KALISPELL, MN. (WMBB) – Panama City native Caleb Aland is making a name for himself within the high school football coaching landscape in Montana.

Aland, 27, has over a decade of coaching experience at the high school and collegiate levels.

He began by volunteering to help with Bay and Mosley High School while attending Gulf Coast State College, then spent a half dozen years as a student and grad assistant at Troy University.

Football was Aland’s life, until last summer when out of the blue he dropped his coaching dream and moved to Montana.

“From the time they called me to the time I left, it was less than a week, and I just kind of packed up everything and drove across the country, I worked out in Glacier,” Aland said.

He spent the better part of a year working at Glacier National Park, where he grew to love the scenery and eventually decided to call Big Sky Country his home.

However, the game of football wouldn’t let him escape that easily. Aland joined the staff at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana, where in less than a year’s time, he was called upon to lead the program.

“I’m the fourth head coach since 2018,” Aland said. “So, they’ve really just had a bad up and down with coaches, there hasn’t been a whole lot of structure, a whole lot of routine or familiarity for the players”

Flathead, by all means, was due for a rebuild. The program has been living in the glory days since former NFL quarterback Brock Osweiler graduated there in 2008.

Coming into this fall, Flathead had not won a game since 2019.

“I told them, there’s nowhere to go but up,” Aland said.

After growing up in SEC country and learning under veteran coaches at Troy, Aland taught his players that to win games, football can’t just be a hobby, it has to be a way of life.

However, that mentality wasn’t welcomed by all.

“A lot of the players quit, they didn’t want to be here,” Aland said. “They weren’t a fan of the morning workouts all summer, they weren’t a fan of having that standard and having the meetings, having to show up on time.”

The new accountability system paid off.

The Braves opened their 2022 season on Friday with a 27-0 victory against a team that beat them by four scores a year prior.

“For me, it was very much a sigh of relief after that first game,” Aland said. “Just to get it out of the way because I knew it was going to be a winnable game, and the guys, all my seniors, none of them have been a part of a varsity win.”

Seeing the joy on his player’s faces after the win was priceless for Aland, especially since he has never played a snap of organized football in his life.

He was born with a heart condition that forced him to have several heart surgeries as a child, making the odds of his coaching success even less likely.

“I had a passion for football early on and I thought that it was weird that (football) was the only sport I wasn’t able to play,” Aland said. “I think just my personality is very much so, ‘You tell me I can’t do something I’ll show you that I can,’ and I think this was my way of showing that I can.”

Aland said he will always remember his Panhandle roots, but has no plans to leave Montana in the foreseeable future.

The first win for Flathead in three years is certainly a long time coming, but he said he has high hopes there will be many more in the near future.

“Everyone wants to be satisfied with one and it’s time to move past that,” Aland said. “There are eight regular season games and hopefully playoffs after that.”