Brotherly bond

Coaching football ties Ramunno brothers together

Joe Ramunno will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline tonight when Palisade takes on Eagle Valley at Stocker Stadium. Joe’s older brother, John, is the longtime coach of the Devils. Tonight’s game will be the fourth time the Ramunno brothers coach against each other.

A pair of Ramunnos will be roaming the sidelines tonight when Eagle Valley and Palisade battle on the gridiron at Stocker Stadium.

For the past 32 years, John Ramunno has led the Eagle Valley Devils’ program. Joe Ramunno, who left Palisade to be the head coach of Colorado Mesa University’s football program for 14 seasons, took the reins of the Bulldogs this fall. This is his 10th season as Palisade’s head coach. He was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs last season.

Football tradition runs deep with the Ramunno brothers, who all graduated from Steamboat Springs High School. The third brother, Tony, has coached Lewis-Palmer High School for 25 years.

Surprisingly, John and Joe have coached against each other only three times.

There was one benefit to having a Ramunno on both sidelines.

“When Joe and I (coached against) each other back in the early ‘90s, we knew one of us would get a win,” John said.

John said his Eagle Valley team won the first meeting in 1990, then Joe’s Palisade teams won the next two games.

“I could tell his program was going to take off,” John said.

Take off it did. Joe led the Bulldogs to four straight Class 3A championships from 1994-97.

As a high school senior, Joe was also part of Steamboat Springs’s state football title in 1979. John was doing his student teaching at the school and was an assistant coach for the 1979 team.

Being on the Front Range, Tony has never coached against his brothers in a game.

Joe and John downplay the fact they will be on opposing sidelines tonight.

“This is just another game,” Joe said. “It’s all about the young men.”

John, who is five years older than Joe and three years older than Tony, said it was nice having a pair of brothers who doubled as great workout partners growing up.

The love of football was always powerful for the Ramunnos. Their dad was an assistant football coach at Steamboat Springs for two decades, but it was on the wrestling mat where he had his greatest impact.

Carl Ramunno, who died in 1999 at the age of 68, coached the Sailors’ wrestling team to six state championships in his 32 years, and Sailors claimed 27 individual state titles. He was elected to the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1998, and he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Colorado Chapter in 2001.

John said growing up with such positive and encouraging parents and playing football at Steamboat Springs led to all three sons adapting a similar coaching philosophy.

“I think our philosophies are similar, and they probably go back to our dad,” John said. “We were all QB-want-to-be’s that got moved to the line, so I think we all feel good about running the ball.”

Joe agrees.

“(Our) coaching philosophies are similar. We got that from our parents,” he said.

John says his favorite college coach was Joe when he was at Colorado Mesa.

“He always helped the Devils out in many ways, and we sent some kids there to play for him,” John said.

For Joe, he picks Chicago Bears’ legend Mike Ditka and current Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano as his favorite coaches. Joe and Pagano were teammates at the University of Wyoming.

The brothers say they don’t get to visit much during the school year, but when they are all together, there’s one subject that naturally comes up: football.

With the influence of his parents, Joe said it’s not surprising the three brothers are all high school football coaches.

“We all grew up seeing the positive influence you can have and the lifestyle education provides. It is all about the young men for us,” John said.


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