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Riley steps down at H.L. Bourgeois

Former H.L. Bourgeois coach Joe Riley poses with H.L. Bourgeois track and field star and 2012-13 homecoming queen Vanessa Williams. Riley is leaving H.L. Bourgeois to work at West Thibodaux Middle School. (Photo by Submitted photo)

As a coach, H.L. Bourgeois is the only school Joe Riley has ever known.

Riley, a former Nicholls State University football player, has served as a coach for his entire career at H.L. Bourgeois.

But after 11 years, Riley said he is looking for a change.

Riley said he has resigned as a teacher and coach at H.L. Bourgeois. He is moving on to West Thibodaux Middle School, where he will serve as an athletic director, football coach and girls track coach.

During his coaching career, Riley was involved with H.L. Bourgeois track program for 11 years (10 as a head coach, one as an assistant coach). He was the Braves head football coach from 2008-10, compiling an 8-20 overall record in three seasons. He has also helped out in various other sports and functions as well.

Riley, a 33-year-old native of McComb, Miss., said it was his decision to leave H.L. Bourgeois.

"It was a tough decision," Riley said. "I just made the decision to ultimately to spend more time with my wife Kemona. That's what I preach to my players — family first, so I made that decision so I will have more time to spend at home. It gives me an opportunity to be an athletic director and get some administrative experience under my belt, which will ultimately lead toward what I want in life, and that's to be an administrator."

Riley said he looks forward to working with young athletes at West Thibodaux.

"In the past, they have a winning tradition over there," Riley said. "I'm hoping that I can get to that level right there and afford those kids an opportunity to win at something before they get to high school and try to make them better."

H.L. Bourgeois athletic director Andrew Caillouet said the school is losing a key teacher, coach and leader in Riley.

"I'm happy for Joe," Caillouet said. "That's what he wants, and I wish him well. I'm disappointed for me personally and for H.L. Bourgeois because Joe has been a great coach for us. He's been a good coach and a close friend of mine for a lot of years. I'm sorry to see him go from a personal standpoint, but he has to do what is in the best interest of his family. I wish him the best. He's going to be successful in whatever he does because he is just a wonderful guy."

Caillouet said H.L. Bourgeois will name the new boys and girls head track coaches within the next few weeks.

Riley, who was an offensive lineman at Amite County High (Miss.), Southwest Mississippi Community College (1997-1998) and Nicholls State (1999-2000), started his coaching career in 2002, helping out as an assistant with the football and track programs at H.L. Bourgeois.

While he is a football guy, Riley enjoyed most of his success as coach of the track team. In 2008, he led the Braves boys' team to a Division I state indoor runner-up title. Riley's athletes and teams have had impressive high finishes at several major state and national meets over the years.

He received recognition as the 2013 Mobile (Alabama) Challenge of Champions service and commitment award winner in April. He has also started his own local AAU track club named the Tri-City Flyers, which has featured some of the best young track athletes in the area.

"Everybody knows what I did with the track program at H.L.," Riley said. "I couldn't have done it alone. I learned some things from the former H.L. Bourgeois coaches before I got there in Michael Wills and Kenny Delcambre Jr. I just took what I learned from them, and I studied my craft. I became able to teach these kids the fundamentals of running and to teach them how to be successful and win at the same time."

Riley said the biggest accomplishment of his coaching career was helping 25 former H.L. Bourgeois athletes receive college scholarships.

Some of his former H.L. Bourgeois football players that received college scholarships were University of Florida football player Damien Jacobs, Louisiana Tech player Jereme Lagarde, former Nicholls State player Kerry Guidry, former Louisiana Tech player Kiamni Washington and former Southern Miss standout Ryan Hebert, while several college track signees were LSU's Caleb Williams and Brianne Bergeron, Mississippi College's Marquisha Haynes and recent Southeastern Louisiana University track signees Vanessa Williams and Raeven Scott.

"At the end of the day, when you sign up to be a teacher/coach, that's our main objective," Riley said. "A lot of people think winning is everything. Yes you like to win, but it is about doing what you can help these kids further their education in the sport that they love to do the most. I offered those kids an opportunity to do that. I told them from Day 1 that if they did what I told them to do, no matter what their talent level is, they will have an opportunity to get to the next level."

Now, Riley said he is ready to move on to his next career destination.

"I gave H.L. 11 years of my life," he said. "That's the only place I've ever been. Hopefully I motivated some kids along the way. I don't have any regrets."