Todd Ruppenthal already wears a number of hats at Hancock Middle-Senior High School.
On Wednesday, he added one more — that of head football coach.
Ruppenthal, a 1981 Hancock graduate and longtime assistant coach, was named to succeed Dave Mahaffey, who resigned at the end of the 2012 season.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Ruppenthal said. “I played here, my son played here, I’ve been an assistant here for 17 years, so this program means a lot to me. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ruppenthal, 49, played for the Panthers when athletic director Bill Sterner was an assistant coach and served as an assistant during Sterner’s tenure as head coach.
He is also the varsity girls basketball and softball coach at the school.
“He does so many things for us that are positive for the entire athletic program,” Sterner said. “He’s been very patient. He’s wanted a chance at it for a long time. He’s got his chance now.
“The kids have to trust you, the parents have to trust you, and Todd has that trust. I think in a small school, those who played in the program and want to give back are best for that situation and we’re kind of going back to that with Todd.”
As a coach and former player in the Hancock system, Ruppenthal is well aware of the challenges he’ll face as head coach of the smallest public school in Maryland.
“There’s a core group on every team. Ours will be 10 to 14 kids and we can branch out from there,” Ruppenthal said. “The issue is with depth. When we start digging into the bench, it’s usually a freshman that’s real young and has no high school experience.”
Ruppenthal’s hope is he can get enough kids into the program to relaunch a JV team, something Hancock has not had for years.
With his number of years in the high school program — along with 21 years as coach of Hancock’s team in the Washington County Junior Football League — Ruppenthal thinks he might have enough cache to pull it off.
“I know the kids coming in from the junior league, I know the ones that are already here,” Ruppenthal said. “I think that’s a big plus.”
He also knows that small schools don’t always reload for football. More often, the Panthers will be left to rebuild from year to year.
That also means coaching philosophies have to be flexible, not necessarily firm.
“Everything we do will be based on the abilities of our kids,” Ruppenthal said. “We’ll hit conditioning and weight lifting hard, and we’ll definitely be a running team. The teams we’ve had that have been able to win have controlled the clock and field position and played good defense.”
Ruppenthal has already hired Dave Faith, Arcie Harvey and Ron Hose as assistant coaches. He plans to meet with players early next week to set a schedule for weight training.
“The good thing about a smaller school is that we can get them to the weight room quickly, get them in and get a lot of reps,” Ruppenthal said.
Mahaffey compiled a 15-33 record in five years at Hancock. The Panthers were 4-6 last season.
Ruppenthal is the 12th coach since Hancock’s football program launched in 1957. He is the second new coach hired in Washington County this offseason, following Vince Ahearn at Williamsport.