Ironwood’s new football coach knows his way around campus — he was an assistant coach and English teacher at the Glendale high school for 11 years.
Then, in 2006, Ian Curtis was one of several Ironwood assistants to accept the challenge of starting up the Liberty football program. After four years as the Lions’ defensive coordinator — including 2009’s magical undefeated regular season — Curtis completed the circle, agreeing to become Ironwood’s coach last week.
“I’ve coached for every coach in Ironwood’s history,” Curtis said.
Curtis came to Ironwood to complete his student teaching after moving to Arizona from Nebraska in 1994. He helped the school’s original coach, Mark Matheson.
In his first two years as a teacher and coach, 1995 and 1996, the Eagles advanced to the 4A state title game. Matheson coached the first squad, and his successor Chuck Esquivel the second. Curtis coached several position groups on both sides of the ball.
Curtis, Dan Filleman and Larry Allen were some of the assistant coaches on the third Ironwood squad to make a state title game — the 2002 team. Esquivel retired and Allen became coach in 2003.
Curtis and Filleman assisted Allen through 2005, then moved to Liberty when Filleman was named head coach. Curtis said he’s maintained a good relationship with Allen that has not been tested by his ascension to Allen’s former job.
“I’ve had contact with Coach Allen, and he’s been nothing but gracious and professional in this,” Curtis said.
Despite what appears to be a similar background — Allen was Ironwood’s defensive coordinator — Curtis will implement his own philosophies. He’ll use the pressure defense he ran at Liberty, but the Eagles’ offense will look different from the Lions, except for its up-tempo no-huddle pace.
“I’m going to bring in an entirely new defensive scheme and offensive scheme,” he said. “I’m going to implement the strength and conditioning program we used at Liberty.”
Curtis said he was content at Liberty, which at times felt like an Ironwood reunion. But he could not pass up the chance to lead his adopted home school.
“My children are getting older, and I want my children to go to Ironwood,” Curtis said. “I have a lot of colleagues who I have deep respect for at Ironwood. It’s a fantastic place.”