Eric Mahlum coached Liberty's football team into the state quarterfinals three times since 2014. (Photo by Heidi Heaphy)
Eric Mahlum coached Liberty's football team into the state quarterfinals three times since 2014. (Photo by Heidi Heaphy)

For the first time since the program started two decades ago, Liberty football will not be coached by one of the Mahlum brothers.

Eric Mahlum, who took over as coach for his brother Adam in 2009, has stepped down after leading the Falcons to a 88-64 record in 15 seasons. The team finished 7-4 last season, losing in the quarterfinals of the 6A Columbia Cup.

Mahlum said he resigned to spend more time with his family. His son, Mitch, is a senior at Liberty and his twin daughters, Claire and Elise, are juniors at Westview. Elise competes in soccer, lacrosse and track and Claire participates in theater and track.

“They've grown up with Dad as coach for all of their life,” Mahlum said. “I just haven't done as much in particular with my daughters as I want to. Their senior year, I want to make sure I have more time with them. I figured the time was right to step back and put a little more into my family.”

Mitch Mahlum, a two-way lineman at Liberty, is looking to continue his football career in college.

“I'd want to go off and see him,” Mahlum said.

Eric Mahlum played four seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts. He moved to Oregon and joined the Liberty staff under Adam, who started the program in 2003.

During Eric's tenure as head coach, Liberty won three conference titles – two in the 5A Northwest Oregon Conference (2014, 2015) and one in the 6A Pacific Conference (2018) – making it to the state quarterfinals in each of those seasons.

“There were a lot of things at Liberty that we put in place,” said Eric, who teaches at Liberty. “I'm leaving the program in a good place. We've had a history of making it to the playoffs and finding success. Our kids just work hard and find a way to win games.”

Liberty has finished as runner-up to Sherwood in the Pacific Conference the last three seasons.

“The last few years, we didn't quite have the same level as we did in 2015 and 2018, but I felt like the kids we had played great, and we got the most of out them,” Mahlum said.

Mahlum said he is prepared to offer his input on hiring a successor, if he is asked.

“We've got a great group of coaches and they're all committed to the program,” he said. “None of them are looking to go anywhere.”

As for Mahlum's coaching future, he said he will “see what happens.”

“I've only got so much time with my kids around, and football is always going to be there,” be said. “I'm not stepping down with a plan of what I want to do down the road in regards to football.”

Line leaves Irish

For virtually the same reason given by Mahlum, Josh Line has resigned as the coach at Sheldon.

Line said he is walking away so he can follow the senior volleyball season of his daughter, Bailee, the youngest of his four children. Sheldon's volleyball team came within one win of the state tournament this year, and if the Irish had made it, he would have missed seeing Bailee play in it.

Line coached his two sons, Griffin and Keegan, who graduated in 2020 and 2022, respectively. He said he will not coach football next season, but that he is “definitely not” leaving coaching for good.

“I'm not done. I've still got a lot of energy,” he said. “It would have to be a really, really unique opportunity for me to be a head coach again.”

When Line took over at Sheldon in 2017, it was firmly established as one of the state's top programs. The Irish won big-school state titles in 2002, 2007 and 2009 under Marty Johnson and claimed another championship in 2012 under Johnson's brother, Lane.

Line led Sheldon to two state finals, losing to Lake Oswego 34-27 in 2018 and to West Linn 23-14 in 2022. He went 55-19 in seven seasons, including 6-4 last season, when the Irish lost at Lakeridge 13-10 in a 6A first-round game.

“My experience was a little bit different in that I took over for two legendary football coaches,” Line said. “Usually, that's where you go to get fired and never coach again. I took that chance. I actually relished the expectations.”

Line, who joined Sheldon after going 23-15 as the coach at Marshfield from 2013 to 2016, said following the Johnsons was a “hard, challenging experience.”

“When I first arrived, it was this family environment, and me being an outsider coming in, it wasn't an easy transition for them or for me,” Line said. “They all embraced me. The entire community rallied behind me. I took what was already a great program and tried to do my best to move it forward.”

Line said he has no intention of leaving Sheldon, where he teaches PE. He is hopeful that the administration will hire his replacement from the existing staff. He said that Tyler Martell, the defensive coordinator during his tenure, should be considered.

“His football mind is as good as I've ever been around,” Line said. “He's ready, and then some.”

Sheldon's football program is in “great shape,” according to Line.

“I feel like I left it in a good spot,” he said. “The team is going to be really good next year. I think we've got one of our best teams coming back next year.”