Jason Kuhlmann knows he’s replacing a local mainstay, and he’s looking forward to the task.
Kuhlmann was approved last month by the Board of Education to become the new varsity football coach at Pawling High School, replacing Carl Ferraro, who retired in May after 27 seasons on the sidelines at Pawling. In 35 years coaching at Pawling, Highland and other schools, Ferraro accumulated 175 wins.
“It’s exciting,” said Kuhlmann, who is also the boys basketball coach at Pawling. “It’s a really great group of kids and a lot of seniors. It’s a great time to take over.”
Kuhlmann, 41, graduated from White Plains High School in 1990. He played college football at the University of Connecticut and Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Kuhlmann has been coaching football in Pawling, be it varsity, junior varsity or modified, for the last six seasons.
“He’s been around and been involved with the programs and has extensive football knowledge,” Pawling Dean of Students and Athletic Director John Bellucci said. “He played at a high level, has quite a bit of knowledge, and is a great guy.”
Kuhlmann said he enjoyed learning from Ferraro the last several years.
“I really don’t expect to change things drastically,” Kuhlmann said. “We’ll look to speed up the game a bit and maybe try to become a little more dynamic.
“It’s going to be difficult to replace Carl Ferraro. The guy was an institution.”
Pawling finished 4-4 last year but had its postseason bowl game canceled because of Superstorm Sandy. Kuhlmann said he has eight to 10 starters back and 15 seniors altogether.
“I look forward to making it fun for the kids, with aspects of them growing as young men and not just football players,” Kuhlmann said.
Like all other Section 1 football teams, Pawling begins practice Aug. 19. The Tigers open the season at home at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 against Dobbs Ferry.
One game that isn’t on the schedule for Pawling this season is the annual Harlem Valley Cup game against Section 9’s Dover. The teams have different open weeks, Bellucci said, and could not work out a common date. Dover defeated Pawling 29-8 last season, its first win over the Tigers since 1998.
“We were hoping to have it fit,” Bellucci said. “Maybe next year. Maybe we can figure it out and have it at the end of the season, but I don’t think that’s possible because of the number of games each team can play. Next year, we want to make sure it works, and we can designate which week with both schools and both sections ahead of time.”
While Kuhlmann said he enjoys the local rivalry with Dover, he is more interested in Pawling’s potentially competing for a Class C/D league championship.
“The way I look at it, we really want to compete for a league title.” Kuhlmann said. “We really want to raise the level of Pawling football.”