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Kardinals hire new football head coach

The Jim Beeson football era at Kenai Central High School officially came to a close at the end of the 2008 season.

The unofficial Jim Beeson football era came to an end this June with the hiring of John Marquez, 38, as the new Kardinals head football coach.

Beeson stepped down as head coach after the 2008 season with a 103-60 record in 19 years. He won four small-schools state titles and is the fifth coach in Alaska to win 100 games.

But the main reason Beeson stepped down after 2008 is that he was promoted to assistant principal at KCHS. A Kenai Peninsula Borough School District rule prevented Beeson from being assistant principal and head coach.

So Jeff Baker became the head coach, but Beeson kept running the offense and Jim Dawson kept running the defense.

"When Jeff took the job it was with the stipulation that Jim and I could continue doing what we were doing," Beeson said.

The new arrangement worked, with the Kardinals winning a small-schools state title in 2009 and losing in the final to Soldotna last season.

But Beeson knew something had to change. He said it was hard to handle his football responsibilities along with his assistant principal responsibilities.

Plus, with his youngest child in seventh grade and with enough years in the school district to retire, Beeson said now is the time to transition to a new coach.

"I just don't have the same passion I had five years ago, even," Beeson said.

Baker's summers are full because he guides on the Kenai River, meaning he couldn't pick up the additional work.

"It's just a good time," Beeson said. "We had the opportunity to hire a football coach, we happened to find a good one, and it all worked out."

Marquez said Dawson will continue to run the defense, while Baker will be a varsity assistant and run the offensive line. Beeson will be welcome to help out as much as he wishes.

Tim Sandahl and Ken Roser will continue to be junior varsity coaches.

Marquez will take over the offense from Beeson. Those that doubt Beeson is truly handing over the reins of his power-running attack will only need to watch the Kards for a few offensive plays this season.

"What I bring is a spread offense with four or five different formations that I think will give defensive coordinators problems," Marquez said. "At times, we can go uptempo and no-huddle."

Marquez, who was hired in June and also will coach physical education and health at KCHS, spent the last two years at Victor Valley Community College in California as an instructor and football coach.

Financial cutbacks in the California junior college system spurred Marquez to start looking for employment elsewhere.

"Living in a small community was attractive to me after living in California for a while," Marquez said.

He said his offense, which has a main formation of a shotgun with two backs, gives the illusion of being a passing offense, but is really a run-oriented attack.

Marquez says he has experience running the offense in poor weather from when he was a high school head coach in Oregon for two years.

"It rained for the three months of football, and we were still able to throw the ball," Marquez said.

Marquez also said he is looking forward to working with coaches like Beeson, Dawson and Baker, who have had so much experience and success.

"As a coach, you never stop learning," Marquez said. "Even with 15 years of experience from the college level to junior college to the high school level, everywhere you go you're learning.

"These guys are proven commodities. I can't wait to dive in and pick their brains. I'm not the type of head coach that has a big ego."

Marquez also embraces the standards Beeson has set over the last 20 or so years.

"I want to keep the program where it's at, if not get it moving further," he said. "I'd like to get more kids out of the area into school to play after high school."

Kenai Central High School will host a football camp Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the high school. The camp is for those entering grades nine through 12 and costs $20.

The high school also will be doing its sports physicals for all sports on July 30 at 10 a.m. in the little theater. The cost per physical is $15.