Gackle Honored With 8-Man Football Coach Of The Year

Derek Gackle, Fairview High School head football coach, was honored by his fellow coaches statewide as they voted him Montana High School Association Coach of the Year. "It's a really special honor," Gackle said. "I'm really pleased for the team and assistant coaches."

Gackle began coaching football in 1995 at Valley City State University. He was fortunate to also spend three months as a player/coach in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he developed life-long friendships. His first teaching job started in Columbus, MT, in 1997, where he stayed for four years and coached under John Smith. Then it was off to the School of Mines, Rapid City, SD, in 2001 where he was offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for three years. He also completed his master's degree in administration at that time. From there, Gackle went to coach the wide receivers at Northern State, Aberdeen, SD, under Ken Heupel.  He was able to spend a week working with Coach Heupel's son, Josh, at the University of Oklahoma. "It was an amazing experience. I was very fortunate to be able to do that," Gackle stated.

By then Coach Gackle was married with a young daughter that he never got to see, and the decision was made to give up college coaching. Derek being from Circle, his wife, Melissa, from Burlington, ND, wanted to move back closer to family. The next move was to Hardin where he was Dean of Students and head coach for three years. He is proud of the success of the Hardin team under his coaching, helping them to a record of 21-10 in those three years, including many firsts for the program.

In 2009, the family made the move to Fairview where Gackle is principal at East Fairview School while his wife teaches high school math at Fairview. He became assistant coach of the Warriors in 2010, then head coach in 2013. In 2014, he left the job mid-season but returned as 5th and 6th grade coach in 2017 when his son, Deacon, started to play. In 2021, he resumed the position as head coach of the high school. Because Gackle started coaching the kids who are now seniors and juniors while they were in elementary school, he was able to build the program from the ground up and had a good idea back then that the team would be good. "The talent was there," he said. He is extremely proud of his players and credits their success with their work ethic, saying that they didn't just play football three months of the year, but put in the work year-round. Gackle said that losing the semi-final game, last year, motivated them and proved to the players that they were good; they just needed to keep working hard. "They're also a joy to be around," Gackle said. "There's no 'me first', no drama. They play for each other, it's We, not Me." Even the long road trips were a treat. Gackle said, "The players knew they had a shot to be good and didn't waste that opportunity." "It was fun watching the kids get better and realize their potential," he continued. Even some kids who the coaches didn't expect things from this year surprised them with their prowess on the field.

Looking ahead to next season, Coach Gackle feels pretty good about his team. They will lose a lot of good seniors but because the Warriors were so far ahead most games, the entire team got to play in most games this season, giving them the experience they need.  "It's the culture that builds winners," Gackle said. "The young guys will carry the torch," he said. "I'm really excited about what we have coming back and defending our title."

Congratulations Coach Gackle, Coach Buxbaum, Coach Schriver, and Players!


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