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Prep Football: Way resigns as head football coach at Harrisburg

  • Al Way resigned as head football coach at Harrisburg High School Wednesday, according to the school's athletic director Greg Langley. Way was unavailable for comment.

    Al Way resigned as head football coach at Harrisburg High School Wednesday, according to the school's athletic director Greg Langley. Way was unavailable for comment.
    MICHAEL DANN | mdann@dailyregister.com

 
By MICHAEL DANN mdann@dailyregister.com
updated: 6/8/2017 7:42 PM

The Al Way era at Harrisburg has come to an end -- and this time maybe for good.

Way, a fixture at Harrisburg and longtime southern Illinois coach, turned in his resignation papers Wednesday morning.

Way said the decision was not an easy one, but it does come with some reflection and gratitude.

"I've been very lucky to have a lot of good players," Way said. "I've been even more fortunate to have an outstanding group of assistant coaches. I'm really going to miss coaching this year's group of seniors, they are a great group of kids, but I have no doubt that the school board will make the right decision on the next head coach at Harrisburg."

The school board is scheduled to meet again on June 21st.

Way said of the decision to submit his resignation now stems from a battle he feels he can't win."

I got tired of fighting basketball," Way said. "When this program was established in the middle 1970's, we wanted kids that were two or three sport athletes and because of that, we were very succcessful and won multiple state championships with multi sport athletes.

"Today, the kids are discouraged to play multi sports and encouraged to specialize in one sport and maybe if I was younger, I would fight the fight, but I don't think it something worth being upset all season about. In our school our size, you have to have all the athletes you can have and with the schedule we play, we needs those athletes or we're going to struggle."

In the meantime, Way will be remembered for winning the school's only state championship in football, back in 2000, when the Bulldogs finished 14-0, beating Oregon for the Class 3A title.

In his first 21 years at Harrisburg, that started in 1981, Way had 18 winning seasons, including 11 straight from 1981-1991.

Way stepped aside after the 2001 season and returned for a second time in 2005, making the playoffs in Class 4A as Harrisburg went 9-2.

Way once again stepped down as head coach, making way for Jason Roper, who assumed the reins from 2006-2013.

Way returned in 2014 and compiled a 13-15 record the last three seasons, including a 4-5 mark that saw the Bulldogs miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years.

In all, Way was 186-74 in 25 years in his time at Harrisburg and qualified for the postseason 18 times, 13 of which were in Class 3A. As a one-time head coach at Eldorado, Way was 12-7, making him 198-81 in his head coaching career,

All numbers and figures are from the IHSA.org website.

Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Register, Eldorado Journal & The Gallatin County Democrat. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.