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Friday nights in the fall, Dan Ritter is used to being under the bright lights throughout Northwest Missouri.

He’s hopeful the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t alter those plans, as he’s set to begin a new journey as the head coach of the East Buchanan football program.

“The quality of person we’ve received is top notch. References are glowing, can’t say enough of good things about his character,” East Buchanan athletic director Dave Elms said. “There’s a very good sentiment out there that they’re surprised he hasn’t had a head coaching job before this.

“It’s not something where Coach Ritter has to come into a rebuilding program. It’s been established. I think it’s a good fit.”

A graduate of Lafayette and MIAA champion linebacker at Missouri Western, Ritter began his coaching career under Ron Musser at Mid-Buchanan before returning to the city as an assistant under Jeff Wallace at Central.

From freshman coach to leading the junior varsity squad and running the varsity special teams, Ritter now makes the transition to head coach for the first time in his career.

“Whenever I got the opportunity to coach at East Buchanan, I was so excited because they have such a long tradition,” Ritter said. “I’ve never called an entire group of 43 kids and they all answer, then call their parents to get them involved and they all answer. All these people are excited for the next chapter and people are bought in. It’s definitely a football town in Gower.”

Ritter will take over for Kevin Bryan, who announced his retirement in January after 13 years at East Buchanan. Bryan guided the Bulldogs to two state semifinal appearances in 2015 and 2017. East Buchanan went 4-7 this past season and they finished 2-5 in the KCI, which had state semifinalists in Class 1 and 2 with Mid-Buchanan and Lathrop.

With the likes of Lawson, Hamilton and Plattsburg also looming in the conference, Ritter knows the competition each week will be tough to gameplan for.

“Every week we’ve gotta be ready to go,” Ritter said. “When you are successful against those teams, now we’re talking about something special. We have a long way to go, but the opportunity’s there.”

Brandon Zenner can be reached at brandon.zenner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.