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Friday Night Lights Feature: Taking home to the top

There's going home again. And then there's going home again and reaching the ultimate success as a high school football coach at your Alma mat a.

That's exactly what Chinook football coach Matt Molyneaux has been able to do since he took over the Chinook Sugarbeeters' program in 2000. In 12 years as Chinook's head coach Molyneaux has reached the ultimate level of success, taking Chinook to the 2010 Class C 8-Man state championship. And he's also oversaw the Beeters make the transition from Class B to Class C, something that, in the beginning wasn't easy.

But in the last 12 years, Molyneaux has built a football power in Chinook, the school in which he played for and graduated from. Molyneaux was a three-sport star in Chinook, earning Class B All-State honors in both football and basketball in his junior and senior seasons, before graduating in 1983. That summer, he was also selected to play in the Montana East-West Shrine Game.

And in between his time as a great athlete and student at Chinook, to now where he's not only the head football coach, but also the principal, he's been a football player at UM-Western, a student at Northern Montana College and a football coach at the junior high and high school levels in Havre.

But now Molyneaux is home and there's no place he'd rather be.

"I certainly didn't think way back then that I'd come full circle and be back in Chinook coaching football," Molyneaux said. "But it's been really neat, to come back to my home town and be a part of this success story. Because that's what I like to think we have here. Chinook is a football success story."

Molyneaux and the Beeters' story isn't just a success story, it's really something right out of fairy tale.

After dropping down to Class C, the Beeters had early ups and downs, but things started trending upward in the 2009 season, when Chinook made a solid run in the playoffs. Then, of course came the 2010 season, a dream season in which the Beeters captured the state title, beating Wibaux 74-6 on a frozen day at Hoon Field, the very same field Molyneaux starred on as a Sugarbeeter player. It was Chinook's first and only state championship in football.

"There were some tough times," Molyneaux said. "But I like to think myself and the other coaches have done a good job of building this program, and that obviously includes winning a state championship. That was a special day in my career, and obviously, being able to win a state championship for your home town, for your school and for the community, that's something I feel very fortunate to have been a part of."

And that cold November day in Chinook also included Molyneaux coaching both his sons to a state title as well. His older son Tyler, was the leading rusher in Montana in 2010 and is now playing college football at Minot State University. His younger son Zach, who is now the starting quarterback for the Beeters, was also a running back and starting defensive back on the state title team, and both were a huge part of that dream season

"I've been coaching for about 20 years now, and this last five to six years, being able to have my sons be a part of this, being able to coach them has been really special.

"Coaching has always been a huge part of our family, and having my sons be a part of that has been amazing really," he continued. "And then, winning a state championship, with my boys on that team, that is something we'll all have as a great memory for the rest of our lives."

But the memories haven't stopped with the state championship.

Chinook went on to advance to the 2011 state semifinals, and at one point had an 18-game winning streak between 2010 and 2011. The Beeters are right back in the hunt again this season, with a 4-1 overall record and they are fresh off a historic 64-61 win over Centerville last Friday night in Chinook. Just since Chinook dropped to Class C in 2005, Molyneaux has compiled a 49-23 overall record with four playoff berths, three Northern C titles and a Class C state championship.

And while Molyneaux is fine with looking back, taking time to acknowledge a coaching mentor who's always helped him along the way, as well as appreciating all the success he's had since taking the reigns in his home town, he's also looking forward and he knows exactly why he keeps coming back.

"Don Olson was a real role model for me and somebody I still talk to," Molyneaux said. "He was my coach in basketball in high school and my football coach my senior year and it was him and the example that he set which really steered me towards education and coaching.

"As far as what keeps bringing me back, each year presents a different set of challenges with different kids," he continued. "It's like trying to put a puzzle together. But I've always said, there's nothing better than Friday night's in the fall, the smell of the fresh cut grass on the football field, the lights shining down on the field and the stands as the sun's going down, it never gets old. That and all these great kids, that's what keeps pulling me back every year."

Matt Molyneaux is not only a hometown hero who's helped bring Chinook to the top of the football mountain, but he also represents exactly what high school football, and Friday Night Lights is all about.

Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux watches from the sidelines as the Sugarbeeters captured the Class C state championship back in November of 2010. Molyneaux, a Chinook native has spent the last 12 years building the Beeters into one of Montana's elite, small-school football programs.


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