Story by Eli Ruiz
It wouldn’t be a long shot to say that Sullivan West football coach and Democrat Co-Coach of the Year Ron Bauer has been around the block. Coaching football in some capacity since 1966, Bauer has amassed 150-plus victories fourth most in Section IX history.
He started his career at Delaware Valley Central School as an assistant and became head coach there from 1976-1979. He then moved to coach rival Jeff-Youngsville from 1980-85 before returning to DV for two different stints from 1986-89 and 1991-1999. It was during this time at DV that he won seven Section IX Class D titles.
In 1999, the Sullivan West Central School District was created and Bauer became its first coach and to this day, the only football coach the Bulldogs have known.
Under Bauer, Sullivan West won division titles in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2008. The Bulldogs who’ve bounced around between Class B and C over the years due to enrollment fluctuations won Section IX Class C titles in 2000, 2005 and 2006 and a Class B title in 2004.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here over the years,” said Bauer, 70, who also teaches history at Sullivan West.
This season Bauer was able to win with a team that had 13 sophomores, finishing 6-3 this season and making it to the Section IX Class C semi-final game where the Bulldogs would lose to eventual Section IX champ James I. O’Neill.
Sullivan West started out the season with four straight wins including a non-league 28-14 win over eventual Section IX finalist Liberty in a weather shortened game.
In fact, it took tough Class B opponent, New Paltz, to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season 33-14 in week five. Still, New Paltz coach Tom Tegeler had great things to say about Bauer.
“His hard work and determination over the years shows through his teams,” said Tegeler. “He [coach Bauer] is a true class act and his teams are always physically tough and prepared. I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach. Yet he’s a really nice guy whose kids are just always prepared.”
O’Neill coach Anthony Finochio also used the word “tough” to describe Bauer’s team this year and in the past.
Even though his peers know him as an old-school, hard-nosed football coach, in recent years Bauer has embraced a spread offense and pretty much opened up the Sullivan West playbook. Regarding the change in offensive philosophy, Bauer says, “My assistants had a lot of input with the spread but I’ve been able to win with the I and the wing-t among other schemes.
“It really comes down to blocking and execution. Don’t get me wrong, the type of offense you’re running is extremely important, but even more so is how your players execute. I think our staff has done an excellent job at adapting our offense to the types of players we have.
In regards to finding success with such a young team this year, Bauer said, “Well, it’s not the first time in my career I’ve had to take a young team out there. But I’ve got some quality assistants without which I don’t think we could have had such a good year. We worked extremely hard this season.”
Perhaps Bauer’s key to communicating with his young team came through best at their season-ending banquet. There Bauer addressed the players and parents and said, “Any mistakes that were made this year were my mistakes. I take full resposibility for anything that went wrong.”
Bauer recalls the season opener against Chester as his most memorable game of the season. “Boy was that a game,” he said. “We were behind pretty much the whole ball game, but we fought back and I was so proud of my kids. Just the fact that our kids never gave up and were able to stay in such a tough game early in the season makes that a special game to me.”
About returning next season, Bauer says, “Sure, why not, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.” He’ll be without his senior leaders, including quarterback and linebacker Sawyer Erlwein.
“He’s a tough kid and he was a great leader by example for a lot of our young guys this season. Sure we lose him [Erlwein] and we’ll also be losing key players like Brad Hemmer, Scott Erdman but we should have at least 22 guys who’ll be juniors and seniors next season back. That along with our strong JV program and I think we’re in a relatively good position to succeed again next season.”
As for his goals next season, Bauer says, “We want to get back to sectionals level play, that’s the goal every year. We need to get back to winning in sectionals and moving further into the tournament again.
In regard to the Demo-crat’s other choice for co-Coach of the Year, John Wilhelm, coach Bauer says, “He’s built a very good solid program over there [Liberty]. His [Wilhelm’s] kids are really buying into what he’s doing over there and they’re big strong kids and into the weights. I think for those reasons they’ll always have a strong program.”