New head coach doubtless coming to rifle highschool soccer
Ryan Whittington throws a soccer ball while training for Delta High School.
Submitted / Ryan Whittington
Chances are Rifle High School football has a new head coach, Garfield School District Re-2 announced Thursday.
Despite pending approval from the Re-2 school board, Ryan Whittington, a 2002 Rifle graduate, will take over from former Bears head coach Todd Casebier.
“It’s more exciting to take on a program that is so traditional than coming home,” said Whittington. “I’ll say I enjoy going home, but I’m more excited about the tradition of excellence that (Rifle) has had over the past 25 years.”
The district has been in talks and recruitment with Whittington for about a week.
Casebier, who said he recently stepped down from Rifle to be closer to the family, will take on the head coaching duties for Durango High School. Whittington has been an assistant coach at Delta High School since 2009.
Casebier led the Bears to the 3A state title in 2021, but Whittington is no stranger to success. The 36-year-old coach is known at Rifle as a former starting quarterback. Using his skills in his senior season pocket, Whittington led the Bears to a second place in the state and ultimately an all-conference nick.
In addition to his broiler skills, Whittington also garnered an individual 4A state wrestling championship in the 171 pound division in his senior year.
Perhaps most notable about the rifle alum is his time playing college football for Mesa State – now known as Colorado Mesa University. He would start there as a quarterback before moving to the outside linebacker.
Upon graduation, Whittington worked as a defensive backs coach for Mesa State before becoming a physical education teacher in Delta. He also served as Delta’s defensive coordinator for four years before finishing his final eight years as offensive coordinator.
Whittington’s biggest peak coaching career so far came in 2019. At the head of the offensive, he helped the Panthers to second place in the state when they lost a nerve-wracking 20:19 game against a tough 2A Sterling team.
But the highlights off the field are what Whittington really appreciates.
“You know all the relationships I have built with the kids over the past 12 years? We probably sent a dozen kids to college football, you know, at Division II, Division III levels, ”he said. “So with all the success that comes with winning games, you can build a lot of relationships. All of these relationships are probably some of the greatest highlights I’ve ever had.
The offensive Whittington said he will follow a certain process that arises from all of the elements of football he has over the years under the guidance of former Mesa State head coach Joe Ramunno, Deltas Ben Johnson and Rifle’s own former head coach Darrel Gorham, learned.
“There are no gimmicks in football,” said Whittington. “You have to do the right things, you have to stick to the plan, you have to trust the process, and the process is going to need you and you will win games that way.”
When Whittington’s takeover becomes official, he hopes to stay in his hometown of Rifle for years. He is married with children and is allowed to take on a program designed to bring back 17 seniors, many of whom played a pivotal role in their run for the 2021 3A championship.
“We’ll be here a long time,” he said. “This is by no means a stepping stone job. This is definitely a career job. “
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected]