By: John Raffel
Former Waverly player achieves dream job as football coach of alma mater
Mike Wallace couldn't be happier than when he is called the head coach of Waverly's football team.
It's Wallace's first season after replacing Christopher Huff (41-13), who has taken over the athletic director duties.
After losses to Lansing Everett (41-13) and Grand Ledge (41-7), Waverly came back with a 54-0 blanking of Eaton Rapids.
“We started out a little rough,” Wallace said. “We opened with Everett and had some discipline issues we had to work out. We got off our game mentally and definitely didn't put forth our best effort. Against Grand Ledge, they are the epitome of a high school program in our area. From the ground up, they have it.”
Wallace is in his 15th year coaching for the district. He's a former player and graduated in 1996.
"I kind of made some poor judgments in high school and was not able to play college ball,” Wallace said. “I asked coach [Kevin] Burns at the time if I could help out and I've been coaching ever since. I was learning how to coach.”
The first two seasons, Wallace coached the seventh- and eight-grade team at Waverly. Then he moved to the freshman level for three years and was junior varsity assistant one year and JV head coach seven years.
“I never had a losing season [with the JV team]. I kept moving up the system,” he said. “I coached on the varsity the last five years [as an assistant],” said Wallace, who was in charge of running backs and linebackers and then was defensive coordinator for two seasons.
About two weeks before the first game, Huff stepped down.
“We had some issues where a lot of sports had been cut and some had been coming to where they had to be self-sustaining,” Wallace said. “We have a pay-to-play issue going on and coach [Huff] felt we needed a leader. We had been without our athletic director for six months.
“[The school district] was clear that if he accepted the athletic director's position that he would no longer be able to coach. He's also Dean of Students, where he's in charge of student discipline.”
Wallace took over the week before the first game but didn't see any ramifications from the change.
“We had our moments,” he said. “We suspended three of our starters for the Grand Ledge game. We had to send a message that certain behaviors and attitude would not be tolerated. We need to be focused mentally and have our heads in the right direction.”
Wallace acknowledged that it's been a dream for him to be a head coach.
“When Chris got the job, I originally wanted to put my name in the hat back then,” Wallace said. “The district had a policy that in order to be a head coach for a team, you had to be a teacher in the building. I was not working for the district at that time.
“Being so close to the first game, they didn't want to bring in a new hire so they hired from within. I'm here on an interim basis. So I have one shot to show the administration I can handle this and put a good product on the field and hopefully help some of these young men reach their goals.”
Wallace worked for the district as a para-professional for five years and recently was laid off from that position.
“So currently I'm unemployed and coaching football and having fun doing it,” he said. “We want to win our conference championship, number 1, and make playoffs. number 2. People will be counting us out. We have some fighters. The kids are hungry. They want to win. They want to be champions. I think all the hard work is going to pay off for them.”