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Mouat coaching legend to return to university football

by Justin Beddall – Abbotsford News May 20, 2015 at 3:03 PM

The legendary coach who started W.J. Mouat’s football program in 1987 is preparing to head back to university.

Denis Kelly, who has led the Hawks to three provincial championships since he helped to start the football program at Mouat 28 years ago, has been named associate offensive co-ordinator of Simon Fraser University’s Clan football team.

After a storied high school coaching career, Kelly will now be working with new offensive co-ordinator, Joe Paopao, focusing on quarterbacks, receivers and running backs at SFU.

The new job came courtesy of a telephone call from SFU’s new head coach Kelly Bates, a former B.C. Lions player and coach, to join his staff.

Kelly knew Bates from working at various high school football camps over the years and had also worked at B.C. Lions camps with Paopao, a former CFL quarterback and longtime CFL coach.

“The timing was good,” said Kelly, who was winding up his teaching career.

Kelly coached at SFU full-time from 1980 to 1981.

“This is a good opportunity to keep coaching,” he said.

And while the decision to leave Mouat was difficult, Kelly is confident that new head coach Travis Bell and assistants Jon McCarthy and Jim Mitchell, will carry on the strong football tradition at the school.

“They will carry on the tradition and the way we do things.”

SFU is Kelly’s alma mater. He played for SFU coaches Lorne Davies and Tom Walker and was the back-up quarterback to Lui Passaglia in his senior season in 1972. Kelly began his teaching career at Vancouver College and then, after a stint at Notre Dame, he arrived at W.J. Mouat to start a football program at the school in 1987.

He still remembers that first game against Mount Baker Junior Varsity.

“I think we even won,” he said.

Before long, the Hawks were considered to be a provincial powerhouse. Kelly led the Hawks to three provincial titles (1992, 2002, 2005) and his teams played in nine provincial championship games.

Along with the championship hardware, Kelly has also proudly watched as some of his players have gone on to the next level, like, for instance, running back Maleek Irons who’s with the Ohio University Bobcats, Boseko Lokombo, who received a scholarship to the Oregon Ducks before playing for the hometown Lions in the CFL or Kelly Lochbaum, who also enjoyed a solid CFL career.

“Lots of good things happening over the years,” he said.

One thing trumps the rest, though.

“Definitely working with the kids all the years – that’s the main memory of it.”

W.J. Mouat is hosting a farewell for Kelly on June 6 at the school starting at 6:30 p.m. Please RSVP to rsvpforkelly15@gmail.com

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