Rifle football coach resigns
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado ” A former coach himself, Rifle High School Principal Todd Ellis knows a thing or two about football.
That’s why he fully realizes what the school is losing in head football coach Damon Wells, who is giving up his gridiron post. Wells’ letter of resignation goes before the Garfield School District Re-2 board for acceptance tonight.
“In my 17 years of coaching, I never worked with a person who knew the game as well as Coach Wells,” Ellis said via e-mail Monday. “I believe he is the top coach in the [Western Slope League] and one of the top coaches in all state classifications.”
Wells is stepping down for personal reasons. He didn’t divulge specifics, instead focusing on the positive repercussions of the move, like spending more time with his family, which includes his 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.
“There are positives that come out of letting it go for a while,” he said. “I have two young kids at home. As much as I love being with most of the kids in the program, I certainly don’t think increased time for me with my family is a negative.”
While he’s no longer the school’s football coach, Wells will remain Rifle High School’s assistant principal. And don’t expect him to stay away from the sidelines for too long.
“I do not think I am finished coaching forever,” he said. “I do feel like God made me a football coach.”
Ellis can’t imagine the sport without Wells in it.
“I believe he will coach again someday,” Ellis prognosticated. “He has so much to offer the sport and, more importantly, the young men who play it.”
Wells’ resume at Rifle backs Ellis’ assessment.
In three years as head coach at Rifle, Wells pieced together a 23-14 record. That, despite a dwindling student population thanks, in part, to the 2005 opening of Coal Ridge High School near New Castle.
Under Wells, the Bears extended their consecutive playoff appearance streak to 13 seasons with a 6-5 record in 2007, made the 3A quarterfinals in 2006 and were state runners-up in 2005. Wells was a defensive coordinator under Darrel Gorham on Rifle’s 2004 Class 3A state championship team. Gorham is now the head football coach at Highlands Ranch High School.
Wells had a knack for getting the most out of his players. The most glaring example, Ellis contended, was the Bears’ 2005 run at a state title.
“He took a team that had lost 21 seniors from the year before and only had two returning starters on offense and three on defense,” Ellis said. “Not one new starter moved from another school that year. He was the only member of his staff with varsity coaching experience and yet he found his team defeating the No. 1-ranked team in the state to begin the playoffs and then in the state championship game.”
Ellis said filling Wells’ football shoes will be no pedestrian task.
“Despite school enrollment under 600 students and only one transfer student who started coming in, he has continued to make the team a potent force against much larger schools,” Ellis said. “We know we have a difficult task in filling his shoes.”
Equally challenging was the choice Wells made to resign.
“It was an incredibly tough decision,” he said. “We have made some memories here that are priceless. Back-to-back state championship games right here in our town. Ten playoff games in a three-year period ” that is an entire season that Rifle football players got just in the playoffs alone. Thirteen consecutive playoff appearances. Eighteen different kids have gone on from our program to play college football since 2000.
“Mostly, the decision was tough because of some of the relationships that have been built over the years. I truly value the almost-daily communication with former players that is built upon trust, loyalty and love.”
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