Rick Ward, McNary High School football head coach, talks with D.J. Harryman between plays earlier this season. Ward resigned last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Two McNary sports programs – football and volleyball – are without head coaches after Rick Ward and Dustin Walker turned in their resignations last week.

Ward tendered his resignation on Thursday, Dec. 15, and was followed by Walker on Friday, Dec. 16.

“Both men have worked hard to make their teams successful, but also to create leadership opportunities, build character and keep their athletes focused on their studies,” said Ron Richards, McNary athletic director.

The school district will begin accepting applications in January for both positions. A statewide search for replacements will be conducted with the goal of filling the gaps as quickly as possible, Richards said.

“Our students and athletes deserve the best and we want to make sure we consider all the options,” he said.

Richards plans to convene a screening committee of coaches, faculty and community members to review applicants before moving onto the interviewing process. Of the two, football will take slighter urgency as the sport now requires nearly year-round preparation.

Ward, a former NFL punter, exits the McNary football program after five years with a 22-29 record. In 2008, the Celtics went 9-3 overall, took second place in the Central Valley Conference and made it to the second round of the playoffs. However, the program has struggled to recreate such success in more recent years as McNary has not won more than three games in the past three seasons.

“The team has had ups and downs in regard to competitiveness, but Rick was always good at the intangibles and pushing his players to be successful in other areas,” Richards said.

Ward could not be reached for comment, but will continue as a physical education teacher at McNary and as the boys golf coach.

Richards said Walker’s resignation was “not unexpected.” Walker will remain a teacher at McNary High School, but will become an assistant coach in the George Fox University volleyball program.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to experience college volleyball as a coach and, especially, to work alongside [Head Coach] Steve Grant,” Walker said.

Walker has coached in the McNary program for 17 years starting out as an assistant coach and progressing to head of the program five years ago. He will continue to teach at McNary while coaching at George Fox.

McNary achieved berths in the state playoffs all five years of his tenure and produced back-to-back CVC championships in 2009 and 2010 while going on to compete in the state tournament. The high mark was a sixth place finish in the state in 2010. The team never finished lower than third in the CVC under his guidance.

“It was a great experience,” Walker said. “It was a blessing to work with the support of the community that we receive at McNary.”