Marysville's Cotter among area's new coaches
During his five-year tenure as Fairbanks High School football coach, Morgan Cotter led the program to its first playoff berth in seven years in his first season in 2007 and never lost more than three games in a season.
He anticipates returning to coach his alma mater, Marysville, will pose a different set of challenges this fall.
"At Fairbanks, we'd have 35 guys on a team and the overall talent pool is smaller," said Cotter, a 1995 Marysville graduate who served as defensive coordinator for the Monarchs from 2003-06. "I had one or two guys that could play at the OCC level. In the OCC, every coaching staff has an experienced, good coaching staff. You have to be well put together and detail-oriented."
Under former coach Jeff Gafford, Marysville went 26-25 with one playoff appearance in five seasons. The Monarchs went 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season. Their last playoff appearance came in 2008.
Cotter is one of nine new coaches among football programs in the ThisWeek coverage area. He's one of just three new coaches in the 32-team OCC, with the others being Mike Owens at Franklin Heights and Rodger Elander at Westerville North.
Owens went 0-30 in three seasons as North's coach but left in the offseason to take over at Franklin Heights, which went 1-9 last season and has gone 1-19 in two seasons since returning to the field in 2010. The Falcons and the other three schools from the South-Western City Schools district -- Central Crossing, Grove City and Westland -- did not have football in 2009 because of a failed levy.
Elander takes over a North team that has lost 35 consecutive games and last posted a non-losing season in 2005. The Warriors' last win came Sept. 19, 2008, against Westerville Central (21-17).
The Columbus City League has four new coaches.
Former Ohio State running back Butler B'ynote' is coaching Briggs, which went 13-17 in three seasons under Derek Katris, including 4-6 last fall.
Mark Shaffer has taken over at Centennial, replacing longtime coach Pat Sergio. The Stars were 54-196 in 25 seasons under Sergio and haven't posted a winning season since 2001.
Former Eastmoor Academy player Keith Dimmy is now leading Columbus South, which went 4-46 over the last five seasons, and Don Poff has taken over the program at Whetstone, which was 19-21 in four seasons under Jim Worden.
Other new coaches in the ThisWeek coverage area are Darby Riley at Northridge, Joel Cutler at Ready and Jake Kuhner at Whitehall.
•NEW OCC SETUP -- In addition to being a head coach in the OCC for the first time, Cotter is tasked with Marysville's move from the OCC-Cardinal Division to the OCC-Central.
The OCC-Central also includes Hilliard Davidson, which has made the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons, Dublin Coffman, which has been in the postseason five of the last six seasons, and Upper Arlington, which has been to the playoffs five of the last seven seasons.
The other new team in the OCC-Central is Olentangy Liberty, which hasn't made the playoffs the last two years but did the previous six seasons.
The OCC-Cardinal still includes Westerville Central and Westerville South, both of which shared the league title with Liberty last season. Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Darby, both of which went 7-3 last fall, move in from the OCC-Capital and the OCC-Central, respectively. Worthington Kilbourne also moves in from the OCC-Central.
"I think our league just got considerably tougher," Bradley coach Mike LoParo said.
Switching places with Bradley and now competing in the OCC-Capital will be Olentangy, which last made the playoffs in 2008.
The OCC-Ohio was unaffected by the conference's latest realignment.
Next season, Canal Winchester will move into the OCC in place of Watkins Memorial, which will be leaving to join the new Licking County League.
•VERBALLY COMMITTED -- Thirty-four central Ohio players signed letters of intent in February to play for Football Bowl Subdivision or Football Championship Subdivision college programs, and the past six months have been filled with verbal commitments for members of the 2013 class.
Eight players from the area are heading to Big Ten Conference schools, including three who will go to Michigan in Pickerington North's Jake Butt (TE), Pickerington Central's Taco Charlton (DL) and Marion-Franklin's Jaron Dukes (WR).
Walnut Ridge's Rob Wheelwright (WR) has verbally committed to Wisconsin and Groveport's D.J. Smoot (DL), Olentangy's Austin Schmidt (OL) and Darby's Caleb Day (DB) have verbally committed to Illinois.
New Albany's Darron Lee (DB) became the first area player from the 2013 class to verbally commit to Ohio State.
Others to verbally commit to BCS schools are Dublin Jerome's Donovan Wilson (RB) with Georgia Tech and Hartley's Jacob Matuska (TE) with Notre Dame.
Also making commitments are Pickerington North's Chris Huhn (OL) with Western Kentucky, Groveport's Durrell Wood (OL) and Coffman's James Walsh (QB) with Ohio University, Reynoldsburg's Mykel Traylor-Bennett (WR) with Cincinnati and Hartley's Ja'Wuan Woodley (LB) with Toledo.