When Ben Kolstad announced his departure from Cary High School last week, the nine-year Imps head football coach said he was looking for a new challenge.
That challenge will come with a Sanderson program he has faced in the past, as Kolstad takes over as head coach of the Spartans’ football team.
“We used to play Sanderson here at Cary and I really respected what they’ve done,” Kolstad said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and I just wanted a new challenge. I needed a change. Sanderson is a great fit.”
In other coaching news, West Johnston football coach Randy Ragland has been named as the head coach at Fairmont High and former South Johnston football coach Joe Salas, who was head coach last year at West Bladen, has been named as the head coach at Lumberton.
“I’m a small-town sort of guy,” said Ragland, a Fuquay-Varina High graduate. “Fairmont is a small town and it has a community school. West Johnston has been great to me and I appreciate the opportunity the school gave me. I’m really excited about going to Fairmont.”
Kolstad’s hiring was announced Wednesday by Sanderson athletic director Tony Lewis, who coached the football team since 2009.
Kolstad leaves Cary after 11 years at the school and nine as head football coach, during which time he compiled a 65-46 overall record and led the Imps to a share of the Tri-Nine conference championship in 2005.
He will take over a struggling Sanderson program that finished 2-9 last year and has not made the state playoffs since 2008.
“He’s got a lot of energy, he’s got a great passion for the game and he’s got a great vision to come into Sanderson High School wanting to come in and take the responsibility,” said Lewis, who received about 50 applications for the position from as far away as Georgia and New Hampshire.
“It’s exciting to have someone come in here looking to build this. Someone that isn’t just looking to take over a program with wins, but is willing to build a total program on the field and off field and help these young men through football.”
Kolstad said the players at Cary have handled the news quite well. When he met with them last week he made clear he wasn’t heading to “a better place where there’s a record.” Instead, he wanted a chance to bring change to a program like the change he brought to Cary.
He wants the Spartans to challenge for a Cap Eight conference championship.
“I want to get people excited about Sanderson football, but Xs and Os and on the field wise, we want to be competitive,” Kolstad said. “I think that’s what we’ve done here at Cary. Nobody’s overlooked us, so it’ll be about just getting to the point where we’re competitive on a daily basis.”
Cary High made a trip to the state playoffs in each of Kolstad’s nine years at the helm.
Kolstad will meet with the Sanderson football staff Wednesday afternoon and meet the team Thursday.
“I think this is great for the players as well as Ben,” Lewis said. “We’ve had a lot of success both athletically and academically, and I think this is a big stepping stone to bringing football up to the success of some of our other programs.”
The move may also benefit Cary, Kolstad said.
“They need a change here as well, and I think this will help them at Cary too,” he said.
Kolstad is currently scheduled to begin at Sanderson on Feb. 1, but might start as early as the Jan. 23 change of semesters.
Tim Stevens contributed to this story