Despain takes the reins of Rocky football

A man with a passion for football and who has deep ties to the community is the new head football coach at Rocky Mountain High School.

Richard Despain takes over for David Hayes, who was at the helm of the Grizzlies for six seasons.

Despain grew up in Lovell, the son of Carvel and Patty Despain, graduating in 1991 after his football career during which he was a center and defensive tackle. He spent one year at the University of Wyoming, served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Bolivia and Equador, then returned to UW, graduating in 1999 with a degree in Spanish and education. He later obtained a master’s degree in administration through Grand Canyon University.

Despain was hired in Powell and has taught Spanish for 17 years at Powell Middle School, also helping with P.E. for a dozen years. He has also taught at Powell High School, he said.

New head football coach Richard Despain encourages his Rocky Mountain football squad during a workout Tuesday morning on the practice field in Cowley. David Peck photo
New head football coach Richard Despain encourages his Rocky Mountain football squad during a workout Tuesday morning on the practice field in Cowley.
David Peck photo

He started coaching football as a middle school assistant to Jim Stringer and moved to the high school with Stringer in 2003. Despain was part of a staff that won four Class 3A state championships, serving as the line coach.

After Stringer’s sudden death in 2014 Despain served as a volunteer assistant at RMHS for his son Bill’s senior season that fall, then coached in 2015 back at Powell as the head eighth-grade coach.

Late last spring he was approached about being the head coach at Rocky Mountain, but in order to do it he knew he had to work his way up the chain of command: his middle school principal Jason Sleep, Supt. Kevin Mitchell and, most importantly, wife Meredith and his daughters.

“My principal supported it, and the superintendent supported it,” Despain said. “I’ll leave Powell around 3:45 (each day). I’m still working on the logistics of practice.”

As a resident of Cowley since 1999, having kids in the school system and coaching two years ago, Despain is already familiar with many of the players, he said.

“Many of them played with Bill or are classmates of my girls,” he said. “I also know them from community activities.”

Coaching style

Asked about his coaching style, Despain said his number one goal is for the players to be safe, and next, to have fun.

“Ultimately, that’s why you play the game (to have fun),” he said. “When you do things right, the wins will take care of themselves.”

Despain said he’s a firm believer in discipline, noting, “It’s important for kids to trust their teammates while learning to do their own job. The rest takes care of itself.”

Along with his head coaching duties, Despain will work as the offensive coordinator and as offensive and defensive line coach. He said his philosophy is to adjust to his players and play to a team’s strengths, though he added, “I’m a line guy, so I like to run. Running opens up the passing game.”

He said he’ll run a ratio of 60-40 to 70-30 running vs. passing, and he’ll run both a pro set and a balanced spread, which he calls a deuce set, adding, “You’re going to see motion.”

Justin Moss returns to the high school team as defensive coordinator, and Despain said the Grizz will employ a 4-3 or 4-4, moving to a five-man front if facing a certain running offense. He said the line will need to control gaps, but Moss will also be aggressive with blitz calls.

Moss will coach quarterbacks and linebackers, new teacher and coach Jessee Wilson receivers, defensive backs, kickers and punters and Scott Crosby running backs, defensive line and linebackers.

Despain said the Grizzlies were to run practice from 6 to 11 a.m. with a break early in the week, then more traditional two-a-days Wednesday through Friday at 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Next week the team will practice from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily, working toward a zero week game at Powell Saturday, Aug. 27, at 11 a.m.

“I’m excited, and I’m nervous,” Despain said. “I’ve always enjoyed football. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.”

By David Peck