2017-04-06 / Sports

Suttons Bay names new football coach

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

DAN DURKIN, a former Division III quarterback, became the new face of Suttons Bay football on March 23. DAN DURKIN, a former Division III quarterback, became the new face of Suttons Bay football on March 23. Suttons Bay has placed the future of its 8-man football program in the hands of a 23-year-old social studies teacher.

Athletic director Doug Periard offered the head-coaching position to first-year St. Mary instructor Dan Durkin on March 23 after Durkin left a lasting impression on coaches and parents at an informal meeting last month.

“The big word was demeanor,” Periard said. “We were impressed with how he handled himself in the discussion and the way he could talk football—different offenses and different defenses— which means he has a working knowledge of the game. I like to say he’s a technician of the game because, right now, we’re taking the whole machine apart.”

Durkin replaces Alex Kohler, who led the Norse to a two-year record of 2-9. Suttons Bay forfeited the final seven games of 2016 as a result of injuries sustained in lopsided losses to East Jordan and Elk Rapids.

The Suttons Bay School Board unanimously approved a transition to 8-man football on Dec. 12.

Periard said most candidates required a teaching job, something Suttons Bay didn’t have to offer. The district wasn’t limited to its own faculty, however, since the cooperative program includes St. Mary and Northport.

Periard said he decided to go after Durkin after a conversation with St. Mary principal Megan Glynn at a district basketball game in Lake Leelanau.

Durkin did the rest.

“We said we’re starting a new era, so let’s start with someone new,” Periard said of the decision. “He comes in with none of the bad habits or preconceived notions we have. He can take the knowledge and experience we have and lead us in the right direction.

“That’s what we’re looking for ... and with 8-man, there’s a lot we don’t know. We’ll be learning constantly.”

Durkin, a former quarterback at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Division III Benedictine University, plans to do the same. His only coaching experience since graduating from the University of Dayton came as the St. Mary JV boys basketball coach last winter.

For now, he’s just focused on creating excitement in a football program that finished 9-2 just three seasons ago.

“Switching over to 8-man, you have a lot of opportunities to do that,” said Durkin, who moved to Cedar in September. “It’s all brand new. We can start fresh and really build a program. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great coaches that have really created that excitement and a family type atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed.”

Periard said Durkin will have plenty of help from an experienced group of assistant coaches, including longtime defensive coordinator Stan Pasch.

When asked about X’s and O’s, Durkin said he hopes to keep opponents guessing on both sides of the ball.

“I played an offense in high school where we ran veer principles, then spread it out four wide and threw it, then went in I-back and ran it,” Durkin said. “We didn’t have a (thick) playbook; my coach had a philosophy of ‘no playbook.’ He’d just draw plays up and we’d practice them and run them.

“My philosophy is teach it on the field and give them real-life reps. I think that’s the way to really master what we’re trying to do.”

He and the new-look Norsemen will look to do just that this summer before making their 8-man debut against visiting Bear Lake on Aug. 25. Suttons Bay will play four of its first five games at home, including each of its first three.

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Coach Durkin comes from a

Coach Durkin comes from a family of football players (two currently playing for University of Dayton) and has true love for the game. He will be relentless in the team preparation and will make sure that his team is ready on game day.