Allegan County News & Union Enterprise Sports

Ross takes over as football coach at Otsego

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

OTSEGO—Honesty. Trust. Accountability.
Those are Damien Ross’s three core values. And those are the values he hopes to instill in the football players at Otsego.
Ross was recently named head coach of the Otsego varsity football team after joining the program as an assistant coach last season.
“I’m excited for this opportunity to not only lead the players as athletes, but also hopefully instill some qualities that’ll make them good young men as well,” Ross said.
Ross takes over the reins of the program from Scott McDougall, who resigned following his one-year stint with the Bulldogs to take the head coaching job in Greenville.
A South Haven native who starred on the gridiron for the Rams, Ross football collegiately at Siena Heights University. After graduating with a degree in degree in sports management, Ross jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant NAIA Midland University in Fremont, Neb.
Ross’s other collegiate coaching stops include Division 3 MacMurray State in Jacksonville, Ill., Division 2 Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Miss., Division 2 Northwood University in Midland and Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind.
Between his time at MacMurray College and Missouri S & T, Ross also had a three-year stint as head coach at Bangor High School.
After McDougall took the job at Otsego last year, Ross quickly joined his staff.
“I was going through a transition in my career and was going to be coming back home to West Michigan,” Ross said. “Coach McDougall has been a friend of mine for some years and he had room on his staff for me to join.”
And when McDougall announced he was leaving to take the job at Greenville, Ross knew he wanted to be considered for the head coaching position in Otsego.
“The reason I wanted to stay was simple: the players,” Ross said. “We have such a good group of kids. And I’m not just talking about them as football players. I’m talking about them as people.
“Our coaches and community have been really good to me in the last year as well, making it very difficult to ponder leaving. That’s why I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.”
Otsego athletic director John Kubiak—who served as head coach of the football program prior to McDougall’s arrival last year—knew Ross was the right person for the job.
“Being able to observe (Ross) last year on staff, he quickly developed relationships with the players,” Kubiak said. “He was good with the athletes in individual, group and team settings. He is organized and coaches with patience, but does not lack enthusiasm. 
“In short, he has a passion for the game of football and the Otsego football program.”
After losing its first five games last season, Otsego regrouped to win three of its final four games. That included a 48-21 victory over archrival Plainwell and a 27-20 season-ending win over Three Rivers.
The three victories were the most for the Bulldogs since 2019, when they went 6-4.
Ross hopes to build on that momentum.
“The players we have here want to be good,” Ross said. “They’ve really shown that from the second half of the season through the offseason. They want to be a good team, so I’m looking forward to pushing them to do that.”
Ross, who said he’s learned about different aspects of the game at his various coaching stops, doesn’t plan wholesale changes when it comes to the team’s offensive and defensive schemes.
Rather, he envisions some tweaks here and there.
“Our offense will be similar to what it was last season,” he said. “We’ll have multiple formations with the ability to push the ball down field.
“Defensively, we’ll have a few different fronts, but we just want to be aggressive running to the ball and training our guys on taking the ball away. And we’re always looking to create some explosive plays on special teams.”
The Bulldogs open the 2024 season with a road game at Coopersville on Thursday, Aug. 29. Otsego will play at home for the first time the following week when it hosts Hackett Catholic on Friday, Sept. 6,
“We members of the community come to see us play, they’re going to see an ultra-competitive team and a group of guys that’s having fun,” Ross said.
“We’re training our guys that our standard is our best and we expect them to uphold that standard. But we don’t just want them to give their best, we want them to ‘strain’ their best. That’s why our motto is ‘strain the standard.’”
For Otsego’s full football schedule, visit

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