Matt Shaul has firsthand memories of the past success enjoyed by the Grove City football team.
A 2001 graduate and former quarterback in the program, he’s looking to guide the Dawgs back to those glory days after the school board approved him as coach Feb. 10.
Shaul, 37, takes over for Tennyson Varney, who stepped down after three seasons to accept the same position at Hamilton Township, which is his alma mater.
Grove City has had six consecutive losing seasons and has lost 22 consecutive league games. The Dawgs last qualified for the postseason in 2008.
“I’m really excited for what the future holds for our program,” Shaul said. “I was very lucky to have played in the era that I did and grew up in this town and with this community that has such a rich tradition. I’m very lucky and blessed to have a fortunate childhood revolving around Dawgs football.”
Shaul is a math teacher at the school and has been an assistant in the program since 2014.
“We liked his long-term experience with the program and his ideas for re-energizing the program, trying to bring back a lot of what the community truly does want,” assistant principal and athletics director Kris Sander said.
Shaul played quarterback for the Dawgs in his senior season under then-coach Brian Cross.
“Coach Cross has been a great influence in my life and in my coaching career,” Shaul said. “I greatly look up to him.”
While Shaul was in the program, Grove City reached a Division I regional final in 1999 and a Division I regional semifinal in 1998.
He then played quarterback at Muskingum, from which he graduated in 2005. He was a graduate assistant at Muskingum for two years and an assistant coach from 2007-12.
Shaul also coached at Franklin Heights for two seasons before joining the Grove City program.
“There hasn’t been any big team meetings or pageantry around it,” Shaul said of his hire. “I’m very much a blue-collar-worker type of person, so our kids just continue to work out four days a week. We work hard. We talk about the culture that we’re trying to develop and keep moving forward.”
Under Varney, the Dawgs finished with a 2-28 record. They were 1-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division this past season, defeating Central Crossing 18-15 on Sept. 13 to snap a 17-game losing streak.
“We had some quality candidates and it came down to that final interview,” Sander said. “It was important to some members of the community that we hire within, but we tried to leave it open so that we got the best candidate for our students.”