NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine football program got its man. And it went to Ohio to find him.
The Dragons have selected Kyle Ralph as the football program’s new head coach, replacing Charlie Hill, who served as interim coach for one season.
Ralph comes from Withrow High School in Cincinnati, where the former All-Atlantic Coast Conference lineman has served as an assistant football coach and social studies teacher.
Ralph will be the fifth head coach in New Palestine program history, pending school board approval in February. He will teach social studies at the high school beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
“We’re very excited to have Kyle with us as a teacher and coach,” New Palestine principal Keith Fessler said in a statement released by the school. “His integrity, energy and enthusiasm will impact our young people both on the field and in the classroom.
“He comes highly recommended and we welcome him to the New Palestine family.”
This will be the first head coaching position for Ralph, who was expected to meet his players at New Palestine Wednesday morning. After graduating from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ralph went on to star at the University of North Carolina, where he twice earned All-ACC honors. The six-foot-4, 300-pounder graduated from UNC in 2006 and went undrafted by the NFL.
He was invited to and attended training camps with the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers before being released. Ralph garnered interest from other NFL teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, but decided to pursue coaching and teaching.
He returned to Ohio as an assistant at St. Xavier, Oak Hills and, for the last two seasons, at Withrow as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator.
Ralph has a New Palestine connection — he’s married to 2002 NP graduate Ashley (Buses) Ralph, who graduated from Ball State in 2006.
Kyle Ralph was not available for comment Tuesday, but said in the statement, “I couldn’t be more honored and excited to build upon New Pal’s tradition of excellence on and off the field.”
New Palestine football has won six sectional titles, two regional titles and was the 1990 Class 3A runner-up. The Dragons have also won more Hoosier Heritage Conference championships than any other school, but Ralph will take over a team coming off a rare losing season. The Dragons went 3-7 last fall under Hill, who was named interim coach in July after former head coach Tim Able resigned somewhat unexpectedly in late June.
Able guided to the Dragons to a 30-6 record in his three seasons at the helm, including a Class 4A No. 1 ranking in 2011 and a sectional title in 2009. Able won a 4A state title as head coach at East Noble in 2000 and he later guided Decatur Central to its first 5A sectional title in 2005.
Able continued to work in the Decatur Central school district, and he cited the lack of a teaching opportunity at New Palestine, and the back-and-forth commute, as a reason for his resignation last summer.
The third head coach in New Palestine history, Able followed Doug Armstrong (2002-2008) and Marvin Shepler (1968-2001).
In addition to teaching social studies, Ralph also has an extensive track and field background. He set a school shot put record at St. Xavier in high school and later was the shot put/discus coach at St. Xavier and Withrow.
Editor’s note: We’ll have an in-depth feature with Ralph in Thursday’s Daily Reporter.