DILLON — Dillon head football coach Rick Nordahl has hung up his whistle after five seasons, four state championship appearances and three Class A titles.
Nordahl announced his retirement from the program on Jan. 24, capping a stellar run in which the Beavers compiled a 49-6 record and were a perennial title contender.
Between his five years as head coach and 23 years before that as defensive coordinator under legendary coach Terry Thomas, Nordahl spent nearly three decades with Dillon's football program.
Nordahl has spent a great deal of time prowling the sideline. Now he wants to invest some more time at home.
"I feel it is time for me to take a break from football and spend time with my wife and family," Nordahl, who turns 55 in March, said in a release. "For the past 28 years they have been my biggest supporters and fans. I have a lot of things to do on my bucket list and I am not getting any younger."
With his final chapter as Dillon's football coach written, Nordahl hopes to be able to spend more time in his kid's athletic pursuits. His son Todd is a freshman with Montana Western's football team and his oldest son Brett is the head football coach at Twin Bridges.
Nordahl inherited a thriving program from Thomas and kept the success rolling.
“I owe coach Thomas a lot for everything that he taught us,” Nordahl said. “We followed in his footsteps and really didn’t miss a beat. It was a lot of fun what we were able to do. Some awesome memories.”
Nordahl guided the Beavers to state title victories in 2013, 2014 and 2016 over Billings Central, Butte Central and Columbia Falls, respectively. He was named Coach of the Year by the Montana Coaches Association following each of those seasons.
Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. said that while clashes with Nordahl and Dillon were always a challenge, there was also great respect between the two programs and coaches.
"We have a ton of respect for the Dillon program and a lot of that goes to Nordahl," Peoples Jr. said. "He's an outstanding coach. Replacing Terry Thomas was a huge challenge and he did it exceptionally well."
Nordahl was hired in 2013 to succeed Thomas, a Hall of Fame coach, after serving as his defensive coordinator for 23 seasons beginning in 1990. During that span the Beavers went 172-48.
He was also Dillon’s wrestling coach from 1990 to 2004.
In all, Nordahl's 28 years of coaching saw the Beavers play in 11 state championship games and collect eight titles.
When reflecting back on his time at the helm of Dillon’s football program, Nordahl noted that it was the bond between players and their town — not just success on the field — that made their program exceptional.
“Our kids carried themselves in a different way and represented the community of Dillon in a special way," Nordahl said. "What they did went beyond Friday night lights.”
Nordahl expressed gratitude to the Dillon community for their years of support.
"I want to thank all the players, coaches, parents, administrators and community members for all of their support and dedication," Nordahl said. "It has been a great journey and one heck of a ride."