What a week it's been: Hentges
named head coach of Crusaders

Father Stephen Jones chats with Chris Hentges prior to the announcement of Hentges being named head football coach of the Helias Crusaders on Thursday morning.

Loeffler's Link

Jan. 11, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY,  Mo. --- Some weeks in your family's life are more eventful than others.

Too often, not in a good way.

But for the Hentges' family, this has been a good week ... a very good week.

Monday night, Helias graduate Hale Hentges was the starting tight end for Alabama as the Crimson Tide football dynasty captured yet another national championship.

Thursday morning, Helias graduate and former coach Chris Hentges (and father of Hale) was named the new --- in this case, the new and the old --- head football coach of the Crusaders, further deepening the roots of the Hentges dynasty on this program.

"Helias is a special school and a special place, and it has a special place in my heart, " Chris Hentges said.  "That's why I'm doing it.

"At age 52, a lot of guys who are in education and coaching are getting ready to retire and ride off into the sunset. I just feel I have a little more to give, and I'm privileged to get a second chance to lead the program."

A 1984 graduate and record-setting running back at Helias, Chris Hentges served as head coach of the Crusaders from 2006-10, compiling a mark of 50-12 and leading the team to a pair of Class 4A state championship games.

To avoid any possible conflict of interest during Hale's high school days, Chris stepped down as head coach after the 2010 season, and then left the staff completely to follow Hale's career at Alabama.

But ...

"I had always thought about coming back," Chris said, "I just didn't know what it was going to look like. I don't regret being away and truly embracing the whole experience with Hale, but when this opportunity presented itself, it felt like it was the right time to come back."

Hentges replaces Tim Rulo, who was let go after three seasons at Helias. Rulo went 17-18 and failed to win a district championship after the Crusaders had won the previous eight.

It was a tough tenure for Rulo, and a tough time for anyone in Blue and Gold.

"It was difficult, because I knew where we'd been and what Helias football meant to so many people," Hentges said. "Tim is a good coach, but I think sometimes, it's just not a good fit. And I think there were some circumstances that worked against him, and that made it hard.

"When this came open at the end of the season, I started to strongly consider it. I continued to discern and pray, talking to my wife and kids about it, and I came to the belief that this was a door opened and I needed to step through it."

This week for Chris week started in Atlanta, as Alabama won a 26-23 overtime classic against Georgia to win the school's 17th national title, it's fifth in nine years, and it's second in three years since Hale joined the program.

(For more on Hale Hentges and Monday night's game, please see http://www.loefflerslink.com/inside-205.html)

"We're extremely proud of Hale and the things he's been able to accomplish," Chris said. "Not just in football, but he's such a good student and a real leader on the team (Hale is part of Alabama's 10-player Leadership Council).

"I know coach (Nick) Saban thinks the world of him."

Which brings us to this fall --- Hale's senior season at Alabama, Chris's first/sixth season as head coach at Helias. The proud dad has attended "25 to 30" Alabama games the last three years, and surely doesn't want to miss Hale's final go-round.

He won't.

"I had some reservations about going for the job for that reason," Chris Hentges said. "But in my preliminary conversations with many of the coaches I've looked at to be on my staff, every one of them said they would support me.

"Leaving Friday night after our game or early Saturday morning to make it to an Alabama game, they're going to be willing to be with the team on Saturday mornings. They said, 'We've got your back, don't worry about that.'"

And there's this: If the new Ray Hentges Stadium wasn't in existence, meaning Helias would still be playing several Saturday games at Adkins Stadium, this would have likely changed Thursday morning's announcement.

"I probably wouldn't have taken (the job), it would have been a lot tougher," Hentges said. "But I'll be able to fill both roles next year, as a father and as a head coach."

There's also this: If Hentges hadn't taken the job, and Rulo's replacement was successful, this window would probably be slammed shut.

"I thought about that many times," Hentges said. "If I don't take it now, it may never come open again."

Naming his staff is an immediate goal. Hentges said there will be some coaches who were on his previous staff, like Mark Ordway, some holdovers from Rulo's staff "who have a strong desire to stay at Helias," and some "new faces," as well.

"I feel good about the preliminary conversations I've had with them," Hentges said. "But no one has been told, 'You're going to coach this, you're going to coach that,' we haven't gotten that far."

Hentges has never actually left the school, as he's continued to teach Senior Religion since 2010 and he'll continue to do so.

Now, the old coach has just been named the new coach, so what are his early impressions about this year's team?

"We have some talent coming back, some linemen, obviously a couple of good running backs, the quarterback," he said. "And from what I've seen, I think we have some talent in the younger grades. I think we'll have a good nucleus of players."

Finally, how about a great 20-year run for Chris, who's the son of the stadium's namesake. Win about 200 more games to tie dad at 250, win some state championships, and who knows?

Ray and Chris Hentges Stadium in 2038?

"I don't think," Chris said with a laugh, "that's going to happen."