A big hire ahead for BL

Buckeye Local High School has a really important hire coming up.

The Panthers will be looking for their third head football coach in three years.

I know not everyone understands the importance of this next move.

But, it’s a big deal.

A real big deal.

“I am a big believer that participating in organized athletics — especially team sports — can teach values and life lessons that youngsters can use in their teenage years and beyond,” Buckeye Local Athletic Director Sam Jones said. “Athletics teach discipline, hard work, sacrifice, teamwork, dealing with success and failure, setting and striving for goals, value of practice and preparation, and how to  overcoming adversity.”

Overcoming adversity is an understatement.

People were clamoring for former coach Phil Pest to no longer hold the position.

That happened.

Remember, I have said in this column many, many times — be careful what you wish for.

John Holman was hired and that experiment lasted one season and it wasn’t good in many ways.

“We need to select a coach who possesses the above-mentioned qualities,” Jones said. “We are looking for someone who demonstrates them and who leads by example, not just as a coach, but also as a school and community leader.

“Our motto has been to “Restore the Roar!” It sounds easy. It’s a great slogan. But nothing worthwhile comes easy.

“It takes baby steps. We are striving for a winner here.”

Don’t ever think it’s fun to lose.

And, to lose like Buckeye Local did in going 0-10 means there was little fun.

The Panthers never scored more than two touchdowns in a game and were outscored 526-70.

They were in one game going into the fourth quarter — a 16-6 Week 9 home loss to Oak Glen.

Other than that, the closest game was a 24-point loss to Edison in Week 3.

Buckeye Local gave up 52 or more points six times. The team had been outscored by 900 points in the three previous seasons.

“Our girls’ basketball team played in two championship games last year,” Jones said. “The school and community support was tremendous.

“Economic times are tough around the Ohio Valley. I spent eight years working at Wheeling-Pitt. The mills are closed. Our population is dropping, not just here at Buckeye, but in the entire Ohio Valley. Our community is hurting. People are looking for something to rally around.

“Our community support has always been great. Our band is second to none. We owe it to our kids and our community to become competitive in football again. It may not be next year but it will happen. And when it happens it will be a great thing for our kids and our community.”

The new coach will be faced with challenges not all schools face.

The biggest challenge is the enormity of the school district.

I was talking to a local coach about the position and his first reaction was the area in which the school draws its students.

This coach suggested a way to combat the large area and the fact not all football players have licenses was to have multiple weight rooms, in addition to the main weight room at the high school.

One in Brilliant. One in Yorkville. You could pick another one or two locations.

These could be garages or sheds.

This would allow players not able to drive an opportunity to walk to the workouts two or three days a week.

This tends to eliminate excuses/reasons why players cannot make a workout during the summer.

It also means a few more hours on the horizon for the new head coach and his staff.

Yet, for some reason, I think they will be all in.

Does this mean a local coach?

In my opinion, it’s a must.

And, Jones agrees.

“This is a personal opinion,” he said. “I believe that we need to hire a coach with OVAC ties. I believe that we need someone who understands our local culture and our history.

“We are a diverse district. With that being said, there are many challenges and also benefits. We have a great history here at Buckeye Local.

“We want to restore it. Restore the Roar, not ignore it or change it. We are proud of our Navy and Silver tradition here. We want a coach who understands our history and our traditions.”

That history is steep in success, although not lately.

The Panthers were last in the playoffs in 2009, a 28-20 home loss to Canal Fulton Northwest.

The two regular season losses that year were 23-20 to Indian Creek and 20-18 at John Marshall, both on the road.

Buckeye Local opened the 2009 season with wins over Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville. Six of the eight victories were against teams with winning records.

The Panthers last had a winning season in 2011, when they went 6-4 — one loss by four points and two by one point each.

Buckeye Local finished 4-6 in 2012, losing four of its last five — the final three to playoff teams.

It has been 2-38 since then, losing 22 in a row. The last win was 22-12 over 0-10 East Liverpool on Oct. 17, 2014.

Whoever steps into this position will do with eyes wide open.

There will be no secrets to Restoring the Roar.

Respect.

Hard work.

Understanding that the team is bigger than any individual.

And, to take a page from Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck — Row the Boat.

“Row the Boat is a method of how our whole program will fit together,” Fleck said in a May 15, 2013, article by David Drew on mlive.com. “It’s also a saying that has such a simple meaning, but there’s so much behind it in terms of a way for the whole community, the whole faculty, administration, players and student body can rally behind something greater than itself.

“I had ‘Row the Boat’ a long time ago, but I never brought it out. It’s very simple when you break it down. There are three parts to rowing the boat. There is the oar, which is the energy behind rowing the boat. There is boat, which is the actual sacrifice, either our team or the administration or the boosters or the audience or whoever is willing to sacrifice for this program. There is also the compass. Every single person that comes in contact with our football program, fans or not, they are all going for one common goal and that is success.”

You will hear Fleck’s name a lot coming up with the opening at Texas, LSU and a few others that will become available.

The bottom line is the incoming head coach and his staff must change the culture and that is never easy.

“Respect has to be given before it is earned,” Jones said. “A winning culture is changed one day at a time. We have turned the corner in our wrestling program. We have a very good young boys’ basketball coach. We have a new staff in place in baseball. As with most schools, there are only so many athletes to go around. We need to share them among all our sports. Our coaches need to work together and support one another for the common goal of our kids.

“We have a pretty good junior high staff in place. Our football team won the BMC championship this year. We expect to be very competitive once again in basketball and wrestling. This is where culture change begins. As busy as a coach is, he or she needs to take the time to monitor and shape their future players here.

“Open enrollment has hurt Buckeye Local. We border many districts. There are many kids on neighboring teams that have Buckeye roots. We need to keep our own. If we can string together a couple of good seasons, hopefully this trend will end. Our academics here are tremendous.

“If we can get a little boost in the right direction I firmly believe that we will be successful.”

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter @HSDTsports)

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