Former hero kicker Ryan Woolverton still calls to play as demons
The Durango High School football team will compete in the Class 3A state semi-finals on Saturday for the second time since winning the 2020 state title and ending a 32-year drought in the semi-finals. The only other times DHS reached the semi-finals were in 1988, 1954, 1946 and 1934.
However, since the 1988 season, one name has become synonymous with the success of Durango football: Woolverton.
“Durango football wouldn’t be where it is without them,” said DHS head coach Todd Casebeer.
In 1988, the DHS rallied in the semi-finals to come back to tie Loveland at 21-21 and send the game into overtime. After Durango’s defense came to a halt, sophomore kicker Ryan Woolverton hit a field goal for about 24 yards to put DHS into the title game.
“Being a 15-yard kid on such a talented, heavy team, I felt more relieved than thrilled,” Woolverton said of his game-winning shot.
Woolverton, who also played wide receiver and quarterback for the DHS, eventually left the University of Idaho.
After college, he returned to Durango and began coaching football and baseball in high school. He joined his brother Chris on the football staff. Chris was a statewide DHS receiver, and Ryan also received statewide recognition.
When Ryan’s sons, Peyton and Jordan, were old enough to play football, he began coaching them at the junior level. Ryan said he coached Peyton in youth football for three years, two years at Miller High School, and then was asked to come back and coach again in high school.
Peyton and Jordan both played DHS quarterbacks. Peyton entered the school in his senior year, but he had a great year to earn state awards. Jordan started several games as a freshman and ended up winning two state honors. In 2020, after leading DHS to a 3A state title, Jordan became the first and only Durango Demon to be named Footballer of the Year by the Colorado School Activities Association. However, Jordan never wanted to play quarterback. “He and all his buddies wanted to be runners,” Ryan said.
Jordan and friends went on to win championships at all levels and eventually won a second Durango High state title on the grid.
“Starting in third grade, that was the goal,” Ryan said. “Of course, it was a special class. It was a competitive group of kids and a competitive group of parents.”
Jordan now plays defensive end for the University of Colorado.
After both of his sons graduated, Ryan continued to coach football at DHS.
“I love this sport and wanted to be involved,” he said. “I really believe in what Coach Casebeer does. He is an incredible leader and a guy I want to train; he fully supports us.”
Casebeer also brought with him an offense he knew inside and out, so this season Ryan switched from being offensive coordinator to defensive coordinator.
“It was an explosion; it’s easier than declaring a crime,” he said. “I think the offensive coordinator role helps me a lot because I know which (formations) are difficult to go up against.”
Ryan still spends a lot of time helping the team prepare. Before team practice on Monday, he watches a movie on Hudl, the NFHS or YouTube, and even trolls social media to find the player’s best moments. After the formations were destroyed, he said that he eventually began to notice patterns.
“It’s a huge time investment, but it’s important to spend that time doing it because that’s what the program deserves,” Ryan said.
Durango’s quarter-final opponent, George Washington, was the only team to score over 14 points against DHS this season, and the Patriots had a pair of Division I masters on their roster.
“Keeping this team to 28 points, I was happy,” Ryan said. “We had a very unique game plan and the kids were totally supportive of it.”
“I think we have one of the top two defenses in 3A for sure,” Casebeer said.
The Demons will have another challenge on Saturday when they take on the Lutherans in the semi-finals. Lutheran has been attacking at a fast pace without fuss, having scored over 50 points in five games this season.
The main thing on Saturday, Ryan said, is that the players do their job, do it quickly and physically. He said that all the guys are one piece of the puzzle, and everyone has a role to play.
“To achieve our goal, the mental part is what is needed because they all have so many talents,” Ryan said.
DHS will meet Lutherans at 1:00 pm at DHS. Durango is 11-1 overall, with a single loss to New Mexico State finalist Piedra Vista. Lutheran 10-2, with his losses against Montrose and Lutheran (Missouri).
Woolverton, Casebear and the rest of Durango’s coaches will get the Demons ready for the game.
“In all, I have been a part of this school for 20 years as a student, as a parent and as a coach,” Ryan said. “This is a special place and I am honored to be their coach. It’s a great place to live and a great show program.”