High School Football

Record-setting Boise State running back returns to coach Treasure Valley high school

Former Boise State running back Jon Helmandollar will take over the Columbia High football program as it moves down to the 4A level this fall.
Former Boise State running back Jon Helmandollar will take over the Columbia High football program as it moves down to the 4A level this fall. Idaho Statesman file

Add another former Boise State football player to the list of high school head football coaches in the Treasure Valley.

Columbia announced Tuesday that it hired ex-Bronco running back Jon Helmandollar as its next coach, making it eight former Boise State players in charge of local programs.

“I’ve always wanted to get back to the Boise area, and it was just the right opportunity,” said Helmandollar, a 2002 Eagle High graduate. “This Columbia job is the perfect fit for me and my family. It was just too good to pass up.”

Helmandollar, 34, brings a career record of 30-36 to Columbia. He took his first head coaching job at Wendell in 2011, and he led the Trojans to their first playoff win in eight years in 2012. He then went 9-2 with a trip to the 2A state semifinals in 2013, his final season.

He has since coached in Oregon at Toledo, Springfield and Hillsboro high schools, going a combined 14-24.

Helmandollar broke out as a freshman at Boise State in 2004, running for 232 yards and 14 TDs as a short-yardage back. He became the first player in program history to run for five touchdowns in a game, a record Ian Johnson and Jay Ajayi have since tied. But an up-and-down career saw him leave the program twice for personal issues before he was dismissed from the team in 2007 after a DUI arrest.

Helmandollar credited former Bronco coach Chris Petersen for convincing him to stay enrolled at Boise State, where he earned a communications degree and a teaching certificate.

“Being able to be mentored through Coach Petersen and Coach (Dan) Hawkins during that time is why I’m a coach today,” he said. “What I love doing is influencing kids in a positive direction. That’s why I’m going down this path, and why I’m at where I’m at today.”

Helmandollar takes over Columbia from Rich Davis, who resigned in November. Davis led the Wildcats to a 6-21 record in three years while rebuilding the program when it moved up to the 5A level, including snapping a 25-game losing streak.

Columbia will move back down to the 4A Southern Idaho Conference starting this fall.

“The momentum is going in a positive direction, and everything is aligned to make this transition,” Helmandollar said.

As a senior at Eagle High, Helmandollar led the Mustangs to a 12-0 season and 5A state title while running for 1,964 yards and 31 TDs. The 5A All-Idaho and state Gatorade Player of the Year still holds the 11-man state championship game record for rushing yards (367) and the all-classification record for longest run from scrimmage for a TD (90 yards).

Other former Boise State players currently leading a Treasure Valley high school program are: offensive lineman David Koch (Centennial), tight end Sherm Blaser (Kuna), quarterback Mike Virden (Meridian), defensive lineman Ian Smart (Timberline), offensive lineman Tom DeWitz (Ridgevue), defensive back Matt Holtry (Homedale) and defensive lineman Kip Crofts (Payette).

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama