By Craig Beilfuss
NEWAYGO–The Newaygo Lions made news just before the Christmas holiday when they announced the hiring of longtime veteran football coach Ralph Munger.
Mungers’ hiring was approved by the Newaygo Public School Board of Education on Monday, Dec. 19. He was officially introduced as the new Lions head coach at a press conference and introduction ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Newaygo athletic director Michael Fosburg discussed the process of getting Munger to take over as the Lions’ coach.
“We posted the position on November 28,” Fosburg said. “Then for the next two weeks we collected and reviewed resumes.”
Fosburg said he had a solid group of 24 applicants.
“Once the deadline passed, we decided to have a conversation with Coach Munger to see if he would be a good fit for Newaygo,” Fosburg said. “Coach Munger checks the boxes for what we are looking for. This is a great opportunity for our kids and community. We are excited for the professionalism and energy he brings to Newaygo.”
Newaygo will be looking for Munger to bring some stability to the Lions’ program. He is the fourth head football coach in the last four seasons. The hope is that Munger will be able to restore some tradition to the program.
“We are going to work our tail off and we are going to make things happen,” Munger said. “Attitude is everything. We are not going to wait for them to happen, we are going to make things happen.
“My track record kind of says that I’m not blowing smoke, we are going to get after it,” Munger said. “I know the competition is going to be keen, it might be overwhelming at times, but we are going to grow.
“I need to know what makes you tick,” Munger said to the Newaygo football players in attendance at his introduction. ”And you need to know what makes me tick. We are in this thing together.”
One issue in recent years has been a lack of numbers. Munger expects he and his staff to scour the hallways to build up those numbers.
“You are going to be our biggest recruiters” Munger said. “We need more bodies. We need more talent and we need more people. With more people, we will have more enthusiasm. With more people, we’ll have more competition and will make us grow.”
Munger runs his program by the book with no smoke and mirrors. Just honest to goodness hard work to get the job done.
“We are going to grow and we are going to have a lot of fun on this journey and make this program something special,” Munger said. “You’ll soon find out that I am a man of my word. I don’t blow smoke. I tell things the way they are. I try to be forthright and I expect you to be that way as well. We will never be a program built around one guy”
Coaching has been a huge part of Mungers’ life … with no end in sight.
“Coaching has been a part of my life and I want you to be a part of that life,” Munger said. “I’m excited to be here. It’s been an interesting journey to get here.”
Mungers’ focus will be on playing solid defense, which in turn, puts less pressure on the offense.
“We have to play defense,” Munger said. “When you give up 40, it’s hard to win. It’s fun to play defense and it’s fun to watch defense. Our goal will be to be good on defense and to be very physical on defense.”
Building a strong line up front is the key to a solid offense, according to Munger.
“Offensively, the bottom line is that we have to build a base and that starts up front with lineman,” he said. “And then we need to have good players at the skilled positions. I want to get to work and be as good as we can be.”
For the last 2 seasons, Munger worked as an assistant coach at Mancelona High School in Antrim County.
Munger has a career record of 335-109. He coached 28 seasons at Rockford, where he won three Division 1 state titles and finished runner-up twice. His teams produced six undefeated seasons and qualified for the playoffs 25 consecutive seasons.
Rockford won multiple district, regional and conference championships under Mungers’ direction. Munger was chosen Regional Coach of the Year on several occasions by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
The football stadium at Rockford was named Carlson-Munger Stadium to honor him when he retired in 2019.
Munger got his coaching start at Frankenmuth High School where he coached for 12 years.
Munger earned his B.A in elementary education/physical education from Concordia University in Chicago and his M.A. in physical education from Central Michigan University in 1980.