A year ago, when Neil Fendall resigned as the football coach at 4A Sisters, it appeared that he wouldn't be coaching for the first time since 1997.
He wanted to watch his son, Taylor, begin playing at Linfield College. And he decided to pursue a career in administration, taking college classes while serving as Sisters' dean of students.
But Fendall, who went 6-18 in his three seasons as the Outlaws' head coach, began to have second thoughts.
“I met with Sisters and kind of said, 'I don't know, man, I think I'm still a teacher and a coach. I don't know if administration is for me,'” Fendall said.
Fendall returned to the field this spring to assist Sisters coach Gary Thorson, and Tuesday he was officially hired as the first coach at Caldera, the new Bend high school that opens this fall.
“I'm half-crazy, and it sounds like fun,” Fendall said. “It's kind of a challenge. I probably wouldn't have considered it if it wasn't a program that's brand new. If it was a full high school with two or three levels of football, I wouldn't have taken this job. But I can kind of build half a staff in Year 1, and try to get there in Year 2.”
Fendall continues to take classes for his administration certification.
“I haven't decided if I will complete Year 2 or not,” he said. “This all happened pretty quick. I'm not really timed out past next fall.”
Caldera will open to freshman and sophomores in 2021-22. The plan is for the Wolfpack to go varsity in 2022 and join a league that includes current 6A Bend schools Bend, Summit and Mountain View.
“It kind of depends on how it goes, numbers and where we're at,” Fendall said. “I just don't know if we'll play a 6A varsity schedule. That's all stuff I'm learning as I'm going right now.”
Dave Williams, the athletic director for Bend-La Pine Schools, believes Fendall has the right stuff to get the Caldera program off the ground.
“High-character guy,” Williams said of Fendall. “He's going to come in and lead the kids in the right direction, and pay attention to everything that's going on with kids athletically, academically. He's just a solid educator.
“He's going to hold the program to high standards. It's going to be a great fit to start a program with a guy like Neil Fendall.”
Fendall played in high school at Milwaukie and was a safety at Portland State (1992-96). He began high school coaching in 1997, assisting at Milwaukie, Grants Pass and Oregon City, before moving on to coach in college at Linfield (2006-11) and Cal Poly (2012-14).
He assisted Thorson at Sisters for two seasons (2015-16) before taking over as the Outlaws' head coach, posting records of 3-5, 1-7 and 2-6. He installed the veer offense at Sisters.
“I don't have a thing. I run what our kids fit best,” Fendall said. “I went to that veer because at that time at Sisters, that's what we were most apt to do. Two years prior to that, we installed the gun and ran the spread option. We did pretty well with that. And when we weren't built for that, I switched to the veer.
“We're going to start our pretty general at Caldera offensively and defensively, keep it very fundamental, and we're going to figure out what fits us best.”
Fendall will teach in the PE/health department at Caldera, but for now, will continue to live in Sisters with wife Lynne and daughters Hannah and Gracie, who this year will enter the 10th and seventh grades, respectively.
“Any plans on moving to Bend are thwarted by Bend prices,” said Fendall, who will make a 45-minute commute from his home to Caldera.
Fendall will work on putting together a coaching staff in the next month.
“You get to ease into a little bit,” Fendall said. “I see it as a pretty good opportunity to start with a sound football foundation and a strong culture of raising young men. That's kind of what our staff established at Sisters in terms of culture. We continued to grow over there.”
Notes: Sisters has hired Clayton Hall as coach to succeed Thorson, the school's athletic director. Hall played at McMinnville when Thorson was an assistant with the Grizzlies. Hall has assisted at Ridgeview (co-offensive coordinator) and Neah-Kah-Nie and coached in Utah. He served 10 years in the military, including two tours in Iraq. … Tim Price has taken over as the coach at Milwaukie. Price is 79-84 in 17 seasons as the coach Jefferson (1997-2005), Parkrose (2008-12) and Roosevelt (2017-19). … Brent Wasche has returned to the head coaching position at Redmond, where he coached the team to a 2-7 record in 2018. Seth Womack, who went 11-5 as the coach the last two seasons, left to become the coach at California High School in Missouri. … Reynolds has promoted defensive coordinator Kelly Murphy to head coach to replace Ryan Aldred. … La Salle Prep has hired longtime Jesuit assistant Brian Martinek as head coach. He replaces Aaron Hazel, who left to start the program at Nelson, the new North Clackamas high school. … Oregon City is looking for a new coach after the resignation of Dustin Janz, who went 14-23 in four seasons with the Pioneers. … Gladstone is seeking a replacement for coach JJ Jedrykowski, who has resigned. Jedrykowski went 28-10 in two stints as the team's coach, including a 4A title in 2014.