Dukes football will turn to 29-year-old Rob Howells, North Ridgeville High School’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons, as its next head coach.
Howells is a graduate of North Ridgeville and John Carroll University and played offensive line at both schools. In 2012, he parlayed that experience into an assistant varsity coaching spot at Columbia and was head coach of the junior varsity Raiders for two seasons.
He also coached and oversaw youth football programs in North Ridgeville before becoming the Rangers’ offensive coordinator in 2016.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the kids and the parents in Wellington,” Howells said. “I want to thank the administration, Mr. Bowman and Mr. Weber, for giving me an opportunity to lead and instruct their kids. Like the great LeBron James said, nothing in Northeast Ohio is given. Everything is earned. I hope to show Wellington my work ethic and character and earn their respect. I want to turn this thing around and start winning football games right away. I by no means see us going 0-10 next year.”
When asked how it feels to land a head coaching spot before turning 30, Howells pointed to the success of first-year Firelands sideline general Ryan O’Rourke, who was only 26 before this season began and led the Falcons to an 8-2 record.
“People are seeing these younger guys having success and it’s opening all sorts of new doors,” said Howells. “Coach O’Rourke had a great year and played in college just like I did. Playing at that next level, regardless of division, you get exposed to the game in a lot bigger light. It’s more mentally challenging. Also with relating to the kids, I think that late-20s to early-30s is a perfect line. I was brought up by older coaches with a blue collar mentality, but I’m also young enough to be familiar with technology, social media, and the norms of kids today.”
For the past four years, Howells has taught accounting and business technology classes at North Ridgeville. It has not yet been determined whether he will continue to teach there or move into a similar position at Wellington High School, he said.
“We’ll know more in the spring, ” he said. ” Different positions have been discussed. I hope to get down there in Wellington.”
In North Ridgeville, Howells installed an offense with multiple looks including I-form, split backs, and spread formations. Regardless of formation, his units stuck predominantly with base personnel: two running backs, two wide receivers, and a tight end.
When it comes to the Dukes, he said the offensive scheme will be based on his players’ strengths.
“I think this kind of game plan translates over to Wellington pretty well,” Howells said. “It’s also similar to what we did during my time at Columbia. But, I still have to get down there and meet the guys. I want to watch some film and see what they’re good at. I want to put the kids in Wellington in the best possible place where they can succeed and win.”
“With the game of football, it’s just more smart to fit your scheme to your players instead of vice versa,” he said. “You just frustrate yourself and them if you’re trying to force something. It’s the more modern and more successful way of doing things.”
Howells said he plans to seek out football players when he attends the Dan Gossman holiday basketball tournament on Dec. 29 at WHS.
After finishing 5-5 and ranking fifth in scoring in Lorain County in 2016, the Dukes fell to 0-10 this season and were outscored 433-99. Roy Moore took over the squad last spring following the departure of Sean Arno and stepped down in November in what was described by athletic director John Bowman as a mutual decision.
“I’m concerned with the rich history and tradition of Wellington,” said Howells. “Records don’t bother me. “I’m just buzzed for this opportunity. I don’t think a head coach was named until late April and it would be tough for anyone to get a team started in that position. We’re going to be ready to move forward and restore the Dukes’ tradition of winning.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.