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Longtime Perham football coach retires

Perham football coach Howie Kangas gives a high-five to Jesse Hein during a Yellowjacket playoff game in 2008.

PERHAM - One of the most knowledgeable and open-minded high school football coaches around the area won't be roaming the sidelines next year.

After 18 seasons, Howie Kangas has decided to step down as Perham's football coach. He was just the eighth coach in 86 years of Yellowjacket football.

"He came in as a veer-option coach, and this year we set every passing record in school history," said Perham activities director Fred Sailer. "He was not one of those guys that was going to cling stubbornly to old ways.

"A big thing with him was that he was so willing to study and try new things if he thought they would work."

He will continue to teach in the school system and be active in the football program in one way or another.

With a record of 119-65, Kangas is the winningest coach in the school's history. At 18 season's, he was also the longest tenured head coach currently on the PHS athletic staff, and in Yellowjacket football history.

"There's no burn-out there, really," Kangas said. "I still have some coaching left in me."

His team's played for the Section 8AAA championship in each of the last five seasons, and the Yellowjackets have had 11 consecutive winning seasons.

Kangas said one of the reason's he felt it was time to move on was the difficulty in developing numbers and depth in the program.

"We've had some very good ball players come through here over the years. Especially in recent seasons," he said. "But in all those years, we were terribly thin. Don't get me wrong, all our kids always gave great effort. But the talent with the depth wasn't always there."

"He didn't just have a good bunch of kids come through and then he wasn't successful anymore," Sailer said. "He sustained it."

While his early teams pounded the ball on the ground, his recent editions have featured plenty of shotgun formations that spread the opposition out.

Kangas would change his coaching philosophy based on the athletes he had instead of trying to fit his athletes into his formation.

"I enjoyed seeing some numbers we put up these past few years," Kangas said of the shotgun, spread-option offense the team has incorporated in recent seasons.

"He is so well-read, and so willing to study," Sailer said. "He would look at 'Who do we have to beat to get out of this section?' And then he would determine what he had to do with the players he had."

Kangas led Perham to the state semifinals twice, in 1997 and 2007. Overall, he led them to three State Tournament appearances.

"He's such a character and a unique guy," Sailer said. "He'll be very hard to replace. And he was unbelievably ethical, and people appreciated being treated that way.

"They knew, in the end, that it was always about the program, and never about Howie."

Kangas said he's most proud of how competitive the team has been over the last decade. In the last 10 seasons, the Jackets were 63-17 in the regular season and 18-10 in the playoffs. They played in six Section 8AAA Championship games and advanced to State twice, reaching the semifinals in 2007.

"We knocked on the door a couple of times," Kangas said. "We put out some pretty good teams and I worked with a lot of good people and was happy to be a part of it."

PHS Football Records under Howie Kangas

Reg. Playoffs

2009 7-1 2-1

2008 6-2 3-1*

2007 6-2 4-1**

2006 6-2 2-1

2005 6-2 2-1

2004 7-1 1-1

2003 7-1 1-1

2002 6-2 2-1

2001 5-3 0-1

2000 7-1 1-1

1999 5-3 1-1

1998 3-5 2-1

1997 4-4 4-1**

1996 8-0 0-1

1995 5-3 0-1

1994 2-6 0-0

1993 3-5 0-0

1992 1-7 0-0

94-50 25-15

119-65 Overall

* State Tournament appearance

** State Semifinalist