CAMDEN — Dan Candeloro heard his first cheer as Caesar Rodney High’s new head football coach on Monday afternoon.
It may be as nice a sound as he hears all year.
The cheer was from his players, who broke into applause when outgoing coach Mike Schonewolf told them that Candeloro would be his replacement at a Monday afternoon meeting.
The Riders know the 50-year-old Candeloro well since he’s worked as an assistant coach at CR since 2000.
“The kids that were here. … seeing the kind of response that they gave let’s you know that you’ve got somebody that they know, they trust and they believe in,” said Schonewolf, who is also CR’s athletic director. “That means you’re in good shape. Good people do good things and Candy’s a good person.”
“I’m excited that he got the job because he deserves it,” said junior quarterback Brian Lewis. “He works real hard. He’s a great coach. There was talk of other coaches but I had a pretty strong feeling that he was going to get it. We’re just happy that he got it.”
Candeloro becomes only the fourth different football head coach at CR since 1984. He joins a list that includes Tom Leonard, John Coveleski and Schonewolf.
The Riders won Division I state championships in football in both 1990 and 2008.
A former standout defensive lineman at Delaware State, Candeloro is well aware that tradition means a lot at CR.
“You look around the gym here and there’s a lot of success, a lot of victories,” said Candeloro, referring to the banners hanging in the gym. “Not only for (state) finalists but the (Henlopen Conference) Founders Trophy and sportmanship trophies.
“There are a lot of things that need to be upheld. That’s going to be one of the most important jobs.”
Candeloro knows the Riders face a big transition. Not only did Schonewolf step down, but the program’s long-time assistant coaches, John Newman, Jim Fennimore and Dave Manwiller, could also be retiring.
Those three coaches were all on hand for Monday’s announcement. Candeloro said he was going to talk to them about staying on.
“This is a coaching staff of guys that have 35 years experience,” he said. “Some of them might not be around. … That’s going to be a big hurdle right off the bat trying to replace all that coaching experience and knowledge.”
Of course, Candeloro has also been a big part of that veteran coaching staff. A standout lineman on Dickinson High’s Division I state championship team in 1980, he’s coached the Riders’ secondary for the past eight seasons.
“Caesar Rodney football has a great tradition,” said Schonewolf. “And during the last several years, as Candy’s been one of our assistant coaches, we’ve been able to do things that have added a little bit to that tradition.
“Things are in good shape for him to be able move forward with what he wants to do with the program.”
Last fall, the Riders finished just 2-8 overall with an inexperienced squad. Candeloro, who has focused on defense during his coaching career, said there’d probably be some changes in what CR does as far as X’s and O’s.
But he did say you’d probably still see a lot of the Riders’ trademark Wing-T offense on the field.
“It’s going to be ‘Wings and things,’” said Candeloro. “I’ve been within the Wing-T offense since I was 8 years old, so it will definitely be some version of the Wing-T.”
On the other hand, Candeloro says there’s a lot of things he would never want to change about the CR program. He hopes he’s learned a great deal from the coaches he’s played for and worked with, guys like Dickinson’s Marty Apostolico, Joe Purzycki and Bill Collick at DelState and Coveleski and Schonewolf at CR.
“All those guys have affected a lot of kids along the way and they’re all positive role models,” said Candeloro. “I want to build on that.
“There are some big shoes to fill,” he added. “There are a lot of questions to answer, a lot of work to be done. But I think we’re ready to go and I think the kids are ready to go.”
Sports editor Andy Walter
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