New Heritage football coach in it for the long haul

Kevin Peterson, named the head coach, promises to bring stability to Heritage High School’s football program, hoping to remain with the program until the day he retires from teaching.

Kevin Peterson, a teacher at Heritage since 2004, loves his school and has no plan on leaving; Columbia River HS looking for new coach

Kevin Peterson will be entering his 20th academic year as a physical education teacher at Heritage High School during the next football season. 

He was an assistant coach when the program made it to the postseason for five consecutive seasons. 

Kevin Peterson, a teacher at Heritage since 2004 and longtime assistant football coach, is taking over as the program’s head coach. Photo courtesy Heritage High School
Kevin Peterson, a teacher at Heritage since 2004 and longtime assistant football coach, is taking over as the program’s head coach. Photo courtesy Heritage High School

Even when he took some time away from football, he remained as a teacher and a Heritage Timberwolves supporter at all times.

This place is special to Peterson.

It only seems fitting that Heritage announced Peterson would lead its football program. He was named the head coach last week, the first time he has applied for the top job.

“Stability,” Peterson said as one of the reasons he is the right person at the right time for the job. “I’m not going anywhere.”

He, and those who work at Heritage, are in on a little secret, after all.

“This is a great place. We get a bad rap. We’re in the news for all the wrong reasons. But anybody who walks our halls and spends time here knows there is a core family atmosphere that kids enjoy. There is some pride. Maybe it doesn’t show on the scoreboard or in the standings, but there is a sense of pride in our building that we need to continue to grow and carry over onto our athletic fields.”

Heritage’s best year of football came in the school’s second season, in 2000, when the Timberwolves went 8-2 overall and won the 4A Greater St. Helens League title outright. 

Peterson arrived as a teacher and assistant coach in 2004. Since then, he has been a part of one co-league championship and a squad that reached the playoffs five years in a row.

Lately? 

Not much success on the scoreboard. 

Peterson will be the sixth head coach since the team last made the postseason in 2011.

Still, it was during last year’s 0-9 campaign when Peterson started thinking about the future, and his future with the program. 

“I had a ton of fun,” he said of the 2022 season as an assistant coach. “For as awful as our record was, and as many struggles as we had, the kids’ attitudes were great.”

When Chase Smith resigned, Peterson knew it was his time. He reached out to former Heritage head coaches as well as former Camas coach Jon Eagle, looking for advice. 

“Eagle told me, ‘As a head coach, it’s on your mind 24/7.’ Since the day I was offered the job, I find that to be 100 percent true,” Peterson said.

He understands the challenge because he has lived the reality that is Heritage football.

“I’m not walking in blind. I’ve seen the highs and lows,” Peterson said. “When I say highs, we were qualifying for the playoffs, going 5-5. It’s not like we had tremendous undefeated seasons. The moderate success we’ve had, I know the grind and how much work it took just to get that little bit of success. I’ve seen it. I feel like I have the blueprint for that model.”

And again, if all goes well, he expects to be at Heritage. For some time.

“I actually want to be here. I’m retiring in 12 to 15 years. I don’t have a plan to go anywhere,” Peterson said. 

He is already thinking about the long term. As in, “What is it in six years from now that is going to benefit us?” he asked.

He has made contact with youth football organizations. He is in communication with middle schools that feed into Heritage. He had a team meeting on Wednesday that attracted 55 students. Considering the team finished the 2022 season with only 40 players, that’s a positive sign.

“Right off the bat, things are trending in the right direction,” the coach said.

It is the athletes he has already worked with that helped lead him to taking the position, too. Despite that rough 2022 season, the core group of players never wavered in their dedication to the program, Peterson said.

“They just came out to work every day. They didn’t complain,” Peterson said.

Now, though, the goal is to recondition the mindset of the players. They did get beat up last season, and they remained positive. Peterson said he wants the energy to remain high but he does not want anyone at Heritage to think of any future season as a lost cause.

Part of the progress will be Peterson’s coaching staff, as well as the coaching staffs for the other boys sports at Heritage. 

Peterson expects seven football coaches to be in the building next season, the most he can recall in more than a decade. The basketball and wrestling coaches are also on the football staff. The baseball coach is the school’s athletic director. There is a new message to the athletes at Heritage: They are in this together, and they will build this together.

“All the coaches are on the same page,” Peterson said. “Unseen things to the public eye that are going to greatly benefit all of Heritage athletics, not just football.”

If that change starts with football, though, it is the hope for everyone involved at Heritage that they have the right man in charge. 

A man who has been there for Heritage for years, and a man who promises to be there for many more.

Columbia River seeks new football coach

Brett Smedley announced his resignation as Columbia River’s football coach earlier this week. He spent four years in charge of the program he played for in the early 2000s. He described it as his dream job.

Brett and his wife Breanne are varsity coaches at Columbia River, coaching in the same season. They have two children. With such a time commitment for coaching, Brett said he was ready to make a “sustainable change for our family” during this stage of life. 

Smedley led the Rapids to two playoff appearances in his three full seasons as coach. There were no playoffs in the abbreviated pandemic season. 


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