first year goes, Baughman admits that it has been a challenge.

After 20 years as the head wrestling coach at Dove Creek, he knows about coaching success.

“It’s a lot different than wrestling,” Baughman says. “In wrestling, there’s a lot of things you do before the match, then they are kind of on their own when they step out there (on the mat). But in football, you’re having to make a lot of decisions that help the kids on the field.”

It’s been a learning experience for him, but his focus has always been to remain above the controversy and keep the spotlight where it should be — on the team.

He now has nine games under his belt as a head football coach. Every game has been a lesson. Sometimes, each play is a lesson for Baughman, who has two sons on the team.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s such a diverse group of kids, and in wrestling you can coach the kids individually. It’s a challenge to coach these (football) kids individually like you would in wrestling. But there really are a lot of individual, one-on-one battles that go on in football,” he says.

From day one of the 2012 season, Baughman was determined to shield the players from the controversy.

Adults have a way of messing things up, taking away the fun.

It’s always been about the players and having fun on the football field.

Winning always makes the game more fun and as the players celebrated the victory over West Grand, the smiles and joy in their faces, made it clear that these Bulldogs are indeed having fun.

Baughman smiles, as he thinks about the difference between coaching wrestling and football, and admits that maybe it’s not that different after all.

“Kids are the same, coaching kids is coaching kids,” he says.

Soper’s frustration will understandably continue to smolder.

But what is done is done. It is time to move on.

The focus should be on the Bulldogs and their very successful season that remains alive.

All that matters now, is that the Bulldogs are one of the final eight teams still playing in 8-man football.

What is done is done. Time to move on.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story