Updated: July 25, 2014 at 7:57 am
Tony Ramunno was excited for this fall. Extremely excited.
Ramunno envisioned a strong Lewis-Palmer football team coming in and was just four wins away from a coaching milestone of 150.
But after a 25-year career as the Lewis-Palmer football coach, those four victories will have to wait. Earlier this month, after a quarter century at the helm, Ramunno stepped down from coaching at L-P due to a heart condition.
While the move is more precautionary than anything else, Ramunno is OK with being safe rather than sorry.
"I love the sport, I love the kind of kid that plays football," Ramunno said Thursday. "I'm riding my bike good. I just have to watch what's going to happen with my health."
On July 9, Ramunno let Lewis-Palmer athletic director Nick Baker know he was stepping down. One day later, Ramunno and Baker told the players and then introduced the new head coach: Dustin Tupper, Ramunno's former defensive coordinator/offensive line coach.
"I think it was mixed emotions," Baker said. "Just because Tupper was able to step in, it was more comfortable than having to get some completely new guy in that the kids don't know. I think the transition will be easy for them. I know that a lot of them were real sad but I think they understood why he had to do it."
Tupper has been with the program eight seasons, moving up from wide receivers coach. The plan was for Tupper to take over when Ramunno was ready.
"It was hard to be excited about getting the job under those circumstances," Tupper said. "But I've been ready for awhile."
Ramunno has been with Lewis-Palmer football for 30 years, the first five as an assistant.
Over the last 25 he's built a record of 146-117. He's seen L-P at the 2A level, move up gradually all the way to 5A and then descend back down to 3A when Palmer Ridge opened and split the student population.
He's taken the Rangers to the playoffs 10 times. Lewis-Palmer reached the quarterfinals four times with Ramunno at the helm, most recently in 2010 and 2011.
Until stepping down, he was the second-longest tenured coach at one school in the Pikes Peak region. Only Fountain-Fort Carson's Mitch Johnson has been with one school longer.
"He's a good man, a great friend and a great role model," Johnson said. "Colorado Springs lost a quality man that's made a difference in a lot of young men's lives."
Ramunno hasn't ruled out a return to coaching. Milestone or no, he loves being around that football field.
"My goal I was trying to get to was four wins away," Ramunno said. "And this football team is going to be pretty salty."
Tupper hopes to continue Ramunno's success.
"It's the utmost importance to promote from within for any program," said Tupper, who echoes his mentor in a lot of ways. "Any time you have a big regime change and it happens late in the year, that's hard on the program."
What is Ramunno going to miss most? His answer sounded like a true coach.
"I sound crazy, but I like practice," he said. "I like going out and talking to those kids during stretching, getting ready for the day, intense hitting drills. I really like Friday nights; it's probably the best job a guy can have in the country."