The first thing Ed Terwilliger did after telling his Olentangy High School football team he was retiring as coach was go home and mow the lawn.
Terwilliger will have time now to keep it in tip-top shape, because that's where he believes he left the program he ran for 24 years.
Following through on a decision he'd been pondering for a few years, Terwilliger met with school administrators May 6, then made his formal announcement in a meeting with most of the team May 9.
"Things are really good in our program right now," said Terwilliger, 56, who was 138-114 at Olentangy. "We have a great nucleus of players returning. We'll have 85 varsity guys and 40 freshmen, and our eighth-graders now were undefeated as seventh-graders. There's an outstanding staff to run things. I knew I wasn't going to do this forever, and I feel like it's just the right time to step aside."
Players took to social media almost immediately, sharing the news and their favorite memories of Terwilliger.
"I was pretty shocked," said senior Buchi Okafor, a first-team all-OCC-Capital Division cornerback last year who will play at Miami University. He missed the meeting because he was competing for the boys track and field team in the Delaware County Elite 8 meet.
"The same day, one of the coaches from Miami was at the school to talk to me and 'Coach T' didn't act like anything different was happening," Okafor said. "I remember when I transferred from Thomas Worthington as a sophomore, he walked me around the school and introduced me to teachers and talked to me about a whole bunch of stuff, not just football. He took an interest in everybody."
Terwilliger, a 1975 graduate of Nelsonville-York, played football at Ohio University and entered coaching immediately after graduating in 1979. He was an assistant at Glouster Trimble (1979), Westlake (1980-83) and Groveport (1984-88) before the lure of running a program -- albeit one that had been 0-10 in 1988 -- proved too strong to resist.
"I remember calling a (real estate agent) to give me the scoop on the (Lewis Center) area, and he said he thought there would be some growth up here," Terwilliger said. "No way in heck could I ever have predicted this. Not only has it been a great experience, but so many good things have happened on and off the field. We've survived two (high school) splits in 10 years (Liberty opened in 2003, followed by Orange in 2008), and still we're in a good place."
The Braves made the playoffs in 1992, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2012. Their best run was in 1999, when they beat Brookhaven 21-20 in the opening round of the Division II playoffs and Independence 35-21 in a regional semifinal before losing to Uniontown Lake 42-14 in a regional final.
Olentangy qualified for the postseason in Division I for the first time last fall and went 10-2 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Capital. The Braves earned the third seed in Region 3, defeating sixth-seeded Dublin Scioto 21-17 in the first round before losing to seventh-seeded Hilliard Davidson 29-14 in a semifinal.
"Last year was a huge step for our program," junior linebacker Tim Feasel said. "The way (Terwilliger) coached us, the way everything worked out, that was big for us. I don't know who the next coach will be, but I promise you we'll be doing the same things we've always done in the Olentangy program, and hopefully next year will be even better."
Terwilliger said he won't be a stranger at Olentangy football games this fall. He also plans to attend some girls soccer games, as his daughter, former Liberty and Ashland University standout Megan Kirsten, was named the Braves' coach in April.
"I'll be around," Terwilliger said. "I just wanted to make sure everything was ready for next year -- the workout schedule, 7-on-7, camps and the schedule (Olentangy opens Aug. 30 at Canal Winchester). It was just time for Ed to say, 'It's time.'"