Humphrey Simmons ended his high school football career with a bang.

On Nov. 6, 1998, the then-senior for Independence forced a fumble on a kickoff and returned the ball 40 yards for a touchdown as the 76ers beat Beechcroft 33-7 to finish 6-4 and end a string of three consecutive losing seasons.

Also a standout basketball player for Independence, Simmons has devoted much of his time over the past decade to coaching basketball and other sports at Beechcroft.

Simmons, who has helped the Cougars’ football program behind the scenes in recent years with weight-training and conditioning, has an opportunity to put a much larger stamp on the program beginning this coming fall after being named coach.

Simmons replaces Lee Snyder, who coached Beechcroft for only one season.

“Just seeing how high school sports go, both (basketball and football) will complement each other,” said Simmons, who played cornerback and wide receiver, among other positions, for the 76ers. “If you’ve got a good football program, some of those guys will try out for basketball. When you have a winning season, that will carry over to basketball. I played football my whole life and football is my first love.”

Simmons plans to remain as coach of the boys basketball team, which beat Eastmoor Academy 39-36 in a Division II district final March 7 to improve to 18-6 and advance to play Kettering Alter in a regional semifinal March 12. However, the day of the regional semifinal, the OHSAA indefinitely postponed the remainder of the postseason because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Simmons also is an assistant girls track coach at Beechcroft and had been coaching the Cougars’ boys cross country team.

Simmons, who will join Eastmoor’s Jim Miranda as the only coaches in the ThisWeek coverage area to be a head football and boys basketball coach at one school simultaneously, takes over a football program that was coached by Tom Dunlap from 1985-2008, Bruce Ward from 2009-13 and Trevor White from 2014-16.

Simmons, however, will be the Cougars’ fifth coach in as many seasons.

After going 10-2 and reaching the Division III, Region 11 playoffs in 2016 under White, Beechcroft finished 5-4 in 2017 under B.J. Queen, 6-4 in 2018 under Charles Gibson and 7-3 last season under Snyder. The Cougars went 5-1 in the City League-North Division last fall to place second behind Centennial (6-0).

“Just the biggest thing is consistency,” Simmons said. “For the last couple years, nothing against the coaches who had headed the team before, but when you have four coaches in four years, that’s hard. (The 2020 senior class) had a new coach every year, so there was no consistency in that part.

“The tradition alone will just help because Beechcroft was always known for having a great program. Once we get the consistency and they understand what type of program this is and buy into this system, (that will help).”

Maurice Hale, a 2013 Beechcroft graduate who was named Division II district Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, will remain on staff as offensive coordinator.

Other assistants will include Lonnie Simmons, a 2000 Northland graduate who played for Michigan State and Cincinnati; Darryl Angel, a 1995 Independence graduate who played for Tiffin; and Wallace Hale, an East Cleveland Shaw graduate who played football and wrestled for Southern California.

“Coach Simmons will do an amazing job taking over this program,” Maurice Hale said. “Simmons is a City guy who loves tradition. He has a vision to get Beechcroft back to their winning tradition. Once he sets his mind on something, he’s going all in and it’s going to get done. I believe in him taking over this program and am very excited to be on the sidelines with him.

“He has shown a lot of dedication and commitment to the Beechcroft family and the community. … His passion for developing kids not only on the field and court but off it as well is something that I believe in and something I enjoy being a part of.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek