VERMILION — After years of uncertainty and no clear direction for its football program, Vermilion may have found the perfect fit as leader of the Sailors in first-year coach Rob Duray.
Duray, who also teaches social studies at Vermilion High, knows the Sailors’ history and the kids he has to work with. Now he just wants to roll up his sleeves and get to the task at hand – restoring Vermilion’s football tradition.
“It’s a real honor to be the head coach and I’m very excited to take over and to lead this program in the right direction,” said Duray, who previously coached at Rocky River. “I’ve told the parents, community members and the kids that I’m not here to field a football team, I’m here to build a football program. And I will take the necessary steps to do so.
“I’ve been teaching in the building for five years now and I know these kids. There are some really, really good kids here, kids that deserve the best. My coaching staff and I are going to do everything in our means to give them the best experience possible at Vermilion High School.”
And judging from the feelings of some of the senior Sailors, Duray is off to a fast start.
“Everyone loves Coach Duray, how hard he works and how he pushes us to work hard as well,” senior running back Bradley Cole said. “I think things are coming along real well, on both the offensive and defensive sides. Coach is a great leader, and we are all following his lead.”
“I think we are going to have some fun this year. We are going to go out and compete each week, that’s our goal,” said Bo Nelson, a senior lineman. “It would be awesome to come back years from now, when our teams are back to winning eight, nine, 10 games and know that you were a part of getting Vermilion back on track. That would be really great.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we’ve (the senior class) gone through, so it’s important that we put an end to it now.”
Vermilion opens the season with a pair of road games at Clearview and Oberlin, before opening the home portion of its schedule against longtime rival Firelands. All three non-conference games pit the Sailors against Patriot Athletic Conference foes, and each offer Vermilion a good chance to get off to a fast start to the season.
“I’d love to say that we can go 10-0, but I have to be realistic,” said senior Frank Estep, a three-year varsity starter. “Things are much better right now than they’ve been in the past, and that’s exciting. I’d be real proud to be one of the seniors that help turn things around for the younger guys.”
“I’m looking forward to showing people a different style of football this year,” said Garret Shaw, a senior wide receiver and defensive back. “I think they have the wrong opinion of us based on the last few years, so we’re going to try to change things.”
To make that happen, Duray has guaranteed nothing to any of the returning lettermen on his roster. Each and every spot on the field is being competed for, and has to be won each week.
“Nothing has been given, and nothing will be given to anyone in this program,” Duray said. “The kids know they have to earn it. The coaches will give the kids grades after each scrimmage and the highest grade will win. Just as in life, you have to go out and work for all that you get. It’s the same here. With that said, I’m real happy with the development of the seniors and the leadership that they are demonstrating. We have some kids that are working their butts off right now, and that’s the way I like to see it. It’s those kinds of kids that we need to go to war with on Friday nights if we’re to turn this around.
“I think it’s very important that the kids understand my mentality, and my mentality is very simple. We are going to field a football team that the community can be proud of. Wins and losses are not a focus area right now. Our focus level is on these young men playing at their highest level, and whatever happens after that will take care of itself.”