RED SPRINGS — The head coach title may be somewhat new to Ron Cook but as he returned to a revamped weight room at Red Springs High School on Wednesday morning, he was immediately comfortable.
“I look at this as the first school that gave me an opportunity to come here to Robeson County and coach,” said Cook, who was the Red Devils’ defensive coordinator in 2012. “I really had a good time here. I had a good relationship with the staff, people in the community, coaches. It really was like home and it just feels right. It’s just a blessing from God to be back here. It feels like the right place.”
Less than 13 hours after the hire was approved by the Board of Education of the Public Schools of Robeson County, Cook was introduced to the team and led several hours of weights and conditioning, having players set baselines for the rest of the summer’s workouts.
Red Springs athletic director Chris Howell said the timing of the coaching vacancy was concerning as many coaches had already made plans for where they’re going to be. Despite that, he said there were numerous applicants and school administration felt Cook was the best for the job.
“He was exactly what we wanted,” Howell said.
Though Cook left for Lumberton last season, where he was defensive coordinator and briefly served as interim head coach, he brings a sense of familiarity to the program.
“I don’t think with the time of year it is now, I don’t think it could have been a better opportunity for anyone else but me because I’ve been here before, because I know the kids, I know the area, the staff, the people, the community. It would have been a much harder transition anywhere else at this time of year,” Cook said.
Cook will serve as both head coach and defensive coordinator, with Lawrence Ches joining his staff as offensive coordinator. Similar to Cook, Ches coached at Red Springs before moving to Lumberton last season and running the Pirates’ offense.
“Even though it’s late in the year, coach Ches being able to come in here, he knows the kids, knows the area more than I do,” Cook said. “A lot of freshmen know him from middle school.”
The biggest change will come on the offense side of the ball. Though the Red Devils thrived under coach George Coltharp’s air raid attack, Ches and Cook will bring the offense down to earth and run the spread, emphasizing the run game.
On the other side, Cook will keep with a 4-3 base and run a defense that has had limited changes since he was last at the school.
“We stuck with his defensive scheme since he left, so that’s going to be an advantage,” Howell said.
As Cook entered the weight room at the back of the school, excitement built but Cook knows there is a limited amount of time to get ready for the season. The team will continue its emphasis on weight-room work and limit scrimmages. Wednesday’s workouts set a baseline that players will be expected to build on.
“We’re focused on getting bigger and stronger right here and starting to get our installation in on offense, defense and special teams, and focus on the little things,” Cook said.
It puts the team in a position to hurry, but not rush, when it comes to developing. Cook said the emphasis, regardless of timing, is on the fundamentals of the game.
“That’s no different now, it just puts more emphasis on urgency,” Cook said. “It’s a tight schedule but football always comes back to being able to tackle, block, catch and run.”