While most successful high school football coaches move from job to job until they find that opportunity of a lifetime, Denny Pelley is considered a throwback.
Pelley, in his 22nd year as head coach at Speedway High School, has remained faithful to the school that gave him the opportunity to build a successful football program. He’s compiled a 175-72 record with eight sectional and three regional titles over 21 seasons. He was the head coach at Mooresville for 14 season before he was named head coach at Speedway in 1990. He says that his only coaching move was had nothing to do with going to a bigger or high-profile program.
“I loved my job at Mooresville,” said Pelley. “I had a chance to go home and coach where I came from and be with my family and friends. I’ve had chances to go to other places, but it never really appealed to me to leave Speedway.
Pelley graduated from Speedway in 1968, where football was a way of life for him.
“I was always around football, and people like Morris Pollard and Ralph Johnson were a big influence on me. They took me under their wings and the game became a passion, and I never really got away from it. Speedway is home for me and I was lucky to get the chance to coach here. I have a great staff and support system. I like to see the average kid succeed. We rarely get the Division I athletes here, and I really enjoy seeing these kids improve.”
In 37 years as a head coach, Pelley is closing in on 300 victories with a 269-124 record. He’s 5th in Indiana High School football’s active coaching list in wins. He states that he has no plans to retire, but has never thought about chasing that elusive state championship. Instead, he simply wants to coach and enjoy each season.
“We never talk about championships,” he said. “We never talk about what happens down the road. We just try to get better every day. Every team is different each year, and all I want to do is help them get better.”
The 2011 Speedway team may be Pelley’s most talented unit. Ranked No. 5 in Class 2A, the Sparkplugs have one of Central Indiana’s most potent offenses. Quarterback Austin Anglea has led the Speedway offense to 87 points in its first two games. Wide receivers Justin Brent and Michael Maloian are Anglea’s primary weapons. Anglea threw for 353 yards and two touchdowns last week in a 27-3 win over Scecina, while Maloian had six receptions for 181 yards and two TDs.
Pelley has seen the game evolve over his coaching career where the offenses now have the upper hand.
“Our skilled players are as good as we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that can make big plays. Football has changed, and it’s a wide-open game now. We’ve had a great run over the past 20 years, but this is one of the most talented teams.”
Speedway is the defending sectional 30 champion, but with Westside rival No. 7 Cardinal Ritter and No. 3 North Putnam also in the sectional, advancing to the regional will be a tall task for the Sparkplugs.
“It’s will be a challenge, and it will be fun,” he said. I’m going to take this year-to-year and enjoy every minute of it.”