Commentary

Right football coach vital for success

By

A glance at the five central Ohio high school football programs still alive in the postseason last weekend didn't immediately lend itself to much in the way of commonality.

The three public schools -- Hilliard Davidson, Marion-Franklin and West Jefferson -- are located in suburban Columbus, on the south side of Columbus and in a village to the west of Columbus.

The two private schools that advanced to state semifinals were Hartley, which draws students from the eastern part of Columbus, and Ready, whose athletes are from the city's west side.

A deeper look at those programs, however, shows they share two important aspects when it comes to building football programs: Stability and tradition.

All five have been playoff regulars over the years, in some cases before their current coaches took over.

As central Ohio fans go online to catch up on the postseason, there is a web link beyond the game stories that should be of interest.

Since the regular season ended Nov. 1, Canal Winchester, Gahanna, Harvest Prep, Lakewood, Newark and Olentangy Orange have placed head coaching vacancies on OHSAA.org.

Grove City, Upper Arlington and Westland also will have new coaches next year.

A couple high-profile jobs usually come open every year, but the current turnover in central Ohio is beyond anything that has occurred in recent memory.

Canal Winchester made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2012 before stumbling to a 0-10 finish this fall. Gahanna, Orange and UA each last made the playoffs in 2011.

Those four openings, combined with Grove City -- which has been moving in the right direction since returning from a one-year absence in 2009 caused by a South-Western City Schools levy failure -- should be attractive to a veteran coach looking to make a jump to a new program or an assistant ready for a promotion.

Lakewood, Newark and Westland all have struggled the last several years, while Harvest Prep still is looking for its first playoff appearance.

The one thing all of those programs have in common is they are seeking the consistent success of this year's area state semifinalists.

Davidson made the playoffs twice in the early 1990s before Brian White took over in 1999. His program features disciplined team play built around consistent offensive and defensive systems, and the Wildcats have been to state semifinals five times since 2005.

Marion-Franklin was making its third state semifinal appearance in five years despite the limitations in the City League.

Hartley always was solid under former coach Dick Geyer, but coach Brad Burchfield had the Hawks in their third state semifinal in four years with a power-running system and speedy athletes.

Ready has a second-year coach in Joel Cutler who inherited a team coming off back-to-back 4-6 finishes, but the Silver Knights had made the playoffs seven times in 14 seasons before Larry Wolf retired after the 2011 season.

The best example of why the programs with coaching vacancies have reason to hope might be West Jefferson.

The Roughriders, who went 0-10 in 2002 in Shawn Buescher's first season, were 5-5 within two seasons and regional runners-up by his fifth year. They have reached a regional final four times since then and this season advanced to a state semifinal for the first time since 1982.

Because building tradition takes years of success, the programs with coaching vacancies first must create stability.

That only can come from bringing in the right coach.

Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.

Comments