New Rancho football coach has formula to rebuild program, looks to snap lengthy losing streak
Pletsch made Rancho baseball into a winner, feels formula will work with Rams football team
Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Rancho High School baseball head coach Tom Pletsch talks to pitcher Zak Qualls during practice Tuesday, May 18, 2010.
Tom Pletsch is familiar with this rebuilding project.
Pletsch was hired last month as the Rancho High football coach and tasked with transforming his alma mater back into respectability. The Rams have lost 29 straight games dating back to the 2011 season and have been outscored 1,451-187 the past three seasons, transgressing from one of the state’s best teams in the mid-to-late 1980s to arguably its worst program in recent seasons.
Rancho was so outclassed that it successfully petitioned the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to play an independent schedule for two seasons, claiming its players were frequently injured.
“I’ve watched every game the past 10 years. Being a Rancho grad, it is really disheartening to watch the scores and watch the kids not competing,” Pletsch said. “I really wanted to make a change to try to make the team competitive, where we once were.”
Pletsch is already accomplished in turning around a program at Rancho, located in a struggling economic area near downtown Las Vegas with limited resources and poor participation numbers. He’s been the baseball coach at Rancho since 2006, leading the Rams to the state tournament in 2010 for the first time since 1977 and growing the program into a perennial contender.
“Winning a game is obviously a goal after losing 29 straight, but it’s not the first goal,” said Pletsch, who replaces Tyrone Armstrong. “The first goal is to get the kids to compete, be disciplined, learn how to prepare for a game and execute the game plan.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I think we can win four or five games (next season),” he added.
Pletsch, who will remain the baseball coach, will use most of the same methods in growing the football program as he did with baseball. A 1979 graduate and former three-sport athlete at Rancho, Pletsch has already started reaching out to former players to welcome them back to the program.
Rancho, which opened in the 1950s, has won four state championships. Pletsch wants to make sure current players know of the great history — not just the current state of losing.
“We are putting some understanding into the tradition of Rancho High School football,” he said. “What the Bone Game (rivalry against Las Vegas that Rancho hasn’t won since 1995) means to the program. What wearing the Rams horns on the helmet means to the program. We will try to bring back a sense of urgency.”
Pletsch has acted with urgency since being hired.
He has already hired eight assistant coaches, including one of the area’s top assistants in Canyon Springs defensive coordinator Stan Davis. Five of the coaches played at Rancho.
The next, and most important, step will be improving participation numbers. Rancho hasn’t fielded three full teams since 2010, often using underclassmen who physically weren’t prepared on the varsity team when they should have been assigned to a lower-level squad.
He’s already drummed up interest with current students. He says about 80 students, or 20 more than were in the program last season, attended an organizational meeting before the holiday break. Offseason workouts started Monday.
“Rather than send a letter that says, ‘We have a football team, show up Aug. 1 if you want to play,’ we’ve been proactive in trying to identify incoming eighth-graders who live in our zone.” Pletsch said.
Pletsch built the baseball program with help of the school’s aviation and medicine magnet program, meaning students from outside the Rancho zone can attend the school if accepted into one of the programs.
“We will use the same formula we did with baseball,” Pletsch said. “We’ll be active in letting people interested in Rancho know that we are a comprehensive magnet school, which includes a football team.”
Pletsch promises to put a product on the field his former classmates will be proud of.
“There is a large alumni base who wants the team to be competitive,” he said. “They want to get involved and help. They are tired of seeing these out-of-control games where it’s 55-6 at halftime and the other team’s second and third string continue (the domination) in the second half.”