Former hero kicker Ryan Woolverton is still calling for games for Demons
The Durango High School football team will compete Saturday in the Class 3A state semifinals for the second time since winning the state title in 2020, ending a 32-year semifinal drought. The only other times DHS has reached the semifinals were in 1988, 1954, 1946 and 1934.
Since the 1988 season, however, one name has stood for the success of Durango football: Woolverton.
“Without them, Durango football wouldn’t be where it is,” said DHS head coach Todd Casebier.
In 1988, DHS rallied in the semifinals to come back and tie Loveland 21-21 and send the game into overtime. After Durango’s defense stopped, sophomore kicker Ryan Woolverton launched a field goal from about 24 yards to propel DHS into the title game.
“As a 15-metre-old kid on such a talented, senior-heavy team, I felt more relief than excitement than anything,” Woolverton said of his kick-off.
Woolverton, who also played receiver and cornerback at DHS, ended up kicking for the University of Idaho.
After college, he returned to Durango and began coaching high school football and baseball. He joined his brother Chris on the football team. Chris was an all-state wide receiver for DHS, and Ryan also received all-state honors.
When Ryan’s sons Peyton and Jordan were old enough to play football, he began coaching them at youth level. Ryan said he coached Peyton in youth soccer for three years, two years at Miller Middle School and then was asked to come back and coach again in high school.
Peyton and Jordan both played quarterback for DHS. Peyton was only starting in his senior year but had a great year earning statewide honors. Jordan started a few games as a freshman and eventually earned two All-State honors. In 2020, after leading DHS to the 3A state title, Jordan became the first and only Durango Demon to be named Footballer of the Year by the Colorado High School Activities Association. However, Jordan never really wanted to play quarterback. “He and all his buddies wanted to be running backs,” Ryan said.
Jordan and his friends won championships at every level, eventually winning Durango High’s second state title on the gridiron.
“From third grade onwards, that was the goal,” Ryan said. “It was definitely a special class. It was a competing group of kids and a competing group of parents.”
Jordan now plays defensive back for the University of Colorado.
After his two sons graduated, Ryan continued to coach football for DHS.
“I love the sport and wanted to be part of it,” he says. “I really believe in what coach Casebier is doing. He’s an incredible leader and a guy I want to train for. he is behind us wholeheartedly.”
Casebier also brought an offense that he knew inside out, so Ryan made the transition from the team’s offensive coordinator to co-defensive coordinator that season.
“It was a great time; It’s easier than reporting a crime,” he said. “I think being an offensive coordinator helps me a lot because I know which ones (formations) are hard to counter.”
Ryan still spends a lot of time helping the team prepare. Before team practice on Monday, he watches movies on Hudl, the NFHS Network, YouTube, and even trolls social media to find player highlights. After breaking up the formations, he said he eventually started noticing patterns.
“It’s a huge commitment of time, but it’s important to put that time into it because that’s what the program deserves,” Ryan said.
Durango’s quarterfinal opponent George Washington was the only team to surpass 14 points against DHS this season, and the Patriots had some talented Division I players on their roster.
“I was happy to keep this team at 28 points,” Ryan said. “We had a very unique schedule and the kids settled in fully.”
“I think we have one of the top two defenses in 3A for sure,” Casebier said.
The Demons will face a different challenge on Saturday when they host Lutheran in the semifinals. Lutheran runs a fast-paced offense without Huddle, which has 50+ points in five games this season.
The keys on Saturday, Ryan said, are the players getting the job done, getting it done quickly and physically. He said the boys are all part of the puzzle and each has their own role to play.
“It takes mental toughness to achieve our goal because they all have so much talent,” said Ryan.
DHS will play Lutheran at 1 p.m. at DHS. Durango is 11-1 overall, with the only loss coming to New Mexico State finalist Piedra Vista. Lutheran is 10-2, with its losses to Montrose and Lutheran (Missouri).
Woolverton, Casebier and the rest of Durango’s trainers will have the Demons ready to play.
“In all, I’ve been a part of this school for 20 years as a student, as a parent, and as a coach,” Ryan said. “It’s a special place and I’ve been honored to be their coach. It’s a great place to live and a great program to represent.”