Deke Hocker is new to St. Charles Preparatory School, but the newly hired football coach knows several of its students.
Hocker is an assistant principal at St. Paul School in Westerville and has been a teacher there since 2011.
Now, he's ready to move on to another school in the Diocese of Columbus and take over its football program. Hocker is excited for his first head-coaching opportunity after spending the last five seasons as offensive coordinator at Buckeye Valley.
"St. Charles is a Catholic school and it's a special place in terms of tradition, history, expectations and standards," said Hocker, who was named coach March 1. "That's what I told the boys. You have high expectations, but you'll be rewarded for your effort."
Hocker replaces Bob Jacoby, who resigned in January after two seasons. The Cardinals went 4-16 overall and 1-4 in the CCL under Jacoby, including 1-9 overall and 0-3 in the league last fall.
"When we were looking for a coach, we were concerned with 'the process,' " athletics director Dave Lawler said. "That's the process of being prepared and ready. We wanted a coach who would get the kids excited about working hard in practice and excited about going to the weight room, and Deke is that coach.
"The (selection) committee was impressed by Deke's leadership qualities, communication skills and innovative coaching ideas. He is a coach, and more importantly a person that the players, parents and the St. Charles community can get excited about."
Hocker is a 1996 graduate of Crestline High School and 2000 graduate of Otterbein.
Buckeye Valley went 23-27 during Hocker's time on the coaching staff. Last fall, the Barons finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference-Blue Division.
"(At Buckeye Valley, the offense was) a spread with a one-back (shotgun)," Hocker said. "We also had some two-back stuff and some perimeter passing. We tried to spread the ball around as much as possible and be as balanced as possible and put ourselves in position to be successful."
Hocker was a quarterback for his first two seasons at Otterbein before moving to defensive back. After graduating, he began his coaching career as the wide receivers coach at Western Kentucky before returning to Otterbein to serve as quarterbacks coach, passing game coordinator and special teams coordinator.
"The lifestyle of college coaching wasn't allowing me to be in a position to be a husband and father the way I wanted to be," said Hocker, who lives in Lewis Center. "So I stepped away for a few years before going to Buckeye Valley."
Hocker will be a guidance counselor and health teacher at St. Charles beginning this fall.
"For most of the boys in there, it was the first time that they had laid eyes on me so I don't expect them to fully trust me right away," he said. "That takes time to build relationships. I have known several kids in there since they were this (hand to the knee) high.
"The best teams I have played and coached on had the best relationships. They know what you are saying is true because of knowing each other. Having that past relationship can help validate what you are saying."
Etheredge places 55th in district bowling
Freshman Alex Etheredge rolled a 466 three-game series to finish 55th of 105 participants in the Division I district bowling tournament March 3 at HP Lanes.
Junior Grant Flory also advanced to district for the Cardinals, but did not participate.
The top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, March 9, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Northland's Cameron Singer (656) was medalist and advanced to state along with Groveport's Chaz Wilson (653, second overall) and Olentangy Liberty's Daniel Valz (596, fifth).
At sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, Etheredge (521, 31st of 220) and Flory (509, tied for 39th) led the way for St. Charles, which finished 22nd (3,118) of 38 teams behind champion Westerville Central (3,836) as the top 16 squads advanced to district.
The Cardinals won their first league title by tying DeSales for first in the CCL at 6-2, ahead of Hartley (4-4), Watterson (4-4) and Ready (0-8).
St. Charles finished 13-4 overall and placed third (9-3) in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division behind Whitehall (12-0) and Walnut Ridge (10-2).
William Ullom (162.9 average) and Chris Walker (177.7) were the team's only seniors.
Junior Dominck Koeth (167.0) is expected to return along with Etheredge (team-high 179.2) and Flory (174.5).
Wrestlers fall short of reaching state
The wresting team had four competitors in the Division I district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby, but none finished in the top four of his weight class to advance to state Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Seniors Kenton Colvin (138 pounds) and Ian Noonan (126) and juniors Sean Grim (160) and Steve Metzger (145) all went 1-2 at district.
The Cardinals tied Lima Senior for 29th (8 points) behind champion Lancaster (77) as 38 teams scored.
Defensive effort aids hockey team
Fifth-year coach Rob Sangster said the hockey team played well despite losing the majority of its scoring from last season.
The Cardinals finished 20-12-1-1 overall after losing to fifth-seeded Upper Arlington 1-0 in a district quarterfinal Feb. 24.
"We were a strong defensive team, and we scored enough to win 20 games," Sangster said. "But when we lost, it was because we didn't score enough.
"The UA (district) game really showed our Achilles heel. We outshot them 27-16, but just couldn't bury the puck. You have to credit them for how well they played."
St. Charles was seeded third in the district and had a first-round bye before defeating 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange 5-2 on Feb. 18 in the second round. It lost to Liberty 5-3 in a Blue Jackets Cup semifinal Feb. 9.
The Cardinals played well in big games, losing to top-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius 2-1 on Dec. 15 in the Parma Padua Holiday Tournament. They also handed Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division champion Dublin Jerome its only league loss, 3-2 on Dec. 9.
The Celtics won the CHC-Red with 30 points and a 15-1 record, followed by Liberty (27, 13-2-1), St. Charles (24, 11-3-1-1), UA (20, 9-5-0-2) and New Albany (12, 6-10).
The 11-player senior class was led by goaltenders Jacob Badger (89.9 save-percentage in CHC) and Ben Carey (93.8), defensemen Noah Baker (4 goals, 8 assists in CHC), Joe Halsey (4 goals) and Zach Lynch (6 goals) and forwards Colin Hobart (5 goals), Jake Kiger (4 goals) and Graham McPherson (6 goals, 9 assists).
Sophomore forward Marco Giambrone (10 goals, 8 assists) led the team in scoring in league play. Also expected back are juniors Matt Martin (forward) and Nic Zimmerman (defenseman) and sophomores Nick Demers (defenseman) and Owen Zimmerman (forward).
"We lost (12) games, but in the last five years we have only averaged five losses per season," Sangster said. "We lost pretty much all of our scoring from last year and played well enough to win 20 games. That shows what a strong defensive system can do for you."
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Record: 13-4 overall, 9-3 (third) in COHSBC-D, 6-2 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: William Ullom and Chris Walker
*Key returnees: Alex Etheredge, Grant Flory and Dominck Koeth
*Record: 20-12-1-1 overall, 11-3-1-1 (third) in CHC-Red
*Seniors lost: Jacob Badger, Noah Baker, Ben Carey, Joseph Halsey, Will Hoag, Colin Hobart, Jacob Kiger, Noah Kiger, Matthew Lomeo, Zach Lynch and Graham McPherson
*Key returnees: Nick Demers, Marco Giambrone, Matt Martin, Nic Zimmerman and Owen Zimmerman