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Story last updated at 2:57 p.m. Thursday, April 3, 2003

Ed Blahous steps down

Friends: Longtime coach was gentleman first

Alaska Star

photo: sports
  Retiring soccer coach Ed Blahous quietly turned the Mustangs into a powerhouse in the 1990s.  
Few coaches remain in a program five years, yet alone 20 years, as has longtime Eagle River resident and Chugiak Mustang boys varsity soccer coach Ed Blahous who will not be returning as this season's coach.

Blahous, whose teams won eight state titles, leaves the program after three decades of service to the school. He hands off the team to Craig Naylor, the Olympic Development Program coach for Alaska.

Blahous said he had teams and individuals that other coaches could only drool over. Former greats included his son, Eddie Blahous, Jr (three straight titles - 1982-84), Chris Cannon, Scott Karpuleon, Patrick Weir (two titles), Evan Corral, Ryan Kendall, Owen Strong and John Smith, all with at least one title each. Blahous calls them "franchise players."

Other stars were Steve and Matt Simmons, Derek Sitz, Mike Travis, Bobbie Walden, David Rupp, Ian Hobson, Brian Taylor, Rob Carter, David Swanson, Justin Dodson, and Kirby Rollison, Jeff Wester, and Peyton Durr. Many were multisport athletes who found a niche in soccer under Blahous' tutelage.

From his insertion into the program in 1983, his presence was immediately felt, said co-coach Larry Henry. After a 1-9 season in 1982, the sport's first stint in the Anchorage School District's platter, Blahous joined Henry and the team responded with three straight titles.

Henry said Blahous' character and charisma was contagious.

"His moral values, his sense of sportsmanship was always high on the list," he added. Yet he was a fierce competitor also. "He believed and taught that every 50-50 ball should be ours. He was that gung-ho."

One of the players from the 1983-85 era was Steve Simmons, who later went to Concordia University in Portland, Ore., on a soccer scholarship. He is currently the assistant men's soccer coach at Oregon State University, a NCAA Division I program.

"He knew how to motivate his players. He knew when to get into a player's head and when to just pat him on the back. His timing and handling of players were impeccable," said Simmons.

Simmons said he has tried to emulate the demeanor of Blahous, the father of four, both on and off the field. Blahouse was named Anchorage Father of the Year back in the 1980s.

Kirby Rollison, a three-year varsity player in 1988-90, said that Blahous' knowledge and understanding of the game is unsurpassed.

"He knew the game inside and out. And he knew the strengths of his players, and he let his (stronger) players play their game," said Rollison, who now lives in Missouri.

Blahous, who retired from his managerial position with the maintenance department of the school district last year, said he did have an inside "unsung hero" in the late Steve Primis.

"Steve was a tremendous asset to the program. He was the daily, in-the-school presence that kept the boys working hard on soccer, focused on our team goals and full of spirit through thick and thin," Blahouse said.

There was definitely more thick than thin in Chugiak boys soccer. An off year for the Mustangs was a second-place, or perhaps, pray tell, a third-place statewide finish. Eight goal medallions line the mantle in Blahous' office, along with the volumes of memories surrounding each title.

Derek Sitz, an Anchorage police officer who still lives in Eagle River, was a member of his state championship team as a senior in 1992, after finishing second to West as a sophomore and second to Bartlett his junior year.

"Blahous was a class act. He taught us how to act both on and off the field," said the officer, still cognizant of life's lessons taught by the "master" coach. "He was my role model growing up. Chugiak (High) was lucky to have him for as long as they did. He really helped build up the soccer program."

1999 Chugiak graduate David Rupp had additional accolades to heap upon his former coach. Joining the team midway through his freshman season, Rupp said that dedication of the coach was evident in the extra time he gave to Rupp and others after practice, introducing the younger players to the rigors and mindset of high school varsity play.

"He cared as much about your personal life as he did your performance or accomplishments on the field," Rupp said from Monmouth College, in Illinois. Rupp, a senior, received an athletic scholarship following his high school soccer experience, as did teammate Pat Weir, who attends the Colorado School of Mines.

Classmate to both was Ian Hobson, who plays NCAA Division I soccer for Central Connecticut State University. Hobson said that Blahous could be commended for "giving everybody a chance" to excel and earn a place on the varsity team. Hobson said the coaching staff that the seasoned coach amassed was also a contributing factor to the team's success.

"He had a reputation for winning. We were always at the top of the division," Hobson said. In 1997, with himself, Rupp and Weir all sophomores, the team jelled in the state tournament, scoring 11 goals while holding opponents Colony, Dimond and Palmer scoreless, including the 1-0 title nod over the Moose.

"He was straight-forward. He never lied to me and for that he has my ultimate respect," Hobson added. The three players won state titles in 1997 and 1999, part of Chugiak's charmed decade of the '90s that included four state titles.

Perhaps the one with the longest history and knowledge of Blahous and the impact he had with Mustang athletes was longtime Chugiak athletic director Tom Rollman. Rollman, who retired in 1990, actually met Blahous while he was still in the military in the 1970s. Rollman was a teacher at the time.

Rollman said that Blahous came at the game from a different slant than many coaches.

"He put a big premium on defense." Rollman said, adding that a Blahous team would often start the season with several ties, many scoreless, but few losses, before climbing to the top of the league standings.

"Ed is a gentleman. He also treated his players and his opponents with respect. He always had the interests of the kids at heart. If you had kids coming up into the program, you knew that with Ed in charge, they were in good hands."

"That's a big loss for Chugiak to have Ed retire."