BOZEMAN – Bozeman Gallatin’s boys’ football head coach Ben Hietala resigned his post last week citing a desire to pursue higher education in another state. Ashley Obstar, the head coach of the Gallatin volleyball team, also resigned last week.
Hietala, who previously played at Bozeman High and coached the freshmen and sophomores there, was the first head coach of the Raptors’ men’s program. He went 13-13-1 in two seasons as coach of Gallatin.
“It was a very difficult decision to leave, especially a head coaching position at this wonderful new school,” said Hietala. “But it’s a decision I have to make for my personal journey.”
Hietala, an undergraduate degree in psychology from the state of Montana, said he plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Antioch University. At the same time, he plans to work in a residential treatment center to help adolescents and young adults struggling with mental health issues.
Hietala said he was called to this job in part because of the value he found in counselors and therapists when dealing with depression and anxiety in his own life, especially as as a college football player.
“I have seen the positive benefits that a mental health counselor can bring,” he said. “I quickly realized that my passion was to work with teenagers in difficulty.
Hietala has said he plans to take at least a year off football training, but it’s something he wants to continue doing later in life.
He played for Bozeman from 2011 to 2014 and helped the Hawks win the Class AA championships in his last three seasons. He was named the State Star as a junior (15 goals, 11 assists) and senior (26 goals, eight assists). He ended his career with 47 goals and 22 assists and was named Gatorade Boys Football Player of the Year in Montana in 2014.
He coached Bozeman’s freshman and sophomore team from 2018-19 before taking over at Gallatin.
As coach of the Raptors, the team is 4-8-1 in 2020 and 9-5 last season. In his freshman year, Gallatin won the sixth seed in AA East and lost a playoff game to Billings West on penalties. In 2021, Gallatin was the third seed in the AA East and the Raptors beat Belgrade 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs. They then lost 2-1 to Kalispell Glacier, the eventual Class AA finalist, in the next round.
Hietala said the decision to leave was made more difficult knowing that football was thriving in the Gallatin Valley and that the sport already had a very supportive community here. He said he was “very, very grateful” to have been the Raptors’ first coach.
“The Bozeman High Hawks and now the Gallatin High Raptors will have my heart forever,” he said.
After previously coaching at Bozeman and taking the Hawks program to the State Tournament twice, Obstar was the first coach of the Raptors program which began in 2020.
In his two seasons, Gallatin finished the regular season in the top four in the AA East, but did not reach the state tournament.
When contacted by text this week, Obstar gave no reason for resigning.
Obstar – formerly Ashley Coburn – was a passer for the 2006 Bozeman squad which was considered one of the first Hawks teams to win a state podium by taking third place.