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Hilhi parts ways with coach Ken Ingram after consecutive winless football seasons

After completing his fourth season as the head football coach at Hillsboro, Ken Ingram saw the writing on the wall. by: PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN INGRAM - Former Hillsboro High football coach Ken Ingram celebrates after the Spartans won the OSAA Class 5A state championship in 2009.

After Hilhi won a state championship in Ingram’s first season at the helm and made another run at a state title in his second season, the Spartans fell on tough times, failing to win a game over the last two years.

In November, Ingram was relieved of his coaching duties. “Relieved” would not really be the right word for how Ingram felt, though.

“I guess they want to win,” Ingram says. “After not winning a game for two years, they thought they needed to do something about that. They made a change and that’s the way it went.

“It was tough at first. But, life moves on and you just go.”

Where Ingram goes next is the big question. He says that he has been offered positions from other prep coaches around the state and there is even a rumor swirling around that he could be moving on to the collegiate level.

“I’m sure that I’ll be in coaching again,” he says. “I feel that eventually there will definitely be something that will open up and I’ll be coaching again.”

For Ingram, football has always been a passion that he is not yet ready to leave. After graduating from Hilhi in 1984, Ingram went on to play football at Linfield under legendary coach Ad Rutschman, where he won two national championships. Rutschman was a mentor for Ingram and instilled in him a desire to one day be a coach himself.

“I loved the sport,” Ingram says. “I played at Hillsboro and then on (at) Linfield. I was able to win two national championships when I was playing there with coach Rutschman. He was just a great coach and a great mentor.

“I just loved the sport and I didn’t want to leave it. I wanted to keep being around it and coaching up kids and trying to make them better.”

After graduating from college, Ingram spent time as an assistant coach at Linfield, Texas Lutheran University outside of San Antonio and Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. He was then an assistant coach at Aloha for five years before taking over the Hillsboro program.

In Ingram’s first season at Hillsboro, in 2009, he took over a team that featured current Oregon Ducks star tight end Colt Lyerla. With Lyerla, then a junior, leading the way at running back, the Spartans went 12-1 and beat Jefferson for the OSAA Class 5A state championship. Ingram was named the Class 5A Football Coach of the Year.

“To have a chance to win a state championship was an amazing experience,” Ingram says. “Not every coach gets to do that. It was a lot of fun.”

The next season, Hillsboro moved up to the 6A level. That year Hillsboro went 7-4 and reached the state quarterfinals.by: PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN INGRAM - Former Hillsboro football coach Ken Ingram gives instructions to star Colt Lyerla during the 2009 OSAA Class 5A state championship game.

“The next year after winning a state championship we had a great team and we could’ve won another state championship that year,” Ingram says.

Then came the bad times. In 2011, Lyerla was gone and the rest of the Spartans team was not nearly as talented as the class before had been. As one of the smaller schools at the Class 6A level, the Spartans struggled to compete. Hillsboro went 0-10 in 2011 and then went 0-10 again last season.

“That (moving up to Class 6A) was a big part of it,” Ingram says about the Spartans failing to win a game over the last two seasons. “We’re a smaller 6A school and we were just going through a time when we weren’t as rich in talent as we have been in the past. That’s just high school football.

“Sometimes you’ve got a lot of talent and sometimes you don’t. It’s the ebb and flow and you just try to do the best with what you’ve got.”

Through it all, Ingram tried to make the lessons that his players could learn from the game more important than the wins and losses.

“My final goal was to teach players life skills and life lessons and teach them how to be better people,” Ingram says. “I really, truly believe that’s what football is all about. It’s a place to learn how to go through adversity, learn how to work with other people, learn how to go out there and do things when you’re tired and you still have to go out there and perform.

“Football is a great place to teach that, and even when you’re losing, you learn that you still have to go out there and practice. Our players did that. They still came out each day to practice and they showed up and did what they could.”

Now that his tenure at Hilhi is over, Ingram will try to plan out his next move. It could be at another high school.

“There have been a lot of coaches that I know and I’ve coached against who have called me up and said, ‘I heard what happened, I’d love for you to come be on my staff,’” Ingram says.

Ingram may also have the chance to become a college coach. He has the experience and he also has a connection. Ingram was an assistant at Aloha for former Warriors coach Chris Casey, who will be the head coach at George Fox University next year when the school begins its football program.

Ingram says that coaching in college again is something that interests him.

“That would be something that I’d be excited about,” Ingram says. “I’ve done it in the past and have enjoyed it very much and there’s a possibility of that happening. I would definitely be interested in that opportunity.”

Wherever Ingram goes, he will look back fondly on his time as the head coach of the Hillsboro Spartans.

“I had a great time while I was there,” Ingram says. “There were great people. We had great kids. Those were some good times. I had a great experience and some very great memories.”

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