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Bekkum steps down at Ellsworth football coach

Conrad Bekkum announced his retirement as Ellsworth's football coach Monday evening at the December meeting of the Ellsworth School Board.

Bekkum has been associated with the Ellsworth football program for three decades. He started as the freshman coach back 1981.

He became one of the main assistant coaches in 1988 under coach Craig Olson. Together they were part of the 1990 state championship squad that finished with a 12-1 record. They were part of two other playoff squads during Olson's tenure from 1988-1996.

When Olson stepped down as coach, Bekkum was promoted to head coach for the 1997 season.

Bekkum compiled a 44-70 record in 12 seasons. Five of those seasons the Panthers had .500 or better records and made the playoffs four times. On the flip side, the Panthers had four seasons of either 1-8 or 0-9.

Bekkum's best team came in 1999 when the Panthers went 9-0 during the regular season and won the Middle Border Conference title. However, Ellsworth lost to West Salem in the first round of the playoffs.

The furthest the Panthers advanced in the playoffs under Bekkum came in 2006 when they made it to Level 3.

A search for a new football coach will now begin. Ellsworth athletic director Ann Anderson said strong leadership skills are an important part of the search criteria.

"We'll be looking forward to someone who can be a good leader in a position that demands strong leadership," Anderson said. "You're not just the coach of one team but a whole program with lots of teams."