BELDING — A new era of Belding High School football is underway.
Rockford graduate Joe Schwander was introduced as the new varsity football coach on Wednesday in front of current and potential players, along with administration and coaches.
Schwander’s first order of business was a player meeting that lasted roughly 25 minutes.
Schwander graduated from Rockford in 2001. His coaching career began following four years of college football at Tri State University (2002-2003) and Hope College (2004-2005).
A quarterback, Schwander is fourth all-time on the Hope College total offense list with 4,851 yards and fifth in yards passing with 4,057.
Schwander (as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator) spent the past five seasons coaching at Rockford under Ralph Munger. He spent one season at Calvin Christian in 2006.
“I spent a lot of time refining my knowledge of the quarterback position,” Schwander said. “We had three or four guys that I spent a lot of time with helping them improve on and off the field.”
Rockford had a record of 55-8 the past five years and won a Division 1 state title in 2008. The Rams lost in the state semifinals the past two seasons.
Becoming a head coach has always been a goal for Schwander.
“I always knew I wanted to be a head coach. My thought was very purposeful in going to Rockford,” Schwander said. “One, it was where I grew up, but really I wanted to learn from coach Munger and the phenomenal program they have there.”
Schwander has been looking for the right situation and didn’t want to take just any job.
“Coach Munger helped me with processing different jobs that have been opening up,” he said. “I kept my eyes open, but was pretty picky. I wanted to stay in West Michigan and close to this area. When Belding opened it was a no brainer for me.”
While the Redskins have struggled the past few seasons — last playoff appearance was 2007 — Belding is still a football community.
“This is a football town. It’s a pretty special place,” Schwander said. “Then all the improvements they are doing to the school. I didn’t know if I would get the job, but this is where I wanted to be.”
Schwander was chosen from a list of five finalists, which had been pared down from 40 applicants.
“It’s exciting to see Joe talk with the kids today and I think he will make some good connections,” Belding athletic director and former coach Joel Wilker said. “I feel like we got a good young man to make the transition.”
Offensively under Schwander, Belding will be a team capable of running multiple offensives.
“We are not going to look like we looked before,” he said. “The way football is now, if you’re not multiple, defenses can attack you. We will try to have an answer for everything and will be really good at the things that we do.”
Defensively, Schwander said depends on personnel, but is most comfortable with a 5-2.
Schwander is excited to start and believes he can win in Belding.
“I’m very confident in what we are going to do,” he said. “The big thing is getting a commitment from our team and our coaches and then holding them accountable. We are going to work just as hard as anybody.”
Belding opens the season on Aug. 24 at Greenville. Schwander is aware of the rivalry between the two schools.
“Rivalry games are great. It is a fun atmosphere anytime you can play in front of a bunch of fans,” Schwander said. “No question we are going to be excited to play that game. We will be prepared, but up until that time we are going to focus on how we can get better.”