Mike Fanger was ready for a break from high school football when he stepped down as Glencoe's coach following the 2017 season.
“After 24 years, I needed it just to kind of push away for a bit,” Fanger said. “But halfway through the season, I missed the guys, I missed the coaches, I missed the locker room, everything about football.”
Fanger returned in 2019 as the offensive coordinator at Tigard. And now, he is ready to be a head coach again.
He has been hired as the coach at 4A Hidden Valley, where he will replace James Powers. It is the fifth head coaching job for Fanger, who has compiled a 57-66 record at La Salle Prep (2006-09), Lincoln (2010-11), West Linn (2012-13) and Glencoe (2014-17).
Fanger has spent much time in the Grants Pass area in the last three decades while visiting the family of his wife, Joelle, a Hidden Valley graduate who is in the school's sports hall of fame (formerly Beck). He said when they recently became “empty nesters,” he was intrigued by an opening for a PE teacher at Hidden Valley.
Fanger, who had continued teaching at Glencoe, was hired as a teacher at Hidden Valley in late May and secured a spot on the football staff as an assistant. The head coaching job opened shortly after when Powers, who coached the Mustangs to a 23-12 record in four seasons, opted to step down.
Fanger was named the head coach in June and has spent much of the summer traveling from his home in Tualatin to Hidden Valley to conduct workouts and 7-on-7 competition. The Mustangs started their conditioning camp Monday.
“It's been a fast summer,” Fanger said. “Everybody down there is just awesome.”
Fanger, who played quarterback at Lakeridge and Lewis & Clark College, takes over a Hidden Valley team that has had much success in recent seasons with a wide-open passing attack.
Behind quarterback Sam Vidlak, now on the team at Oregon State, the Mustangs went 12-1 and reached the 3A final in 2019. Last season, after Vidlak left early to join the Beavers, Hidden Valley returned to 4A and finished 4-0.
“They've had a really good run of athletes,” Fanger said. “The fact that they've won the last two or three years is a big deal.”
Fanger, known for running a spread offense, can build around senior quarterback Nate Vidlak, Sam's brother. Nate moved from receiver to quarterback last season and impressed, drawing interest from Big Sky Conference college programs as a quarterback and athlete. He already has an offer from Idaho State.
“He's definitely a college football player,” Fanger said of Nate Vidlak, a dominant pitcher who led Hidden Valley's baseball team to an 18-0 record last season. “That's what he wants to do. He's always asking questions. He's got a really sharp football mind.
“We don't have to pull the reins back in that spot, which is awesome. We've just got to figure out the guys we need to get the ball to.”
Hidden Valley baseball coach Mark Vidlak, the father of Sam and Nate, stepped down as the offensive coordinator before Powers resigned. Now the Mustangs need to adjust to Fanger's approach.
“The first year is always the toughest, just installing everything because it's new terminology,” Fanger said. “We're certainly a work in progress. The opener will come too fast, I guarantee that. We've got a good crop of kids. If we can stay healthy, we'll be OK.”
Fanger needs to develop some new blood at the skill positions. Hidden Valley graduated college-bound talent in receivers Jeremiah Noga (walking on at Oregon State), Lawrence Matusik (Western Oregon) and Gabe Burchfield (Western Oregon) and running back Tobias Powers (Linfield), the son of the former coach.
Roughly half of the starters are eligible to return, including all-league junior center Ayden Kanott and all-league senior safety Noah Stone, a potential go-to receiver.
“We have some pieces, for sure,” Fanger said. “A lot of them didn't get a lot of playing time just because they were so loaded for a couple years. We're kind of all starting fresh together.
“We'll probably be a little more balanced this year because of the people we have, our running backs and things like that. So I don't think we'll be quite as spread-it-out, four-wide, throwing it. We'll try to get everybody some touches.”
Fanger has retained much of the coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Randy Keith. He has left the door open for James Powers, who has a son entering the seventh grade, to return.
“I told him if he missed it, we'd love to have him back,” Fanger said.
It will be Fanger's first 4A job since he coached at La Salle Prep, where he led the Falcons to records of 7-5, 9-1, 7-4 and 2-7 before leaving for 6A Lincoln in 2010. Hidden Valley's schedule includes a Week 3 home date against perennial 4A power Banks in a nonleague game.
“I'm sure they'll be ranked No. 1, and that'll be a big test for us,” Fanger said. “I know there are a lot of good 4A schools. Football is football. The level to me doesn't matter.”