Bob Wollan is entering his twelfth season as W.F. West High School’s head football coach.
Over the past 11 years, he has led the Bearcats to nine state playoff appearances, highlighted by the 2011 team’s run to the state semifinals – a first for the program. By comparison, prior to his arrival in Chehalis, W.F. West had just three state berths combined over the previous 32 years.
Bob has won 72% of the games he has coached at the school, while guiding the team to some of the greatest victories in the history of the program.
Throughout this success, one individual has been by his side – his son, Nole.
“When I was younger I was pretty much a puppy dog. I would always be following him around at practice and during games,” said Nole, now a senior at W.F. West. “I have so many great memories of him coaching.”
One of the first memories actually predates Bob’s time with the Bearcats.
Before taking over his current position at W.F. West, Bob was the head coach at Pullman High School. He went 33-5 over his three years there, with the pinnacle coming during the Greyhounds’ perfect 14-0 season in 2005 which they capped with a thrilling 28-24 come-from-behind victory over top-ranked Archbishop Murphy in the 2A state championship game.
Nole was a water boy for Pullman that season – his first role on any of his father’s teams.
“The [state title game] in the Tacoma Dome was the only game I wasn’t allowed on the field that season, but I was in the stands watching,” Nole remembered. “Since then I’ve wanted to play football for him.”
Bob preaches the value of creating life-long memories while playing the sport. Nole has more than his fair share.
He clearly remembers riding the bus back to Pullman with the team 12 years ago following the Greyhounds’ title victory. He also recalls, moments after the final whistle, security not letting him on the Tacoma Dome turf that day, preventing an on-the-field celebration with his father.
Nole figures the best way to make up for that is to create the same situation for the Bearcats this season. After all, there is no way security will stop the starting quarterback from being on the field.
From water boy to ball boy to the Bearcats’ signal caller, Nole has certainly climbed the ladder over the last dozen years.
This year, however, looks to be the most memorable of all of them as it will be his last playing under his father.
“It’s been incredibly special,” Bob said about getting the opportunity to coach his son, “but it’s not just about us. This group of seniors has been together since we first moved here. I’ve known this group since they were in elementary school.”
Each team has been special to Bob during his 22 years as a head coach, but this one is different, almost as if he has not one, but 26, sons on the roster.
“This community really took us in when we first arrived,” Bob said. “Nole started playing baseball and basketball and obviously football with the kids at a very young age, and it became like a family. I can’t tell you how many road trips this group has been on together over the years for the sports, how many hotels we’ve stayed in together.”
It is as if the parents of this year’s W.F. West seniors dropped their kids off at Bob’s house 12 years ago and forgot to pick them up.
“We’re really a close group,” Nole said. “This is the year we’ve been talking about for so long.”
The Bearcats are coming off another stellar season, posting a 9-2 mark in 2016. The team advanced to the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year before losing in the first round to River Ridge (35-7).
Gone is last year’s strong senior class, which featured a trio of first-team all-league linemen in Hunter Arredondo, Brayden Bennett and Brayden Bostwick.
Returning this year is senior Tyson Guerrero, a first-team all-EvCo defensive back last year, and a host of players who earned honorable mention status in 2016 in Cory Davis, Ka’lmi Henry, Dakota Hawkins and Camden Bull.
And, of course, Nole is also back, and for the first time in a year, fully healthy.
He was an honorable mention pick last year despite playing with a severely injured shoulder which required surgery last December to repair a torn labrum.
“I kind of felt like I was playing with one arm last season,” Nole said, “but I’m back to 100% now. We’re all ready for this season.”
The Bearcats open the season with four non-conference games, beginning with a September 1 home contest against Hoquiam, before starting 2A Evergreen Conference play at home on September 29 against Aberdeen. W.F. West, ranked eighth in the opening AP state polls, closes out the regular season on the road against defending champion Tumwater on October 27 in a game that could decide the EvCo championship.