DOVER — The first time the Dover High football job was open, Chip Knapp was still very much the Wesley College head coach.
The Wolverines were getting ready to play a spring season and their future was up in the air.
But when the Dover job unexpectedly opened up again, this time everything just seemed to fall in place for Knapp and the Senators.
On Wednesday night, the Capital School Board officially hired the 56-year-old as Dover’s new head football coach.
Knapp replaces Gary Lowery, a New Jersey high school assistant who accepted the Dover job in March but then changed his mind.
On the other hand, Knapp was looking for a job after Wesley announced it was closing its athletic department at the end off the spring semester. Being able to still coach football and live in Dover was important to Knapp.
His son, Ben, has a network of friends, family and healthcare workers who help provide for his special needs.
“I always told myself, after I finish with Wesley, I’ll start looking for a job opportunity,” said Knapp. “It just so happened that it was pretty much the next day or so after things finished up.
“With my family situation, it’s just very difficult with all the help from our friends and family and the Dover community ... we’re not going to get that anywhere else. That’s a priority for us and our family — to make sure Ben’s taken care of. It just makes sense for us to stay here in Dover.”
Likewise, once Knapp applied for the job, Dover athletic director Kevin Turner said he was a clear-cut front-runner for the position.
“In the end, I think it’s the undeniable level of experience,” said Turner. “There’s no replacing his being on the sidelines for all those playoff games and all those big games against Salisbury and Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“We’re blessed to get someone of the caliber of Coach Knapp. Him being in the community for so long, his kids going here, I just feel like it’s a really, really good fit for everybody. I’m extremely excited because he has the experience to come in here and get us going in a very organized fashion.”
As Wesley’s head coach, Knapp went 19-7 in two-plus seasons, taking the Wolverines to the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs in 2019. He has been coaching at Wesley since 1989, forming a partnership with former coach Mike Drass that made the Wolverines one of the top Division III programs in the country.
With Knapp running the offense and Drass coaching the defense, Wesley went to the NCAA playoffs for 13 straight seasons (2005-17), reaching the national semifinals six times. The Wolverines posted a record 132-23 in that span.
Knapp’s offense was usually among the top ones in the country and produced a hanful of All-American quarterbacks. Former QB Joe Callahan not only won Division III’s Gagliardi Trophy but spent a few seasons in the NFL.
Under former coach Rudy Simonetti, Dover went 22-25 over the past five seasons, including 15-15 in the Henlopen North. The Senators were 17-10 with a 12-6 record in the North over the last three seasons.
Knapp said he’s excited about taking on a new challenge at a program he knows has a great deal of potential.
“I still have a lot of energy and enthusiasm to continue coaching,” said Knapp, who has been a coach for 34 years. “To have it kind of end abruptly is something that’s difficult to turn off. I just know I have a desire to continue coaching, hopefully making an impact on people’s lives through football.
“I’m very familiar with the program and I know a lot of the coaches who have previously coached there, too. There’s a lot of connections. There’s a real good fit.”
Knapp knows there will be some big adjustments going from coaching college to high school football. At the same time, he’s worked with plenty of high school players at off-season camps over the years.
He also knows a large number of high school coaches, who he’s already started consulting with.
Also high on Knapp’s list of things to do is hire a coaching staff. There are already several former Wesley coaches and players working in the Capital School District.
“College and high school definitely have differences,” said Knapp. “One of my focuses right away is to kind of understand the differences as quickly as possible so we can get off on the right foot. ... I have a lot of resources to draw from.
“I’m excited with this new opportunity. It’s a chance for me to continue to make an impact on people’s lives through football. It seems like a perfect fit and I can’t wait to get started.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.