No one needs to remind Chris Griesen that timing is everything. Especially when it comes to his football coaching and teaching careers.
The former Sturgeon Bay High School football standout was named football head coach at West De Pere High School on Monday. This will be Griesen’s first opportunity to be a head coach after serving as an assistant at Green Bay Notre Dame, Green Bay Southwest and, most recently, the last four seasons at Freedom.
“The timing worked out,” said Greisen, who played in the National Football League and Arena Football League after winning the Division II national title with Northwest Missouri State University in 1998. “To be able to have this kind of timing and go to an organization like West De Pere with the leadership that they have and the community support is great.”
Griesen said he passed on a few coaching opportunities in the last few years because he was unable to find a job which included position teaching math. Most recently, he was offered a chance to replace Clint Krewaldt at Freedom after the 2016 season, but a math position wasn’t available.
“Just coaching itself doesn’t pay the bills,” Griesen quipped. “A teaching job had to come with it, and West De Pere had one.”
Griesen replaces Jack Batten who was the Phantoms’ head coach for six years. Batten’s teams posted a 59-13 record, won at least a share of three Bay Conference titles and were the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3 runners up in 2018.
Prior to Batten, Hall of Famer Bill Turnquist coached the Phantoms for 39 years and won a pair of WIAA Division III titles. Including a six-year stint in Hayfield, Minn., Turnquist recorded 303 victories.
“I think it’s a great blessing to [follow] the success they’ve had over the years,” Griesen admitted. “Both of those men did a tremendous job of building up a great culture of winning and a willingness to strive to win…that intrinsic belief and want to be good. As a coach and walking into that knowing that they have that is awesome.”
Griesen inherits a team that finished 11-1 and advanced to the third round of the Division III playoffs, falling to Menasha 24-14 despite defeating the Blue Jays 56-42 in a regular season matchup.
The Phantoms return dual threat quarterback Josh Blount, who threw for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 1,366 yards and 21 touchdowns. David Vanderlogt returns after turning in 1,191 rushing yards and 15 scores, and leading receiver Aaron Wagner returns after catching 33 passes for 345 yards.
Linebacker Jourdon Schuyler returns after leading the Phantoms with 59 tackles, and defensive back Gyriece Goodman returns after recording 54 stops.
Despite the past coaching excellence and the talent returning from a successful team in 2019, Griesen said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure.
“I don’t think any external source is going to put any more pressure on our team or on me more than I put on myself,” Griesen said. “I say this humbly. I wasn’t able to achieve the things that I did professionally and in college because I wasn’t competitive and didn’t like the pressure.
“I’m glad I have a great group of men to coach with me. A lot of guys came back from previous years and they understand the culture and expectations of what goes into it.”