The coaching pedigree of new Northland football coach Ryan Sayers goes back to before he was even born.
Sayers’ grandfather, Phil Annarella, coached Warren Harding to the 1990 Division I state championship and won 250 games during a career that lasted more than 40 years.
From 2007-18, Annarella was the coach at Youngstown Austintown-Fitch, where Sayers developed into an all-state linebacker before graduating in 2014.
Sayers went on to play on the defensive line for Ohio Dominican, including serving as a captain as a senior, and has been an assistant the past three seasons at Pickerington North.
Annarella died in June 2019.
“I’ve been around football my whole life, just coming from a rich background,” Sayers said. “I was on (North coach) Nate (Hillerich’s) staff for three years and Nate is an unbelievable guy. I give Nate more recognition than anybody else in this world because he taught me everything I know about this head-coaching stuff. He’s made me kind of into the coach that I am. He’s instilled in me how to build a culture and how to deal with on- and off-the-field issues.”
The 24-year-old Sayers was named Northland’s coach Feb. 13. He succeeds Brian Staats, who stepped down to become the passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Alderson Broaddus University.
In three seasons under Staats, the Vikings went 19-11, including sharing the City League-North Division title in 2017 and winning it outright in 2018.
Northland went 4-6 last fall while Sayers was serving as defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator for North. The Panthers went 6-5 and made the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, and they also were Region 3 runners-up in 2017.
“He’s a young guy with a wide range of experience,” Northland athletics director Mario Bowles said. “He looked very good on paper. It took us several days and we had some other strong candidates, but Mr. Sayers had a high amount of passion and energy. I’m definitely excited to have him with the Viking family and we’re looking forward to getting him with our staff. He was very excited and very passionate about meeting our young people. We think he’ll do a phenomenal job for us.”
Sayers, who also was the strength and conditioning coordinator at North, has a brother, Ron Sayers, who is on staff with the OHSAA as an assistant director of membership services.
Their father, David Sayers, also worked as a coach at the youth level while Ryan was growing up and helped provide a strong work ethic.
“I (often would get into) the weight room at 4:30 (a.m.) before the (North players) were there and they’d be pulling up at 5:30 saying, ‘Coach Sayers is crazy getting here so early,’ ” Ryan said. “For me it’s about relentless effort, attitude and consistency. Ten percent of what we do is about football and 90 percent is growing these boys into young men.
“We’re going to be run as a first-class program. I want us to be in the Columbus community. I have a vision of a five-year plan for Northland, not just a one-year plan or a two-year plan. My thing is getting people to come out and play football. I want to fundraise and get them rides. My goal is to have every kid want to be a part of our program. ... I want everybody to be excited about our program. Northland has a tradition. My goal is to get the community excited about the Northland Vikings.”