BUTTE -- Dennis Hoovestal is a man with things to do.
The Park City High football coach, who hung up his whistle this past fall after leading the team for 38 years, puts his three degrees from the University of Montana to use by teaching history and physical education while acting as the Panthers’ athletic director. On top of that, he runs his own ranch, holds down a job at Chrysler Montana and, usually at this time of year, helps put together the Rimrock Football Camp at Rocky Mountain College.
So when 63 8-man players and 13 coaches made their annual spring pilgrimage to Montana Tech’s campus on Memorial Day to begin preparing for Saturday’s 30th annual Bob Cleverley Class C All-Star Football Game, Hoovestal’s arrival was the best received -- and certainly the longest awaited.
“I’ve turned (coaching in the game) down, I think, 14 times,” said a chuckling Hoovestal, who had a 159-82 record as coach with an appearance in the 2005 state title game. “This is my last year coaching, so I think they thought they better get me up here and see how incompetent I really am.”
Hoovestal will act as the Blue Team’s honorary head coach, and he admits it took some arm-twisting by the Cleverley’s board of directors — on which he served up until this year — to make that happen.
“All the way up here I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done at home,” Hoovestal said. “But I did want to come. I wanted to do it one time before I was done. I was on the board of directors for I think 10 or 11 years, and I always felt kind of bad that I never did participate in the game itself.”
Blue Team head coach Barry Hedrich, a 16-year coaching veteran from White Sulphur Springs, said it was never an option to not get the retiring Hoovestal into town for this week’s festivities.
“He’s a wealth of information and done an awful lot for the state. As far as I’m concerned, he’s as much the coach as I am,” Hedrich said. “He’s probably had the opportunity to coach in this game more than anybody else, but he’s always busy. With coach retiring, we thought it was essential that he was a part of our staff and what we’re doing here.
“He’s been a big part of Class C football in Montana.”
Hoovestal said he’s going to stick out the entire week at Tech — even if there’s some teeth grinding involved — aside from Wednesday afternoon, when he’ll make a run back to Park City to interview “a guy who wants to take my head coaching job.”
“I really am looking forward to working with and watching very, very good football players,” Hoovestal said. “I have made it up here and watched the game a couple of times, but I am looking forward to actually seeing kids practice who I have read about and watched on film and even played against.”
As far as retiring as coach, Hoovestal said, simply, it was just his time to step down.
“It’s time for younger people to do it,” he said. “I’m going to coach our junior high program this next fall – a program I started about 37 years ago — but it’s just time for the high school program to go in a different direction over there.”
Hedrich, who has coached White Sulphur Springs for the past 10 years and at the Cleverley for three years, said he was selected as head coach because, “I guess I could do the least damage.”
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the players in a different environment than you do during the season,” Hedrich said. “During the season, you really only get to shake their hand going through the line at the end of the game and tell them ‘good game.’ Here you really get to know these young men and get to know something about their families. I think that’s really special.”
Fairview’s Kevin Clausen, who recently stepped away from the Warriors after his 10th year as head coach, will lead the Red Team. He guided Fairview to a 41-26 record in his tenure, including state runner-up finishes with 11-1 records in 2011 and 2012. He could have an advantage with a whopping 11 Fairview players on his team’s roster.
“Being able to be with the best coaches in the state at this level, seeing the best players in the state at this level, it’s just something special,” Clausen said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m lucky to be a part of it. Having been a part of the week and the way it goes, Butte does a great job. The atmosphere is incredible, and I know the game itself is something to behold. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
With sprint turf being installed at Alumni Coliseum, this year’s all-star game will be played at Bulldog Memorial Stadium for just the second time in its history. The other occurrence was in 1990, when lights were being installed at Alumni.
Reserved seating will not be available for this year’s game, but tickets are still available in advance by calling 496-4292. The cost is $10 per person, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. on Saturday.