Tornadoes are known to rip through Ohio. Wildfires, not so much.
So when new Poudre High School football coach Dan Reardon opened his window on June 9 to see a huge pillar of smoke from the High Park Fire, it was a bit of a shock, and rain of haze and ash on Fort Collins soon after was even more so, affecting what schools in town were allowed to do for practice because of poor air quality.
A new challenge in its own right, Reardon wasn’t about to let something out of his control slow the Impalas from working toward what he feels is a realistic goal — a Class 5A state championship.
Even though Poudre went 2-8 last season, Reardon has a track record of excellence, coming to Poudre from Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline, where he led the Irish to three consecutive state titles 2008-2010, twice going undefeated, and a five-year playoff record of 20-2. Now he’s ready to instill that same fire, so to speak, at Poudre.
“State champions. That’s the goal. It’s not being cocky or arrogant, or anything like that, but our goal is to bring a state championship to Fort Collins,” Reardon said. “It’s been a number of years since that’s been done. I feel like with the staff we have in place and the kids we have walking the hallways — we have a ton of hard-nosed kids — I think if everyone gets on board with that goal, it can be accomplished.”
The key to playing for state, aside from, obviously, winning, is holding players accountable, which is a characteristic Reardon hopes to instill with his players. To give incentive, he runs a competition called the Poudre Challenge, where the Impalas break into eight mini-teams of 10 players each, earning points for things like attendance, good grades and community service.
Winning the Poudre Challenge means first priority on jersey numbers, among other rewards, which shows it doesn’t matter so much if a player is a senior or sophomore, everything has to be earned.
Starting senior running back/linebacker Justin Moreng has taken notice.
“Oh, I’ve noticed it a lot. He’s already giving our younger quarterbacks a chance for the starting position and in a lot of other places, too. We have a sophomore coming up who has a chance to start over some of the older guys,” Moreng said. “It makes me want to run a lot harder to make sure I have everything secured.”
Craig Woodall, Poudre’s athletic director, also chimed in on Reardon’s demand for accountability being a big reasaon he chose to hire the three-time National Football Foundation Paul Brown Northeastern Ohio Coach of the Year winner.
“Not only did he have high school coaching experience, he had very successful coaching experience, and really more important than his football experience was his dedication to athletes off the field,” Woodall said. “He puts great emphasis on community service and academic excellence, as well as the athletic, and that really matches well with the philosophy of Poudre High School.
“When you talk to his evaluators, they don’t even talk about football. They talk about the person he was and character he has.”
It’s that character that has all parties involved hoping to have him around the northwest side of Fort Collins for a long time. Reardon’s wife, Amanda, accepted a job at the University of Northern Colorado just before moving from Ohio, which made accepting the Poudre coaching position a bit of a no-brainer.
And as long as he’s welcome, Reardon plans on calling Fort Collins home for a while.
“I have four kids. Sixth grade, fourth grade and two younger ones. I think if you look at my track record, I’m not someone who has jumped around to a bunch of jobs,” he said. “We felt comfortable here and a big part was asking, ‘is this a place I feel comfortable having my kids go to school at?’ The answer was yes.”