Notebook: Jake Kuhner eager to tackle new role leading Canal Winchester football team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Jake Kuhner has been named football coach at Canal Winchester.

Intrigued by what he called “the many positives” within the Canal Winchester football program and an opportunity to return to the OCC, Jake Kuhner didn’t have to think for long about pursuing a chance to lead the Indians.

“The more I looked into it, the more I saw definite positives. … At the end of the day, it was a no-brainer,” said Kuhner, who was named coach Feb. 8. “You look at the players they have and the coaching staff, it’s a tenured staff and they’ve been there through ups and downs and coaching changes. That speaks volumes for the guys who have stayed on and muscled through. They’re a good group and I’m excited to work with them.”

Kuhner, a 2003 Pickerington graduate, comes to Canal Winchester after three seasons at Watkins Memorial in which he went 11-17. He went 14-16 at Whitehall from 2012-14 as the Rams won the MSL-Ohio championship in his final year.

Kuhner, who was a two-time state placer in wrestling and three-time state qualifier in track and field in high school, replaces Josh Stratton. Stratton resigned in November after going 29-13 in four seasons with three Division II playoff appearances and OCC-Capital Division championships in 2018 and 2019.

Kuhner also was Pickerington North wrestling coach from 2015-18 and served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2017.

“Coach Kuhner is a mentally tough coach who will bring self-discipline and dedication,” athletics director Pat Durbin said in a statement announcing Kuhner’s hire. “Coach Kuhner exudes confidence and a winning attitude full of energy, drive and passion.”

The Indians went 5-5 overall and 2-4 in the league last fall and earned the their first playoff win since 2012 when they defeated Mount Vernon 45-7 in a Region 7 first-round game.

Kuhner currently teaches special education at Watkins Memorial and also coaches the Warriors girls track team.

“I love the challenge and am really looking forward to getting back in (the OCC),” Kuhner said. “They have had great teams against a tough schedule. I’m really excited about getting over there.”

Kevian Poindexter and Canal Winchester will open the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 at Lancaster. The Golden Gales are coached by Kent Riggs, who led the Indians from 1987-2014.

•The Canal Winchester and Groveport Madison boys basketball teams will begin the Division I district tournament on the road, and one of the games will feature a deep tie between the opponents.

Seeded 24th of 49 teams, the Indians will visit 19th-seeded Lancaster in the first round Feb. 23. The Golden Gales are in their fifth season under coach Kent Riggs, who led the Indians from 1987-2014 and was Canal Winchester’s athletics director from 1998-2016.

This will be the teams’ first meeting since Dec. 30, 2008, when the Indians won 49-43.

The Indians were 9-6 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital before playing Delaware on Feb. 12.

Riggs went 422-194 at Canal Winchester with seven MSL championships, five district titles and the program’s only regional title in 2000.

The Gales were 10-6 before playing Pickerington Central on Feb. 12 and were ranked as high as 10th in the state in early January. Riggs was 31-76 at Lancaster before Feb. 12, but the team’s record has improved in each of the past four seasons.

The winner will play 18th-seeded Northland in the second round Feb. 26.

Groveport is seeded 33rd and will visit 20th-seeded Marysville in the first round Feb. 23. The winner will face 13th-seeded Newark or 47th-seeded Chillicothe in a second-round game Feb. 26.

The Cruisers were 5-11 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Newark on Feb. 12.

Lacrosse was approved by the school board Feb. 8 as a club sport at Canal Winchester starting this spring.

Victor Paini, president of the Canal Winchester Lacrosse Association, said he is anticipating about 25 players this spring at both the high school and middle school levels.

Lacrosse’s status as a club sport will allow athletes to letter, although the team must fund itself.

The CWLA fielded a high school club team in 2019 and it was approved as a middle school sport last season, although no games were played because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave