April 20, 2014

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High school football: New North Ridgeville coach Luke Durbin sure he’s the guy to get Rangers to the ‘next level’

Luke Durbin

Luke Durbin

Luke Durbin believes the North Ridgeville football program can do better than it’s done in the past and he believes he’s just the guy to get the Rangers to make that leap.

Durbin will be recommended as the next Rangers coach at a Feb. 4 school board meeting, the school announced.

“I think I’m the perfect guy for (the job),” said Durbin, who met with his new team for the first time Wednesday. “I think I’m going to be able to do what needs to be done in the program and during the season to get them ready for the next level.”

Durbin was the defensive coordinator at Massillon the last three years. It was his second stint at the school, having returned after coaching for three seasons at Uniontown Lake, where he was the defensive coordinator under his father, Jeff.

His father, whom he also played for, was the head coach at Uniontown Lake for 23 years before retiring after the 2012 season.

“I’ve had great experiences and great successes at both Lake and Massillon,” said Durbin, who coached tight ends at Massillon in his first job out of Baldwin Wallace. “I think I can install what they were looking for in a high school coach, someone that can come in and change the culture a little bit. They have a good program, it’s just trying to get it to that next level that will be the challenge.”

Durbin is excited about the team and returning star running back Demario McCall. The sophomore had a breakthrough season in the fall, rushing for 1,562 yards and 25 touchdowns. He helped lead the Rangers to a 6-4 record, including 4-2 in the West Shore Conference.

The Rangers were coming off a 1-9 season in 2012.

“I know we have a good core coming back, obviously the McCall kid is a special talent,” Durbin said. “He’s a talent you don’t have very often. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that.”

Durbin wasn’t sure of all his new players’ names, but after meeting with them, he’s starting to get the know who’s who and get a feel for the talent he has to work with.

“We got a big left tackle, our center’s coming back, a potential quarterback that also started in the secondary,” Durbin said. “They have a fullback/linebacker in Jonah Bowden that I think can be a real leader on the team. When I went out there to meet him Wednesday, I was real encouraged.”

Durbin has already been on Hudl.com, which is basically the YouTube for sports coaches. He’s been impressed with the highlights he’s watched of McCall and several other players.

Durbin is also excited about the future at North Ridgeville. He says a recently passed levy will allow the school to build a new middle school, a new stadium, weight room and a field house.

“There’s a buzz in the area, a lot of positives right now, and when you get a lot of positives, you can get kids out,” Durbin said. “They’ve got a lot of things going for them.

“They have a history of winning at North Ridgeville. I know that winning hasn’t really transitioned into getting in the playoffs very often, but they have been successful so they have that belief there. Coach (Jeff) Riesen did an excellent job with the program.”

Riesen was told in November his contract wouldn’t be renewed despite going 105-52-2 in 16 years over two stints as the Rangers coach.

North Ridgeville athletic director Matt Yunker was one of seven committee members who went through about 45-50 applicants before narrowing the search to five. The five candidates were interviewed and two finalists were chosen for in-person interviews.

“We’re excited about starting a new chapter for North Ridgeville football,” Yunker said. “It’s exciting times for us and we feel that Durbin is the right man to lead our football team. He comes from a strong football background. His passion and football knowledge is something we were looking for in a head
coach.”

Contact Steve Walker at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.