HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Artley follows father's footsteps into coaching
BLAIRSVILLE — Coaching runs in Rick Artley’s DNA.
Without it, he doesn’t know what he would do to pass his spare time.
“I honestly don’t know what I would do without coaching,” Artley said outside of Blairsville High School, where he teaches health and physical education. “I coach football, and then I go to junior high basketball. It is something that, it kind of just honestly makes the day go.
“In the spring, when I’m not coaching, it seems like a longer day. It’s definitely noticeably longer days when you don’t have a sport to go to after school.”
It’s been all he has known for most of his life.
Artley’s father, Paul, has coached in some capacity for “48 of the 49 years I’ve been involved with education,” he said.
He completed his 19th season coaching varsity softball at Northern Cambria in the spring, and he’s coached junior high boys’ basketball for 48 years. Paul Artley was also the Northern Cambria girls’ varsity basketball head coach for seven seasons in the 1970s.
That’s in addition to 37 years he spent as a fifth-grade teacher, all but two at Northern Cambria.
“My dad, I don’t know how many years he’s been coaching, but forever,” Rick Artley said. “He taught for 37 years, coaching all those years, and he’s been retired for several years and he’s still coaching two sports.”
The younger Artley paused and added with a laugh: “I guess it is in the blood.”
Since Rick Artley, 39, can remember, his dad has been a coach. And Rick figured out early that it was a path he wanted to follow after his standout playing career.
“I got into health and physical education with the purpose of also coaching,” he said. “And that’s something I hope to continue.”
Artley is getting his first opportunity as a head coach as he takes over the Blairsville football program after spending 15 seasons as an assistant under Ab Dettorre, who stepped down in June.
Artley has called the offense at Blairsville for the past nine seasons. Before that, he was the architect of Blairsville’s passing attack. Artley joined the staff prior to the 1998 season.
Artley has said since his promotion that he hopes to stay at Blairsville for the long haul, following in his dad’s footsteps of longevity. That fits the mold at Blairsville, where only two head coaches have roamed the sidelines since 1966. Ernie Widmar coached for 21 years from 1966 to 1986, and Dettorre held the post since 1987.
“I thought once I got this teaching job here that that’s what I was hoping to do,” Artley said. “You can’t always guarantee that, but we built a house in the district. And my wife works here in the area, and we have four kids in the school district so I planned on being here.
“I wanted to be here where I wasn’t coaching against him or my kids or possibly not even getting to see him. It was a hope that I would stay in this district and continue until I finish teaching.”
With the transition to head coach, Artley has taken on a greater interest in the defense as he tries to shore up a unit that has struggled against the run.
Since the 2006 season, the year after Blairsville’s four-year reign as Heritage Conference champion ended, the Bobcats have finished in the bottom third of the conference in rushing defense, with the exception of one year.
Artley will continue to call the plays, and the playbook won’t change much. That’s made for an easy transition for the players.
“It’s been easy since Coach Artley has been here,” junior quarterback Scott Thompson said. “We all got to know him throughout. ... Nothing on offense has really changed. There’s no need for it to change.”