BILLINGS — The Billings Skyview Falcons are searching for a new head football coach after surprising news that Ron Lebsock submitted his resignation Monday morning, according to School District 2 activities director Mark Wahl.
MTN’s Brandon Sullivan first reported Lebsock’s resignation.
Lebsock is the only head football coach in Skyview’s history. The school opened its doors in the mid-1980s, with Lebsock holding his first practice in 1985.
Lebsock led the Falcons to two State AA championships, the first in 1995 in a 27-20 win over Bozeman. Skyview’s second state title arrived in 2003, a thrilling 35-28 win over crosstown Billings Senior before a standing-room-only crowd. Lebsock’s Falcons also played in the 2004 Class AA title game, falling to Great Falls CMR 44-15.
Lebsock resigned Monday in typical ‘Lebbers’ fashion – deflecting the credit.
“It’s not hard when you’ve got kids who keep coming back and lining up and giving their all,” he said. “That’s what makes it.”
According to Lebsock’s wife, Bartie, he has coached for almost 40 years after starting at Billings Central.
Lebsock’s teams were known for running their traditional Wing-T offensive ground attack year after year. The Falcons finished last season with a 3-7 record in Class AA, missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Rewind back to 1986, the first year students, teachers and coaches set foot in the brand new Skyview High School.
“Well, that was a lot of fun,” Lebsock recalled. “We got to come up a couple times before that. Gary Rogers got us some field trips in and we got to see it as it was being built, several stages, and that was a lot of fun.”
Skyview actually started its school (and football program) in 1985. Classes were held at the Lincoln Center in downtown Billings and the Falcons practiced outside of Cobb Field, the home to Billings American Legion Baseball and the Minor League Billings Mustangs.
The Falcons first played a Class B schedule in 1985, then in ’86 just got beat up playing a AA varsity schedule fielding only sophomores and juniors. In 1987, the Falcons won their first AA game.
“You’re always going to find that they play very good defense,” he said before playing Missoula Big Sky in that ’87 season. “They’re always a very tough defensive ball club. They do have some weaknesses we’re going to try to exploit.”
It took exactly a decade for the Falcons to win their first state AA title. In 1995 Skyview rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Bozeman, 27-20, at Daylis Stadium.
“You know, we got to the stadium and the place was packed,” he recalled Monday. “Of course, before we went to the stadium there was (reporter) Scott Breen out here in our hallway. I’m trying to get the kids focused, (Breen’s) down there with all these kids for a live shot. I’m thinking, ‘Oh jeez, I hope everything comes out of this ok.'”
And it clearly did, with a championship victory.
Even more rewarding through Lebsock’s years was the opportunity to coach all five of his sons — Chris, Nick, Shawn, Matt and Connor — at Skyview. Of course, Bartie has been the glue.
“I’ve been carrying this around all day long (reaching for a Kleenex),” Lebsock said, teary-eyed. “God blessed me with a great one there. She put up with a lot and, you know, 38 years of this, and finally I can spend more time with her.”
The other key piece to his football puzzle was assistant coach, and current police chief Rich St. John. He’s been with Lebsock every step of the way — the guy Lebsock says was his first phone call when he earned the head coaching job.
Skyview’s next championship arrived in 2003 after a wild Halloween night on which all four tops AA seeds were eliminated in the playoffs. Before a standing-room-only crowd at Daylis the Falcons defeated crosstown Senior in a thriller, 35-28.
“It was anybody’s game to win,” Lebsock said on the field that November night. “They played a great game, Senior High did. We were fortunate to get back into the game after they jumped all over us. It’s a tribute to these kids, a feather in their hat, how hard they played and how well they stick with everything that we do.”
Chris Murdock didn’t play in that game, but he did quarterback Senior against Lebsock and the Falcons, and he’s spent the last several years coaching against him.
“His first goal was to just mentor young men, and he’s done that,” said Murdock on Monday. “He did that for me when I was a player and he was a guy who that was always encouraging me to go on and play college football. He was all the way up in the heights and I was down here at Senior playing and he took the time to do that. And then as a coach, he mentored me and cared about me as a person. I think that’s what ultimately kept him in the business as long as he has been in it. He just has such strong character and he’s not in it for himself at all. He’s in it for other people.”
The Falcons earned a repeat trip to the AA title game in 2004, but fell to Great Falls CMR 44-15.
School District 2 activities director Wahl released offered a fond farewell in an email Monday morning.
“It is with real mixed emotions that we forward to you coach Ron Lebsock’s resignation from the head football coaching position at Skyview High School. Coach Lebsock states in his resignation letter, ‘I have had an amazing time but look forward to time with my grandchildren, and my wife and family. I will continue to bleed blue and silver.’ We can’t thank Ron enough for his leadership and the great impact he has had on the many, many young men who went through his program. While we are happy for Coach as he embarks on this new phase of his life, we will truly miss his presence as the head football coach at Skyview.”
Not many coaches can truly say they built a program from the ground up, but Ron Lebsock did at Billings Skyview. All 32 years.