Not many football coaches lose their job following 10-2 seasons that include trips to the Class 4A quarterfinals.
That's what happened to former Marquette High coach Tim Nelson, but Nelson wasn't out of a job for long. He was hired Tuesday as the new head football coach at Dupo High School.
The 37-year-old Nelson had a 33-19 record in five seasons at Marquette, which reportedly replaced him in favor of finding a coach who taught at the school.
Nelson works at a business firm in St. Louis.
The Explorers won the Prairie State Conference last fall, then beat Waterloo and Olney East Richland in the 4A playoffs before losing to Harrisburg in the quarterfinals.
"Obviously I was shocked by the situation," said Nelson, replaced by Marquette assistant coach Matt Bucher in mid-January . "We went to the playoffs all five years I was at Marquette and won a couple conference championships.
"I was kind of disappointed in the way it ended, but I'm looking forward to this challenge and I'm really excited to get going."
Nelson replaces former Dupo coach Kevin Acra, who said he resigned for health reasons after leading the Tigers to a 6-4 record and their first state playoff appearance since 2004. Dupo was 10-18 in three seasons under Acra.
"I knew that this was probably the time I need to make sure I get my health in order," Acra said. "I told the kids it tore me up inside to leave them; I've been doing this stuff for 16 years now and we've turned the program around down here."
Dupo Athletic Director Kraig Roth was elated to find a coach with the experience and credentials Nelson posseses.
"I think we hit a home run," Roth said. "Everybody I talked to kept telling us that wow, you guys got a steal."
What sold Roth on Nelson was his combination of coaching experience and background, plus his long-range plan for the program.
"When we started talking football, the guy just lit up," Roth said. "You could just tell that football is his absolute passion and his love. He understands that it's coaching, but it's also helping young guys become young men. He kept going back to that during the interview.
"Since I've been at Dupo it's the most excited the kids have been about an upcoming football season."
Dupo returns nine starters on offense and defense next season and could challenge for a conference title for the first time in years. Nelson said will keep two current Dupo assistant and bring in a few others he has worked with previously.
Nelson said he was well aware of Dupo's proud football tradition, which includes five semifinal appearances and 19 playoff trips. That success began under two of the area's most successful small-school coaches, Jerry Germain and Gary Mauser.
"It reminds me exactly of Calhoun, same sort of setting," Nelson said. "It's a football hungry town and I remember back when I played they were going through a successful run under Coach Mauser. We want to bring that excitement back -- and build off that excitement they had last year."
Nelson works full-time as an implementation specialist at Thomson-Reuters, a news and date company based in Creve Coeur, Mo. His home is in Carrollton, which ought to create some interesting commuting time during football season.
"It's probably going to take me about an hour to get home, but it's worth it," Nelson said.
Nelson was a starter at tight end and defensive end on Hardin Calhoun's 1992 state championship team. He played under Ric Johns, his longtime friend and mentor who recently was hired as the new head coach at Wesclin High School.
"We have a great relationship and I still talk to him three or four times a week," Nelson said. "I know he's excited about the Wesclin job."
But not as excited as Nelson, who knows he has a solid nucleus of talent returning and a chance to enhance the foundation put in place by Acra and the previous coaching staff.
Among the top returnees are running back Tyler Barnes, quarterback Brett Aldridge and brothers Kodi and Kyle LaChance along with defensive standout Mike Williamson.
"We're going to need a huge commitment in the summer time," Nelson said. "We really need to hit the weights. First round of the playoffs is great, but it's going to take a lot of work and at some point there's got to be another step in your program."
That was a big point of emphasis for Roth as well.
"We wanted to make sure we get this right," Roth said. "We looked at what somebody is going to do to keep this program moving in the right direction, not only for next year but years on down the road."
At Marquette, Nelson used the "Pistol" option offense that utilized speed and one-on-one matchups. He hopes to use a similar attack at Dupo.
"We're going to try to utilize these kids' talents,' Nelson said. "But if I need to grind it out I know we can go under center, too. That's the way the offense is designed."