Joe Ramunno hopes to build on his past success at Palisade

Palisade HS new/old head coach Joe Ramunno.


Palisade HS new/old head coach Joe Ramunno.

Palisade HS RB/DB Dalton Hannigan.


Palisade HS RB/DB Dalton Hannigan.

Palisade HS LB/OL Zach Marengo.


Palisade HS LB/OL Zach Marengo.

Palisade HS QB/LB Levi Hoaglund.


Palisade HS QB/LB Levi Hoaglund.


About the Bulldogs

Head coach: Joe Ramunno, 10th season, first year back since 1997

2012 record: 8-3, 6-2 WSC, lost in first round of Class 3A playoffs 21-15 to Roosevelt.

Assistant coaches: Pat Steele, OL/DL; Matt Borgmann, QB/DB; Landon McKee, LB/RB; Matt Popick, DL; Ricky Peterson, RB/DB; Chuck Nissen, WR/DB; Tanner Ridgway, RB/LB; Seth Lewis, RB/LB; Dan Green, Brian Tafel, Jarod Frazier, freshmen

Returning starters: QB/LB Levi Hoaglund, sr.; RB/DB Dalton Hannigan, sr.; WR/DB Tass Crow, sr.; RB/DB Easton Woods, jr.; TE/OLB Jack Millard, sr.; OL/DL Travis Peden, jr.; OL/DL Braxton Stewart, sr.; OL/DE Kyle Slagle, sr.; WR/DB Austin Terry, sr.; LB Zach Marengo, sr.; WR/DB Cody Latham, jr.; FB/LB Josh Hovis, sr.

Key newcomers: G/DE Joe Kolbert, jr.

Base offense: Flexbone

Base defense: 4-4

Team outlook: The Bulldogs won’t be big in 2013, but they will still be physical and tough. The flexbone offense is a power rushing system, but coach Joe Ramunno hopes to throw the ball as well. With a deep group of talented and athletic juniors and seniors, the Bulldogs expect to contend for the 3A Western Slope Conference title.

Joe Ramunno is back with the Palisade Bulldogs.

The veteran coach says it feels like the perfect fit.

“It’s good to be back, just to be associated with good people, and there are good people here at Palisade,” he said.

After serving as an assistant coach last year, Ramunno returns as the head guy in 2013. He also will be in the school teaching construction-technology classes.

After the 1997 season, Ramunno departed for Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), where he coached for 14 years. This will be his 10th season overall as head coach of the Bulldogs.

Ramunno will be looking to his past success in his return, and that means bringing back the flexbone offense, which will be similar to what he ran when the Bulldogs won four straight Class 3A state titles from 1994 to 1997.

“It will have a few new wrinkles, but it’s basically the same offense,” he said.

The offense will run a lot of option, with senior Levi Hoag-lund moving from tight end to quarterback this season. In the flexbone, the quarterback is the key, and Ramunno said Hoaglund is the right guy for the position

“You have to read things and think on the run, and he gives us everything we want,” Ramunno said, adding the senior is an outstanding leader.

The veteran coach’s philosophy hasn’t shifted much since his previous stint with the Bulldogs. He still believes in power football, but he knows to be successful, there must be balance.

“We’ll throw more than we did in the ‘90s. We have to run power stuff, but we must throw the ball, too,” he said.

The Bulldogs return a number of good athletes, including receiver/defensive back Tass Crow and running back Dalton Hannigan, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year. As a junior, he won the first wrestling state title for Palisade in 10 years.

Ramunno said the 2013 team has plenty of toughness and athleticism, but not a lot of size.

The coach also said senior Austin Terry and junior Easton Woods bring athletic versatility to the team and will play a number of positions on both sides of the ball.

The Bulldogs also have a senior with NFL pedigree in Jack Millard, who will play tight end and outside linebacker. His dad is Keith Millard, who played nine seasons at defensive tackle, mostly for the Minnesota Vikings, where he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989. Ramunno said the younger Millard brings a supreme toughness to the team.

Braxton Stewart, Travis Peden and Zach Marengo also bring a physical presence to the Bulldogs on offense and defense.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will run a 4-4, but Ramunno said they will mix it up to utilize their athleticism, saying there may be times when only one player will be lined up in a three- or four-point stance.

Ramunno and the Bulldogs had unprecedented success in the 1990s, but he says the Western Slope Conference has changed since he last roamed the sidelines as the head coach.

“The league has gotten a lot better since the 1990s,” he said.

Palisade has a number of juniors and seniors who saw plenty of action last year, so the team will be deep and experienced. Ramunno said any success the Bulldogs have this season should go to his assistant coaches.

“I learned a long time ago, you’re only as good as the people around you, and I’ve been fortunate to have very good people around me,” he said of his assistants, several of whom coached with him at Mesa.

The Bulldogs will likely contend for a playoff spot and the league title, just like they usually do, but Ramunno said the only thing he is sure of right now is he has some quality players on and off the field.

“We’re going to put a great group of young men on the field with great character,” he said.

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