Lee, Purlee take over Rangers, Eddies

Published 4:28 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — As the high school fall sports season got under way Monday, Cassopolis and Edwardsburg had a pair of new coaches at the helm.

Jeremiah Lee is the new man at Cassopolis, while former Ranger head coach Dan Purlee takes over as the new coach at Edwardsburg.

Both were on the staffs of those schools prior to being named head coach for the Rangers and Eddies.

Lee and Purlee face much different challenges as they prepare for the 2023 season. Cassopolis was 0-9 last season, while Edwardsburg was 11-2, losing its first game against eventual state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic and its final game in the Division 4 state semifinals to another powerhouse, Grand Rapids South Christian.

In some ways, Lee may have the easier of the two jobs because when you go winless the previous season, there is nowhere to go but up.

On the other hand, Purlee, who enjoyed a lot of success at Cassopolis before retiring, has to replace Kevin Bartz, who is a member of the Michigan High School Football Hall of Fame. Bartz won 216 games in his career at the 2018 Division 4 state championship.

One of the issues Lee must address at Cassopolis is improving the numbers. A lack of numbers has been an issue for the Rangers for some time, but the attrition finally caught up with Cassopolis last season,

“The kids were young, which we knew coming in,” he said. “Right now, we just want to make these kids buy back in and make them understand what Cass football means, to not just them, but the community. They are going in the right direction already.”

Lee said numbers have increased.

“We are sitting at about 35 or 40 right now and right on the break of a JV again,” he said. “I know after three years of going downhill, it is not going to come back right away. We just need to stick to the plan.”

Lee said that the Rangers must compete on every play, and if they can beat the guy across from them, they cannot lose.

Lee also said that getting Cassopolis back into the thick of the Southwest 10 Conference championship battle and back into the postseason.

“If we can go 5-4 this year with our schedule, I think we will get in [the playoffs],” he said.

Purlee knows the tradition at Edwardsburg and is looking to continue it. Being on the staff last year helped him understand their philosophy.

“Being here last year not only helped me understand how they do things off the field, but helped me develop relationships with many of the kids, which is probably the most important factor. It just makes for an easier transition.”

Purlee also faces the challenge of not only following Bartz, but replacing 28 seniors.

“Not only is that a high number, but a majority of those kids saw the field,” he said. “We were almost two platooned. ”

Purlee said coming in that he wanted to keep things the same way the Eddies did things, both on and off the field.

“My main thing was, let’s not recreate the wheel here,” he said. “They have a system in place that has been successful, so let’s just try to make this as seamless a transition as possible. My main focus was to try and continue how they have done things in the past, and now we were getting to the point where we can put our own thumbprint on certain things.”

Purlee will figure out how good his team is early on as they open with powerhouses West Catholic and Chelsea.

“We will get to see quickly what we are all about,” he said.