Football: Rams nab Gowrie native and Panorama assistant Caden Duncan as next head coach
By BRANDON HURLEY
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally ran in the Jefferson Herald in February.
JEFFERSON – Greene County dipped into the pool of relative familiarity with their latest football hire this past February.
Caden Duncan, a first-time head coach with close ties to a current Jefferson assistant will be the next Rams head coach.
Duncan is a graduate of Prairie Valley High School in Gowrie (now Southeast Valley) and also played a few years of college ball at Upper Iowa University. A knee injury ended his football career, where he transferred to Iowa State to finish off his degree.
The former high school running back and defensive back spent the last six years as an assistant coach, analyzing and tweaking positions all over the field. That experience as an offensive coordinator, defensive play-caller and everything in between is why Duncan feels he’s the perfect fit for Greene County.
“I’ve been ready for awhile now to be a head coach,” Duncan said. “I’m confident in myself and when I saw this opportunity, I thought it was a situation where I could come in and definitely have a chance to be successful, not that I would be afraid to take over a program that needed a major rebuild.”
Duncan coached for three years as an assistant at his alma mater (Southeast Valley) while he finished college and recently wrapped up his third season at Panorama. He’s coached the offense, defense and special teams.
As offensive coordinator at Panorama in 2017, Duncan helped guide the Panthers to a 7-2 record, averaging 32.2 points per game while piling up 2,800 total yards and 36 touchdowns.
“It’s something we talked a lot about in my interview. I’m not a coach who dominates one side,” Duncan said. “I’ve had time on offense and defensive. I think being a coordinator for both, it helps me a lot. I’ll be able to step into a situation where I can be an offensive caller or like what I am (going to be in Jefferson), step in and run the defense. I’m very comfortable with doing that.”
Duncan takes over for the defending Class 2A, District 9 co-champions. The Rams were 8-2 a season ago, ripping off a 8-1 regular season record (the most wins in Greene County history) returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The Ram offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by Iowa State three-star commit, Tyler Miller. The 6-9 soon-to-be senior was a first-team all state selection last fall.
Record-setting Brent Riley will be back at quarterback as well. The junior threw for a Greene County all-time best 2,242 yards (5th in 2A) and 23 touchdowns in 2018.
The Rams compiled a 4-1 district record, their only loss coming at the hands of co-champion Kuemper.
Greene County set all kinds of school records a year ago, including total yards, scoring average, total touchdowns, scoring margin, most passing yards and most turnovers forced.
They also return one of their top running backs, Colby Kafer, who ran for 776 yards and eight touchdowns (10 total) thanks to a 7.1 yards per carry average. He holds the single-game Greene County record for rushing yards in a game, set back in 2017 when he rushed for 285 yards in a win over Iowa Falls.
“It’s a team and a program that has good tradition and a lot of talent,” Duncan said. “It’s a good situation and it’s the right time.”
Duncan was a junior on Prairie Valley’s 12-1 team, which earned a trip to the state semifinals in 2009, eventually losing to St. Albert in the Class 1A semifinals. He ran for 780 yards and nine touchdowns (11 total) as a junior (6.7ypc) and 967 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior year.
The man handing the ball to Duncan during the 2009 run was long-time friend and Greene County offensive coordinator Cole Jaeschke, Upper Iowa’s all-time leading passer. The duo also played college ball together before Duncan’s career was cut short. That familiarity, especially as Jaeschke enters his third year with the Ram program, should pay big dividends, Duncan said.
“Just being familiar with the way he thinks (helps). Being around him in the past, I know his personality,” Duncan said. “He’s a great guy, a fantastic player. I know that Cole is exceptionally talented. I’m comfortable with him and trust him, knowing that he has a great knowledge base.
I’m not coming in crossing my fingers and hoping that he knows what he’s doing. i think it’s a great thing having that familiarity.”
Panorama head coach Mike Kauzlarich noticed Duncan’s impact the moment he took over duties last summer. The youngster has a knack for passion while developing strong relationships with the players.
“Caden has been a major addition to all of Panorama athletic programs,” Kauzlarich said. “I know he is very excited about this new opportunity and I believe it is a good fit for him. Caden has been around the game of football for a long time as a player and a coach and has a variety of experiences to fall back on.”
Duncan will also be the Greene County High School strength and conditioning coordinator, a position Moore completely transformed over the past few years. The Rams instantly grew thanks to the former coach’s workout regimes, across all sports. It’s an area Kauzlarich feels Duncan will have little trouble expanding on.
“Caden will show his knowledge in the weight room early as a coaching strength and many athletes will see huge improvements in their athletic performances,” the coach said. “I believe with Caden’s passion for the game and this opportunity he will be 100 percent committed and success will follow.
Caden has left our athletic programs and especially our weight room program in a better place than when we arrived.”
Over the past six years and his dozen or so years playing the game, Duncan has learned how to better prepare as a coach while also exuding increased patience.
“In the heat of the moment, bad things are going to happen,” the coach said. “It’s going to come down to how resilient you and your team are. You have to stick together and not panic.
I learned a lot about the preparation process and as a player, you don’t necessarily see that.”
Duncan will teach middle school P.E. and health in Greene County. As he prepares to take the reigns over the summer, the coach expects to instantly connect with his new athletes while building off the success of last season’s record-setting run. Being only eight to 10 years removed from some of his players will also have its benefits, Duncan said.
“I’ll be able to relate and know what they are interested in,” the coach said. “But at the same time, I have to come in and set the tone and let them know I’m not here to be friends with them. But it’s definitely an advantage to know what they are thinking.”
The Greene County Rams open the 2019 season at home against long-time rival, Perry August 30 at home. The Rams will also have home games against Saydel, Gilbert, Kuemper and Red Oak as well.