Search for new football coach on for Rifle High School after Todd Casebier’s exit

Ray K. Erku
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Rifle High School football coach Todd Casebier talks to the offense on the sidelines during the state title game against The Classical Academy.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Rifle High School football coach Todd Casebier came, saw and conquered the 2021 season.

Then, facing a “very hard decision” of continuing his coaching career in Rifle or taking a job closer to family, Casebier made the move for family.

Casebier, who was hired on as the Rifle football coach just months before the COVID-delayed 2021 spring season began, will start next season as the head coach for Durango High School.

“It was a very difficult decision because Rifle has been nothing but good to both (my wife) Patty and I,” Casebier said. “We have family in Durango, and that was a huge consideration. … We just had to make a decision based on where we’re at in our careers and where our family is at age-wise. We just felt like this was the best move, but a very hard decision.”

Rifle’s season was nothing but jam-packed with ups, downs and flat-out upsets.

The Bears, already burdened by the abrupt departure of former longtime coach Damon Wells this past winter, were briefly coach-less until early January. But call it luck or destiny, Casebier took over the position and eventually led the Bears to a Cinderella season.

It wasn’t the prettiest regular season by any means. After gobbling up a couple of easy victories over Coal Ridge and Aspen, the Bears suffered a heavy loss to a dominant Basalt team. Two weeks later, cross-county rival Glenwood Springs, a team that hadn’t beaten the Bears for years, edged out their western Garfield County foe, 22-15.

But instrumenting a strategic, ground-and-pound offensive game plan, the Bears would go on to win four consecutive bouts, including a spectacular, come-from-behind 35-34 win against The Classical Academy for the spring’s Class 3A state title.

It marked the second state title victory of Casebier’s career.

Casebier, a native of Palisade who attended Fort Lewis College in Durango and eventually went on to serve as assistant coach for Durango for seven years, won a state title as head coach for Palisade in 2003.

Eventually taking over the helm at Montrose, Casebier led the Indians to the state title game in 2014. He’d also coach Fruita Monument and Castle View before arriving in Rifle.

So where exactly does Casebier’s absence leave Rifle High School and the 17 returning seniors for next season? They’re currently without a coach whose career now boasts a whopping 201-73 record and two state titles.

“I will say that leaving (Rifle), for me, was one of the most difficult coaching decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Casebier said. “Because I do feel like that team was good enough to repeat. Of course, there’s a lot of things that have got to go your way. But, yes, that’s a team that’s capable of playing for a state championship, and I know they’ll go on and do great things.”

The head coaching position in Durango was offered just a few weeks ago, Casebier said.

“There’s nothing easy about these situations, and there’s always a lot more that goes into it than just football,” he said.

Garfield Re-2 Director of Communications Theresa Hamilton said RHS is currently searching for a new head coach.

“I believe that Rifle High School and (Principal John Arledge) have a committee put together and they’re conducting interviews, but I don’t know that they’ve made a selection yet,” Hamilton said.

With the first game of the season slated for Aug. 27 against Palisade, Hamilton said the district aims to hire a new coach sooner than later.

Asked to leave one final message to Rifle football, Casebier highlighted his former team’s mental stamina more than anything.

“The character and the grit that they played with down the stretch is why they’re state champs,” he said. “And, as a coach, it was a pleasure to be a part of it — but they earned it. And whatever they do next fall, they have to go earn it again. They are good enough to be a great football team.”