The last time Jake Kuhner was on the sidelines as a head football coach, he was celebrating a league championship.

He’s hoping his next job brings similar highlights over the coming years.

Kuhner, who served as Whitehall’s coach from 2012-14, leading the Rams to the MSL-Ohio Division championship during his final season there, recently was named Watkins Memorial’s new coach.

Last fall, the 2003 Pickerington graduate served as the defensive coordinator at Pickerington North.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a head football coach after my experience at Whitehall,” Kuhner said. “My vision for the program is to keep a consistent theme from the little league, middle school and to the high school, which is winning, scheme, coaching and learning the game of football and why things are done the way they’re done. It also reminds me of an early Pickerington when I was growing up through little league.”

Kuhner takes over a program that went 43-58 with one playoff appearance in 10 seasons under former coach Jeff Severino, who retired.

After Whitehall went 3-7 in Kuhner’s first season, the Rams improved to 5-5 in 2013 and to 6-4 in 2014, including winning five of their final six games.

He then stepped down to take over as North’s wrestling coach, a position he’s held since the 2015-16 season.

A two-time state placer in wrestling and a three-time state qualifier in track and field at Pickerington, Kuhner went on to play football and compete in track at Miami University.

“My philosophies and expectations will be the same as they have always been,” he said. “(We’ll have) multiple personnel packages, getting as many kids on the field that can help us win games, attitude and a winning and successful mentality. We’re extremely excited and ready to take on this great opportunity.”

The Panthers went 10-3 and were Division I, Region 3 runners-up last fall with Kuhner serving under first-year coach Nate Hillerich.

Kyle James, a 2003 Pickerington graduate who went on to play for Indiana State, is taking over as North’s defensive coordinator.

“Jake was one of the first guys I called when getting the Pickerington North job,” Hillerich said. “He obviously knows football, but his greatest strength is building relationships with kids. He’ll do a great job at Watkins.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek