Morgan hired as new James Wood football coach

By WALT MOODY | The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Ryan Morgan headed down to the principal’s office on Tuesday, wondering about his fate as an applicant for the James Wood High School head football coaching position.
Assistant principal Mike Bolin and coordinator of student activities Craig Woshner were waiting there for him.
Morgan admitted his heart was fluttering.
“Mr. Woshner and Mr. Bolin were pretty tight-lipped about the whole process,” said Morgan, an English teacher at the school since 2007 via telephone on Thursday. “I really had no idea when they called me in the office whether it was good news or bad news.”
It was good news.
Morgan, who has been the school’s head JV coach since 2011, will replace Mark McHale, whose resignation was announced on May 1. McHale had led the Colonels to a 13-28 mark over the past four seasons. The stipend for the position is $8,100.
Morgan, 36, is a Monroe, Mich., native, who graduated from the University of Michigan. He ended up in Winchester by chance in 2007 after he had spent two seasons coaching and teaching in his hometown. During the recession, Morgan began to search for a new job.
“I just started applying all over the country and kind of randomly wound up interviewing at James Wood and got a job,” said Morgan.
After a year off from coaching, he was hired by Bolin as a ninth-grade assistant coach. He took over the JV squad in 2011 and last season led the team to a 9-0 mark. It was that success that made an impression on his new job.
“Coach Morgan has worked hard to improve the success of our JV football team over the past several seasons and we felt he was the best person to lead our varsity program moving forward,” Woshner said in a news release.
Morgan said he learned plenty at the JV level.
“The biggest thing for me was I had called defense before, but I had to take over calling offensive plays when I became the head coach,” Morgan said. “That was a big adjustment — learning, going to clinics, talking to the varsity coaches and watching a lot of film. … Changing personnel and that kind of stuff, that’s left up to the head coach. I had to learn a lot of that stuff on the fly.”
Morgan said McHale, who coached at several high-profile college programs, was a big help.
“I learned a ton from him as far as formations, play-calling and that kind of stuff,” Morgan said. “He was a real boon. The coaching staff and the players I think learned a lot about more advanced techniques and terminology. He really helped me out a great deal.”
Morgan doesn’t expect a lot of change in the Xs and Os in the beginning out of necessity.
“For continuity purposes, I don’t want to change all of the terminology and all of the formations,” he said. “At this point, the varsity team didn’t have spring practice. We’ve got some new players and some players who have disappeared. I really don’t know what we’ll have coming back in the fall.”
Morgan said his biggest challenge is numbers. The Colonels ended last season with a skeleton crew in a loss against Handley.
“The past couple of years, for whatever reason, at the end of the season we’ve had 19 to 25 healthy players and they’ve been starting the season on varsity with 30 to 33 players I think,” Morgan said. “… The more players you have the better chance you have to find some winning lottery tickets.
“We’ve had about 50 players on the JV team the past two years and for whatever reason they’ve filtered out, which happens normally because they want to get a job and have to pay for their truck and car insurance,” he added. “I’m hoping to keep those numbers up. I want to go visit the middle schools and get them excited about playing football at James Wood.”
Morgan’s hiring was announced at halftime of a student vs. faculty basketball game on Thursday and received a good reaction from players.
“I’ve coached pretty much every player in the program in their first year or two in high school,” Morgan said. “I think the kids were excited because they know me and my expectations. It won’t be a wholesale change for them.”
Morgan also wants to get his staff settled. He said he will have one or two varsity openings to fill after bringing back most of the previous staff.
That staff will need to hit the ground running as the Colonels open against Sherando on Aug. 25.
“That will be a stiff challenge for the first year,” Morgan said of the opener. “I’ve told the kids, that they went 9-0 last year so they’ve had an opportunity to beat Sherando as younger players. I’m hoping they can take some confidence from that going into their season opener.”
Morgan, who with his wife Jessica are the the parents of girls Aria (age 2) and Alina (age 4 months), is happy to land the job, but knows there’s much work to be done between now and Aug. 25.
“I have a running list of at least 20 tasks that I was waiting to get started on until the announcement today,” he said. “The joy kind of overwhelms it, but at the same time I know that there’s a ton of work that needs to be done and a lot of time that needs to be spent. I need to start watching some Sherando film ASAP.”
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