Ramunno’s return bodes well for Bulldogs
If it sounds like Joe Ramunno’s return to Palisade High School as the head football coach is a big deal, well, it is.
Most head football coaches never win state titles. Most would be thrilled to win just one. Ramunno coached four state-championship teams during his first go-around at Palisade. Four in a row. And it wasn’t an accident.
But it wasn’t what Ramunno set out to do in any of those seasons, because as much as he prepared his teams for the success they achieved, multiple variables needed to converge each season, and disruption of their harmony would have derailed the championship dreams.
“I even talked to some people about that when I was interviewing for this job,” Ramunno said of the state titles the Bulldogs won from 1994 to 1997, a stretch that produced a 50-3 record. “I said we had a great run there, but you’ve got to have some things line up.”
He then rattled off:
■ The school’s administration has to support the program.
■ The coaches have to have the right chemistry, “get everybody working for the same goal.”
■ The players have to stay healthy, especially in the smaller divisions, such as Class 3A where Palisade resides, because those schools don’t have the numbers, hence the depth, to platoon and avoid playing players on both sides of the ball.
■ Likewise at smaller schools, players have to be in great shape to be able to play on both sides.
■ And last but not least, Ramunno said, “In football, you’ve got to be lucky. You’ve got to have some bounces go your way.”
Of the latter, Ramunno added, “A lot of times, you make your own luck by hard work is what I’ve always felt like.”
Ramunno is renowned for outworking everyone and getting his players to do the same. That was the foundation for his championship teams in the 1990s, and it will be now. Everyone will work to become the best coach and player they can be.
Unlike 1988, when Ramunno became Palisade’s head coach the first time, he is inheriting good players in a highly successful program, and he knows it. He is grateful to John Arledge, the coach he is succeeding, for the way Arledge got the Bulldogs to commit to working hard.
You don’t win anything without good players, and Ramunno resorted to an old line from his father to make the point: “If you don’t have any animals, you don’t have a zoo.”
Ramunno knows what he is getting, even though he says what he loves about high school football is: “You take what walks in the door.” From there, he said, “Man, you develop it and get it going, and that’s a special thing right there.”
In Palisade, what walks in is true-blue blue-collar.
“That’s the nature of the young person there,” Ramunno said of Palisade students. “It doesn’t matter what sport. You look at them, and they’re hard-working kids. That’s kind of why I’ve taken to it. It’s really blue-collar out there, and I love that about it.”
So, Ramunno will try to work championship magic again at Palisade. But that won’t be his measuring stick for success. It can’t be, because not every team will win a state title. Yes, Ramunno coached four teams that won state championships. He also coached six Palisade teams that didn’t. But that doesn’t mean those teams and those players weren’t successful.
He has higher-minded goals. Always did. And state title on the football field or not, Ramunno produced champions.
“You know what?” he said. “I think the most important thing is: You don’t spend all your time talking about winning the state. ... You’re building character in these young men, and I just use football as a vessel to do that. We’re going to use football to build the character of young men to do the right thing, do the best they can and treat people like they want to be treated.
“That’s kind of our basic philosophy. It’s always been mine. Just the way I was brought up, man.”
That is why Joe Ramunno has been successful.
And that is why Joe Ramunno’s return to coaching high school football is a big deal.