Mel Skillman is coming back to Northeast Michigan.
Just two seasons removed from coaching at Atlanta, Skillman is back up north after he was hired as Alpena High School's new football coach on Monday.
"It's wonderful. I'm looking forward to it," Skillman said. "I didn't know anything about the job at all. Someone called me and said the football job was open at Alpena and that I should apply."
Skillman succeeds Jason Dubey, who resigned last month after four seasons due to health concerns.
In Skillman, the Wildcats are getting an offensive guru with a proven track record of success. He led the now defunct Saginaw MacArthur to two Class B runner-up finishes in the 1970s and led Merrill to a runner-up finish in 1999. In 57 years of coaching, he has coached seven undefeated teams and has won 257 games.
In taking over Alpena, Skillman is hoping to rejuvenate a program that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 and has won just one game in each of the past two seasons.
For the first time in several years, Skillman will have a decent number of players to work with and a good mix of talent as he implements a spread offense. Quarterback Brady Marwede, wide receivers Kaleb Smith and Tim Atkinson and running backs Cade MacArthur and Dylan Thrasher are all among Alpena's returners for the upcoming season. Skillman was particularly impressed when he attended an Alpena baseball game late in the season and saw the athleticism of Atkinson, Marwede and Tyler Pintar-all of whom have played quarterback.
Skillman, a retired teacher, first came to Northeast Michigan in 2010 when he took over as coach at Atlanta. Implementing the spread, Skillman led the Huskies to a 6-9 record and nearly doubled their offensive output. Atlanta went from scoring 132 points in 2010 to 261 points in 2011. His first win with Atlanta, a 21-20 stunner over Alcona in the 2010 season opener, gave Skillman his 250th career win.
His tenure at Atlanta however, ended abruptly with three games left in the 2011 season. After Skillman left a practice early to avoid confrontation with a player, the Atlanta school board took that as a sign Skillman had quit and replaced him with assistant Todd Kendrick.
Skillman helped out as an assistant at Coleman, before taking the coaching job at Breckenridge this past season where he went 1-8.
As a coach, Skillman likes to think of himself as a teacher first, but he also understands that Alpena fans are anxious to see a winning team. Part of his plan to help the program is to recruit kids that aren't playing but posess the athleticism to play. He plans to hold a meeting for parents and players within the next few weeks.
"I believe you're a teacher and Monday through Thursday we're going to teach and then on Friday night, we're going to take a test," Skillman said. "You've also got to recruit and talk to the kids. Sometimes there's kids that played at the younger (levels) and you've got to get them playing (again).
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.