After three years on the Painesville Riverside staff, including the last two as defensive coordinator, Ryan Wolfe was named the program's head coach last week. He replaces Matt Jordan who took the same post at Grove City.
The Beavers went 7-3 last season and won the Premier Athletic Conference championship.
But that tradition of excellence took a hit early this decade, and a team that once was one of the best in Northeast Ohio, hit hard times.
That is until Matt Jordan took over three years ago. Under his guidance, the Beavers posted a 19-13 overall slate, and the team made the Division I state playoffs in both 2006 and 2007.
Last season, the Beavers finished the season at 7-3, which gave them the regular-season championship within the Premier Athletic Conference.
But, when a coach rebuilds a program he gets noticed, which is exactly what happened with Jordan. In March, he accepted the head coaching job at Grove City.
Instead of searching outside for a coach with experience the district went internally, because they knew the right candidate was there in one of its buildings.
That candidate, defensive coordinator Ryan Wolfe, played a huge role in helping mold the talent Riverside had from cellar dwellers into winners. Last week, he accepted the job as new head coach.
“Ryan has been with us for three years,” said Riverside Athletic Director George Belios. ” He's been our defensive coordinator the past two years, and has been a very important part of the success this program has had. He certainly showed all the signs that he is going to be a really good coach and that he could continue the continuity the program has made. The kids really like him, the parents do, and he seems to have a good bond with the community.”
Had Jordan weighed other offers, Riverside may have a whole different look this year. The reason? Back in January, Wolfe told Jordan that he wanted to improve himself and was looking at head coaching jobs elsewhere.
“To be honest, I was looking for another job,” said Wolfe. “I'm from the Youngstown area, and wanted to get back there. I was a finalist for a job in January, but didn't get it, so it was a blessing.”
But the ordeal still wasn't over. When the Rootstown job came open, guess who was its top candidate? You got it- Wolfe. He was offered the job, but Jordan talked him out of it.
“Originally I said I was leaving, ” said Wolfe. “But coach Jordan talked me into staying and both of us talked about all the pro's we have here at Riverside.”
They obviously outweigh the cons.
“I'm really excited,” said Wolfe. “Without a doubt, I'm very lucky. We will be able to retain the staff, keep the program going that coach Jordan started, we'll have the same players, it is a perfect situation.”
Wolfe said that when the kids found out Jordan was leaving to take the head job at Grove City, there was great concern. But after he told them he had pulled out of the Rootstown job, the attitude got much better.
“They were really excited,” said Wolfe. “I kind of took over as interim after coach Jordan left, so when they found out I was hired, everyone has been excited. We built our own program here,” said Wolfe. “There is some history and tradition we want to get back to, and we will put a lot of hard work into that.”
The Beavers graduated some key players from the 2007 playoff team, and while Wolfe says the numbers are a bit down this year, there will be around 85 kids out for the team. Included in that lot, is 6-4, 240 pound senior tackle Zach Stovum.
“He did a great job on the line last year, and can dominate teams,” said Wolfe. “He's got some major colleges looking at him.”
Wolfe said there are three goals he has set for the team this season, with the first and foremost to beat rival Perry.
“They have a great program, and I've told the guys we have to go after them. They have beaten us the last couple of years, and in order to be one of the best you have to beat the best.”
Secondly, Wolfe said conference is critical.
“If you win the conference, then you will get in the playoffs,” he said. “So I guess that is really our first goal.”
Finally, despite its rich tradition Riverside has never won a playoff game. Wolfe would like to see the team get over that hill this year.
“We've been there five times in school history, but never won one,' said Wolfe, who played his college ball at John Carroll. “That is our biggest goal this year, getting over that hump.”