Kilgore football run-in

Members of the Kilgore High School football team run onto the field before a playoff game in Houston. Following the coaching retirement of Mike Wood, who will remain the school's athletic director, a search is on for just the third football coach at Kilgore since 1995. 

In an exciting bit of news, Kilgore High School football is a bit closer to hiring a head football coach, although there is still more work to be done.

KISD Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker shared some items on the search with the Kilgore News Herald on Tuesday.

“We had 18 people actually complete the application process, and many more to call and inquire about the program and the position,” Baker said. “…Some knew a lot about Kilgore football, but many had no idea about our program, our tradition, or our community. After going through the applications, we narrowed the search down to six applicants to invite for interviews.”

Kilgore ISD officials recently decided to split the position of athletic director and head football coach, with the retirement of coach Mike Wood from coaching. Wood will continue with KISD in a new role as director of athletics and athletic facilities.

Wood and Baker both noted at the time that they hoped to find Wood’s replacement before the end of the school year. Assuming that happens, although not ideal timing, that still gives the new head coach the remainder of May, all of June and July to prepare for the 2021 season.

Kilgore went 10-4 in 2020, and the Bulldogs were two wins away for playing for the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A, Division I championship.

Baker continued, giving fans a bit of a description of what the six applicants bring to the table.

“Common characteristics these six have in common are current team members in successful Texas high school programs or college programs,” he said. “All have genuine understanding and appreciation of our Kilgore football program. All are proven leaders among their teams and school communities. All have proven themselves to be of high character and integrity, and all have a vision of how they can successfully continue and expand our football program’s traditions.”

The biggest tradition the Ragin’ Red has had in the last 26 years has been winning.

Kilgore has had just two head coaches since 1995: Mike Vallery, who retired from coaching and moved home to Louisiana in 2010, and Wood, who just completed his 11th and final season. Both carried themselves with dignity and class, and represented the Kilgore football program with those attributes, each in his own way.

Wood missed the playoffs just one time (that first season in 2010, when KHS went 3-7). Wood bounced back in a big way the next three seasons, winning nine, 11 and then 14 games in 2013, guiding Kilgore back to the state title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington against Carthage.

Kilgore didn’t win the game, but maintained a level of consistency the remainder of Wood’s tenure, finishing with that 10-4 season in 2020. Wood went 83-53 in 11 seasons.

Vallery was excellent, coming to Kilgore from the Monroe, La., area in 1995 and taking a Kilgore team that people like the late James Cameron had established success with and moving it to another level. Wood came to Kilgore around the same time, as Vallery’s defensive coordinator.

Vallery and his staff won the 2004 UIL Class 4A, Division II state title, going 16-0 and defeating Dallas Lincoln at Floyd Casey Stadium on the campus of Baylor University in Waco. Kilgore only missed the playoffs once in Vallery’s 15 years here, so in 26 seasons, Kilgore has missed the playoffs just twice (2006 and 2010).

The Bulldogs under Vallery and Wood not only won more games than any other time in Kilgore history, but the program regularly has sent its players on to continue their education and football careers at the collegiate level. A few years ago, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine named Kilgore’s win over Dallas Lincoln among the best games in Texas high school football history.

And a few of Kilgore’s football slogans: “Come early, be loud, wear red,” and “Winning is our business, and business is good.”

Kilgore isn’t the only program in East Texas looking for a head coach. Henderson ISD is currently in a search, although it may be nearing an end: HISD released a statement that there is a special board meeting this Friday, and the topic is listed as “to approve the hiring of a head football coach.”

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