Wollan Steps Down as W.F. West Football Coach
12 YEARS: Wollan’s Bearcat Teams Reached State 10 Times, Went 96-38 Since His Arrival in 2006
By Aaron VanTuyl
Bob Wollan wants to get a puppy. A yellow lab, in particular, like the ones his family had when he was growing up, that he can work with — coach, if you will — and train.
“I haven’t had time to do that,” he said. “And I’ve been waiting till I’ve actually had time.”
Now, he thinks he might be able to find the time.
Wollan announced on Monday that he’s stepping down as W.F. West High School’s football coach, after 12 years with the Bearcats and a 22-year prep coaching career. His teams went 96-38 in that span, reaching the 16-team state playoffs 10 times and making the state semifinals in 2011 for the only Tacoma Dome appearance in W.F. West history.
Wollan and W.F. West athletic director Jeff Johnson met with the players on Monday, though Wollan had discussed the change with Johnson the week before. The two agreed to hold off on the announcement until last week’s Centralia/Chehalis basketball game, along with finals and other important school-related events, were finished as to not cause a distraction.
“My clock, what I feel internally, when that urgency hits, is January, and I needed to give myself January to see if I felt like I was ready to do this again, at the level these kids deserve,” Wollan said. “There were clinics I didn’t want to go to, and things like that, and I said ‘This isn’t fair to them.’ That was a real signal, to me, that it’s time.”
The fact that the Class of 2018 includes Wollan’s son, Nole — the Bearcats’ starting quarterback the last two seasons — and his friends played some part in the decision, from a timing standpoint.
“I’ve gone through this question before, in my own head, but I think deep down I’d stay until those guys were done,” Wollan, a 1979 Centralia High School graduate, said. “I felt like that was a legitimate commitment to the school, so it just kind of seemed natural that, okay, if we’re going to do this, this would be the time to transition and do the things I want to do.”
Raising a dog, of course, is on that list, along with big game hunting — something he hasn’t had much of a chance to do for the last few decades.
There’s also trips to see former players in action. W.F. West alums, and brothers, Mitch and Tanner Gueller are both starters for Idaho State University, and J.C. Sherritt — who Wollan coached at Pullman High School — is a linebacker for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.
“Those are just things you can’t do as a head coach,” Wollan said. “You’re there all weekend, and there’s a lot on your plate, so I look forward to those opportunities.”
Johnson called Wollan a passionate, hard-working, competitive coach with an innate ability to understand teenage players.
“He finds a way that his kids just drink the Kood-Aid, and they’re under his spell for these years in high school,” Johnson said. “He’s just a guy that they want to follow, and the great thing about Bobby, is he doesn’t care how much money you have, who your dad is, or where you come from. If you want to come out and work hard for him, he’s your number-one champion.
“There’s a reason I’m buying 120 football helmets every year,” Johnson added. “Everybody wants to be a part of the program.”
Wollan’s Bearcats reached the quarterfinals on two other occasions, in 2006 and 2009. Before his arrival W.F. West hadn’t been to state since 1989.
Wollan’s first head-coaching job was in Rochester, where he coached the Warriors for seven years with a 52-18 record. He then took the same position in Pullman, where his Greyhounds went 33-5 and won the 2A state championship in 2005. Over his 22-year career his teams posted a 181-61 record for a .748 winning percentage.
The biggest achievement, he said, was just consistency.
“We never had a losing season in 22 years,” he said. “Just that we were able to figure out a way to win games every year, and we were consistent. And just kind of getting Chehalis — football turned into a big deal in Chehalis, and I don’t think it was before, and I don’t want to say that in a negative way.
“Just kind of the whole atmosphere of our games, and our student body and our community, it’s been a fun thing for everybody to rally around,” he said.
Wollan added that he’s open to helping out with the football program in an assistant role in the future.
“I definitely want to coach some more. I feel like I’ve kind of learned a lot over the years, but it depends on who the next guy is, what he wants, and is it fair for me to be there,” he explained. “But it’s something I want to contribute to, so that’s going to be great. I’m not ready to totally get away from the game.”
Wollan also expressed his appreciation for his assistants over the years. A group of four or five assistants from his Rochester tenure joined him early on in Chehalis, he said, which helped the program hit the ground running back in 2006. Longtime assistant Billy Peterson — who passed away in 2011 — was also a great asset at all three stops in his coaching career, Wollan said.
Marty Marquez and Chris Johnson, he added, have also been a big help on the Bearcat staff.
“I’ve just been really fortunate with our having this great staff of guys that put in this tremendous amount of hours,” he said.
Johnson said the opening for W.F. West’s next football coach would be posted on Tuesday.
“We’re not going to put a timeline out there,” Johnson said, as to a target date for a hire. “We want to make sure we take the time and turn over every rock, and get the person that best fits us, but we’ve got to move, too.”
Bob Wollan’s stepping down as W.F. West’s head football coach after 12 seasons. His Bearcat teams went 96-38 in that stretch and reached the state playoffs 10 times.
“It’s kind of sad, I think, and probably a case study for a psychologist, that you remember the losses so much more,” he said. “We’ve had some amazing games, and some of them have been the games we lost.”
Here’s a few of those memorable games:
W.F. West at Centralia, Oct. 20, 2006: The Tigers won 21-14 in Wollan’s first Swamp Cup — at least, his first in crimson and grey. “I think one of the greatest environments was our very first year, when Centralia went to the (state) championship,” he said. “There was a legit 5,000 people there. … What a great game. I mean, throw out the fact that we lost, but the environment? I think it had been a long time since Centralia/Chehalis had that kind of gig.”
W.F. West at Tumwater, Oct. 9, 2009: The Bearcats beat EvCo rival Tumwater, 34-14, with all-state linebacker Jake Steelhammer back in the lineup after missing the first four games of the season. “It was just a real intense energy,” Wollan said. “He made like the first four tackles of the game, and (they didn’t run to his side after that). That was fun.”
W.F. West vs. Lakewood, Nov. 18, 2011: W.F. West made program history by beating Lakewood, 33-18, in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Quarterback Mitch Gueller ran for 264 yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats advanced to the semifinals in the Tacoma Dome, where they lost a tough game to Lynden, 17-7. “Beating Lakewood up there, to go to the Tacoma Dome, and playing as good as we did, were two really amazing games,” Wollan said. “The fun part about that year is we stayed healthy. We all got healthy at the end, and they were able to put their best foot forward.”
W.F. West vs. Sumner, Nov. 15, 2013: Undefeated Sumner beat the Bearcats, 28-14, in the opening round of the state playoffs as a monsoon swept through Sunset Chev Stadium and disrupted a Bearcat passing attack keyed by current Idaho State University quarterback Tanner Gueller. “I think Tanner’s whole year was fun,” Wollan said, chuckling at the misfortune of a true pass-first spread formation football team playing its opening state playoff game in a rainstorm. “That might’ve been the worst night we ever played football in, so that was frustrating.”
W.F. West vs. Squalicum, Nov. 15, 2015: Undefeated, No. 2-ranked Squalicum hit a field goal with 6 seconds left to win 31-29 in the opening round of the state playoffs, after Bearcat QB Elijah Johnson ran in a touchdown with about 2 minutes left — and W.F. West converted for 2 to lead 29-28. It was a week after W.F. West beat Ridgefield in triple-overtime to qualify for state. “On the road, I don’t think people gave us a whole lot of a chance,” Wollan said. “It was one of our greatest efforts.”
Woodland at W.F. West, Nov. 3, 2017: Cory Davis’ 26-yard field goal in an untimed down at the end of regulation wrapped up a wild 38-35 win over Woodland, propelling W.F. West into the state bracket for the fourth straight season. “Being at home, with so few (playoff) games at home … Our kids are pretty resilient,” Wollan said.