Dave Ward helped build a powerful football program at Oak Harbor High School. Now he’s ready to continue the winning tradition of a different well-known gridiron team.
Archbishop Murphy High School hired Ward to be its new head football coach on March 20. Ward, who in December retired after coaching Oak Harbor for 17 seasons, replaces interim coach Rick Stubrud.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the (Class 2A Archbishop Murphy) program. Even though it’s relatively young, it’s been successful and well-organized. I was interested in being a part of that,” said Ward, 53, who guided Oak Harbor to at least a share of five division titles and playoff appearances in his final six seasons.
After becoming Archbishop Murphy’s interim coach this past season following the death of Terry Ennis, Stubrud quit that job but stayed as the school’s athletic director. Stubrud said he couldn’t be happier about the hiring of Ward, who in 2006 guided Oak Harbor to the 4A state championship.
“He brings the experience and obviously the coaching pedigree that we’re looking for to replace a person of Terry’s caliber,” said Stubrud.
Ennis, who in September died of cancer, started the Archbishop Murphy program in 2000. His teams went 75-12 and won 1A state championships in 2002 and 2003.
Ward, who said he has big shoes to fill, led Oak Harbor against Ennis several times back when Ennis coached at Cascade.
“I got to know his personality and his skills. I learned to admire and respect the job that he did with his program.”
At Archbishop Murphy, Ward said he hopes to continue Ennis’ legacy of success but not incorporate his style.
“My job,” said Ward, “is not to try to be Terry Ennis but to be myself and bring my strengths.”
Archbishop Murphy received about 20 applications for the job, Stubrud said, and the candidates had an impressive amount of head-coaching experience. But Ward, who will teach English at Archbishop Murphy, clearly had the well-rounded skills the school wanted, said Stubrud.
The timing was perfect, Ward said. He went out on a high note at Oak Harbor, which this past season started 11-0 and advanced to the state quarterfinals. It was time to move on, he said, but he still yearned to coach.
“I’ve still got energy and I’m excited about being around the school and the student-athletes, but it’s not going to be another 17-year stint,” said Ward.
At Oak Harbor, Ward had several productive quarterbacks — including current Washington State University player Marshall Lobbestael — and was known for using a Wing-T offense that relied at least as much on passing as running.
Ward said he hopes to develop a strong aerial attack at Archbishop Murphy, which under Ennis also used a Wing-T offense. But Ennis’ approach relied almost exclusively on runs.
Ward, who this spring plans to relocate from Whidbey Island to Snohomish County, was at Archbishop Murphy’s campus in south Everett Thursday. He said he met most of Archbishop Murphy’s football players, including seniors who played for the 2007 team that endured Ennis’ death and was forced to forfeit eight victories, including a district playoff triumph, for using an ineligible player.
Looking ahead to the 2008 season, Ward said, “It makes us eager and excited to get off to a good start and to really work hard and come out to really get a fresh taste in everybody’s mouth.”