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Durango football lands two-time state champion coach Todd Casebier

Zachary Allen/Pueblo Chieftain fileHead coach Todd Casebier has led two high school football teams to state championships in 24 seasons as a head coach, most recently this spring for Rifle. Now, he will return to where his coaching career started at Durango High School to take over the 2020 Class 3A state champion Durango Demons.
Casebier returns to where coaching career began,as Demons swap state champs and coach of the year winners

Durango High School has replaced one 2020-21 Colorado Class 3A state champion football coach with another.

Two weeks after Durango School District 9-R parted ways with head football coach David Vogt after eight seasons, the district confirmed the hire of Todd Casebier, who began his coaching career in Durango in the late 1990s before successful stops at five different high schools across the state, primarily on the Western Slope.

Casebier, a 1990 graduate of Fort Lewis College, said he has long dreamed of the opportunity to lead the Demons, even in years roaming the visitor’s sideline with Montrose.

“My wife and I, our careers started in Durango. This is a cool opportunity to come back and finish our careers here,” Casebier said. “We left here in 1998, but it has always been a place that is important to us.

“We hope to add from the excitement of Durango’s state championship last season. We want to build off that and get the Durango High alumni back at games going back to when Brian Hester became the head coach in 1984 and before that. This is such a unique town, and I want to get back into the history of the program from what I saw when I was an assistant under all the great guys I worked for.”

Casebier comes back to Durango with a 201-73 record as a head coach across 23 years and 24 total seasons. He has won two state championships, first at Palisade in 2003 and again in 2021 during the spring Class 3A season at Rifle. Of course, the Demons won the fall Class 3A state championship in 2020. The 2020-21 season was offered to schools to play in either the fall or the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to two state champions in each classification in the same school year.

DHS parted ways with Vogt, who had a 59-29 overall record that included the team’s 21-14 win Dec. 5 against Roosevelt in the fall Class 3A state championship game in Pueblo. He was told leadership and organizational issues led to his removal, which was made official June 23.

On short notice, the district was pleased to get an applicant with the pedigree of Casebier.

“I would compare it a bit to a Hail Mary. I feel incredibly fortunate to get a coach of his experience,” Durango 9-R Athletic Director Ryan Knorr said. “It is fortunate for the community and our group of athletes. The offer we made him, it came 23 years too late. He should have been here awhile ago. During his interview, I got chills, and I can’t wait for our players to experience playing for him.”

Casebier was an assistant on Hester’s staff from1991 until he departed for his first head coaching job at Palisade in 1998. Norm Putnam was the offensive coordinator on the staff, and Casebier would marry his daughter, Patty, a DHS alumna. With family in the area, Casebier has continued to visit Durango multiple times per year.

The last two years Casebier was on the DHS staff, Steve Thyfault was the head coach. Casebier said he still uses what he learned under Hester, Putnam, Thyfault and Walt Anderson in his playbook to this day.

“I learned so many of my initial football lessons from those guys, and I still run many of the same wrinkles they taught me,” he said. “Those guys have all meant so much to me, and I wouldn’t be here coaching without what I learned from them.”

Casebier led Palisade to the 2003 state championship and another runner-up finish during seven seasons with the Bulldogs. He then went to Montrose for 10 seasons. He led the team into the Class 4A state championship game in 2013 and numerous playoff appearances. In three seasons at Class 5A Fruita Monument, he turned the Wildcats into a league champion in 2017 for the first time in 15 years.

He then went to Castle View in Castle Rock and helped that program to a 19-11 record in three seasons in a tough league before he joined Rifle for the 2021 spring season. The Bears went 7-2 and claimed the spring state title with a 35-34 win against The Classical Academy after a 20-17 overtime win against Glenwood Springs in the semifinals.

Casebier has missed the state playoffs only four times in 24 seasons.

“He’s improved every program he’s come in contact with and seems to be up to the challenge of taking an undefeated state championship team and continuing to turn the program into not just a one-time championship team but into a legacy,” Knorr said.

Casebier was named the spring CHSAA Class 3A Coach of the Year. Vogt had been named the 3A Coach of the Year in the fall.

“Durango had an outstanding year, and coach Vogt and his entire staff deserve credit for a historic season for Durango,” Casebier said. “Going into next year, whether it was going to be at Rifle or now at Durango, it’s the same challenge. It’s all about defending. There’s a lot of excitement and energy that follows a team that just won it. At the same time, it’s about how we can make Durango a contender consistently.”

Casebier, who will call the offensive plays, said he will adapt his teams to the personnel on the field. Last fall at Castle View, the team finished third in Class 5A in total offense behind a balanced attack of pass and run. In the spring at Rifle, the team won the title behind a power run game.

Overall, he said his coaching philosophy is more about teaching life lessons through sports while guiding a team to success on the field.

“Now more than ever, sports are a chance to build character and to help teach the kids how to be better men,” Casebier said. “Now going into my 24th year, it’s as important as it ever has been to teach values, character and work ethic.”

Casebier met a few players during the interview process but said he will look forward to getting in front of the entire team Monday when the team meets for a camp. He said the rest of the coaching staff is mostly in place with assistants from the 2020 championship team slated to return.

Now, Casebier is ready to get back to work in a town he has long loved and with athletes he knows will be able to once again compete at the top of Class 3A in 2021.

“I like coaching Western Slope teams in a one-horse town like Durango and Montrose,” he said. “Friday night football, that is special in Western Slope towns, and it is neat to be part of. Durango loves football. That was the case when I was here as an assistant, and I always saw it here as competitor on the other sideline. I can’t wait to be in that setting, this time on the home sideline.”

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

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