MINDEN - It's been a long ride for Mike Rippee, but after 34 years, he decided it was time for it to end.
The longtime Douglas High football coach announced his resignation this week after 27 seasons at the helm, leaving as the program's winningest coach with a record of 139-125.
"It's been a real tough decision, a very emotional one," Rippee, 57, said. "When something has become such a part of your life, it's hard to walk away.
"I just felt like this was the time to do it. I'm coming to the end of my career in education, it's hard to put a finger on it. I just felt that I've been coaching for 35 years. I still have a passion for it.
"I have enjoyed every minute of it. Another old coach told me once that I'd know it was time when it was."
The Tigers were coming off a 6-6 season during which they strung together an impressive five-game win streak down the stretch, picked up their first playoff win since 2004 and advanced to the regional semifinals.
Rippee raised the 88-year-old program's all-time winning percentage by 36 points (from .424 to .460) in 27 years.
In Douglas' early years in the large-school classification, he built a once-successful 2A program back from the ground up after it went 4-30 between 1983 and 1986.
The Tigers posted their first winning record (5-3) under Rippee in 1988, his fourth year, and began to come into its own in 1991 and '92, going 12-6. It was in 1991 that the Tigers picked up one of the biggest upsets in program history, knocking off then perennial powerhouse Wooster 14-10 in Minden.
Douglas had back-to-back 5-4 seasons in '94 and '95, and then clinched the school's first large-school regional playoff berth with a 7-3 1996 season.
From that point, the Tigers went 100-70 over his last 16 seasons.
"We just kept our noses to the grindstone all that time," Rippee said. "I had so many tremendous assistants along the way, guys like Steve Wilcox, Bob Bateman and Ernie Monfiletto in particular. Never let anyone tell you it's about the head