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Cleveland Coach Potter Retires; Coordinator Will Take Over

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He Guided Storm To Class 5A Title

The fire, Kirk Potter said, is gone.

And so it was Tuesday that Cleveland High School’s head football coach, who led the Storm to the Class 5A state championship last December, announced his surprising departure.

“It’s better to know when to go,” Potter, 56, said. “And I just know this is the time for me. I just didn’t have the fire to do it anymore.”

Cleveland moved quickly Tuesday afternoon to select a replacement: offensive coordinator Heath Ridenour.

Potter submitted a retirement letter to Cleveland, although Potter said he won’t rule out a possible return to the sidelines down the road.

“Nobody ever knows that for sure,” he said. “If you do something for 33 years in a row, I suppose there will be some pangs about getting back into it sooner or later. I don’t intend to get back into coaching, but some circumstances might later dictate that that would be the case.”

Potter, a former head coach at Las Cruces and Carlsbad, was named Cleveland head coach in May 2008. In three varsity seasons, the Storm went 27-7, including 13-0 last season. Cleveland beat Mayfield for the 5A title.

Potter said he first began contemplating retirement even before the 2011 opener.

“Going into the season, I was thinking that this might not be a bad time to make this the last one,” he said. “I thought a lot more about it over the Christmas break, then I was waiting to see if I got my fire back, to see if I had the motivation I was looking for. I just didn’t have it.”

The news had been protected at Cleveland; Potter said he informed the team two weeks ago.

“I don’t have any reservations at all about making the move,” Potter said.

“The hardest thing to do,” he continued, “is to give up the opportunity. I know now at this time of my career that those opportunities don’t come around all that often and that you should cherish them.”

Ridenour, 31, is a former player at Lovington and Eastern New Mexico. He spent five seasons on Eric Roanhaus’ staff in Clovis before joining Potter at Cleveland before the 2010 season.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” said Ridenour. “I think it’s a great program to take over, and it’s a great opportunity for me.”

The Storm last season scored 641 points, more than any 5A school in state history. Ridenour has been the offensive coordinator the last two seasons and was calling all the plays.

“I have total confidence in what he’s going to do with the program,” Potter said of Ridenour. “He’s got a terrific mind.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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