Paul Jenne resigned June 17 as coach of the Hilliard Darby High School football, citing personal reasons which he did not share with athletics director Chip Ebert.

Paul Jenne resigned June 17 as coach of the Hilliard Darby High School football, citing personal reasons which he did not share with athletics director Chip Ebert.

After the players completed a weight-training session two days later, principal Ryan McClure and Ebert announced Jenne's resignation to the team and introduced defensive coordinator John Santagata as Jenne's successor.

"We were shocked," senior wide receiver Austin Jenkins said. "No one on the team saw it coming and none of us know why (Jenne) quit. All they told us was that it was for personal reasons."

Santagata was the freshman coach from 2003-05, a defensive back coach in 2006 and the defensive coordinator last season.

"I'm fortunate to be surrounded by great people and great coaches and kids," Santagata said. "This is something I've always wanted to do, and it feels good that our principal and athletics director picked me right away. The kids are pushing themselves real hard in the weight room, and I feel optimistic about our future."

In four seasons, Jenne led Darby to a 26-17 overall record and a 10-10 record in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Panthers went 6-4 in 2005 for their first winning season. Last year, Darby had its best season, going 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio to earn a share of its first league title along with Lancaster. The Panthers also qualified to the Division I playoffs for the first time and beat Upper Arlington 35-10 and Groveport 16-3 in the first two rounds before losing to Dublin Coffman 35-28 in a regional final.

"It's sad to see him go because he loves coaching, but he said it was a personal decision and he had to do was right for his family," said graduate Jeremy Ebert, who will continue his career at Northwestern. "He was like a father figure to all of us. We were close, like a family, and that's a big part of why we were successful."

Jenne didn't return several phone calls seeking comment on his resignation.

"Paul said his reasons for resigning were very personal, and I didn't try to pry at all," Chip Ebert said. "He had been reassigned to teach science at Heritage (Middle School) after all of the cuts that were made in our district, and he's resigned from that job as well."

Ebert and McClure interviewed Santagata for the vacancy June 17 and offered him the job the same day. Santagata's hiring is pending school board approval at its meeting July 9.

"John was already our defensive coordinator and he's very well-respected by the players and other coaches, so it was almost a no-brainer," Chip Ebert said. "When your coach resigns this late in the offseason, there's no time for (a long search for a replacement). The kids already know John because he coached most of them when they were freshmen. He's very knowledgeable about the defensive side of the game and we think he'll do a good job."

Santagata said he has been involved in football for almost his entire life. He earned first-team all-Mahoning Valley Conference playing linebacker his junior and senior seasons at Poland Seminary before graduating in 1989.

Santagata went on to earn a bachelor's in education from Youngstown State in 1995, and he taught at North Lima South Range Middle School from 1995-97. During that period, Santagata was coach of the Poland Middle School team from 1992-97.

Santagata was a special education teacher at Weigel Elementary from 1997-99 before serving as the dean of students and teaching social studies at Cincinnati Colerain Middle School from 1999-2003. From 1997-2003, Santagata was the coach of the Colerain Middle School football team before leaving to teach social studies and coach at Darby.

"My class finished 9-1 under coach Santagata when we were freshmen, so it's good to know that we're getting a good coach," Jenkins said. "After they announced that he would be our coach, he talked about how things will stay the same here. He does want us to be more disciplined, which should be good for us. I think he'll keep us heading in the right direction."

Although Santagata will be a head coach at the varsity level for the first time, three of his assistants have been head coaches -- former Mechanicsburg coach Mike Owens and former Briggs coaches Pete Diehl and Mario Jackson.

"It's nice to have so many former head coaches on our staff because they've got a lot of experience in different situations," Santagata said. "They should be a big help to our program."

Santagata will be Darby's fourth coach in the program's 12 years, following Tom McCurdy (16-44 from 1997-2002), John Riggs (0-10 in 2003) and Jenne.

"I plan on being here for many years and my goal is to strengthen this program from the ground up," Santagata said. "Last year was a great season for us, and we want to build off of that. The main thing is I just want the kids to be prepared and work hard. If they do that, good things will happen for us."