For all of the struggles the Gahanna football team had on the field much of the past several years, the perception always has been that the program could be a sleeping giant because of the number of athletic boys roaming the halls at such a large school.
After struggling through former coach John Snoad's first three seasons, the Lions went 9-3 in 2011 and 7-3 in 2012 behind the talents of a couple strong classes.
The 2011 team featured a rare talent in Tyler Grassman, a do-everything player who is now playing for Buffalo.
Then in 2012, the Lions came up just short of the playoffs with a roster that included future collegians like A.J. Butler (Marian University), Mitchell Rowell (West Virginia State) and Mike Taggart (Tiffin), not to mention Granyl Smith, who had at least borderline Division I college talent.
Among new coach Bruce Ward's jobs will be to harness the perceived talent already in the program and get other athletes not in the sport to become a part of it.
Gahanna's roster the last few years has been full of WR/DB types. This season, the Lions didn't produce much of a running game, and it's tough to win in a league like the OCC-Ohio Division without being able to run the ball consistently.
Considering Ward had somewhere from 40-50 athletes in grades 9-12 the last couple years while he was at Beechcroft, he is seasoned at working with what he's been given.
Ward also will have a youth program to work with, which is something he didn't have at Beechcroft, so it should be fascinating to see what he can produce the next few years.
As for what will happen at Beechcroft ...
I'm sure a head coach or assistant coach at either Beechcroft or another City program will take over that job. The last few years, Beechcroft has had lots of players capable of playing for programs like Ohio Dominican, Urbana, etc.
Sports programs in the City League usually are built around momentum. Once a program gets rolling, some of the best potential athletes usually open-enroll to keep the success going.
Ward was one of the best coaches in the City the last few years, so it should be interesting to see if the best athletes in the north/northeast side of Columbus begin funneling more to Northland or Brookhaven or if the new Beechcroft coach will be able to keep what Tom Dunlap started and what Ward continued.