Administrators and parents said they like what they have seen from Todd Fox at Norwalk, Kemmes Keys Jr. at New London and Ty Stevenson at Western Reserve.
All three coaches have local connections. Fox is a lifelong Huron County resident who graduated from Willard in 1991. Keys has lived in New London for many years. His wife Adrianne is a Wildcat alumna and their son Jaden is attending New London. Stevenson graduated from South Central in 1999.
In mid-May, the Western Reserve Local Schools board of education hired Stevenson as the Roughriders’ new football coach. The board also approved his one-year, limited teaching contract to continue as the middle and high school technology teacher.
“I think he will do a really nice job with the (football) program,” said Stoney Jarrett, whose freshman son, Jacob, plays wide receiver. “He’s laid back. He has some intensity to him. He seems real patient so far.”
Stevenson replaces Mike Stoll, who announced his retirement in the spring after more than 20 years as Western’s head coach and a 35-year teaching career. The ’Riders finished with an overall record of 119-95 in 21 seasons under Stoll. He led Western to two FC championships and two Division V playoff appearances, both in the 2010 and 2012 seasons.
Jarrett said Stevenson “relates to the kids really well” and his son looks forward to playing for him.
‘Very excited’ about hiring Keys
Keys comes to the New London football program, having been an assistant coach at Sandusky since 2001. He has two bachelor of science degrees from Ashland University — in criminal justice and sociology. Keys earned his master of arts in pastoral counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary.
“We are very excited about this hire,” New London Local Schools Superintendent Brad Romano said. “He has a very long coaching career behind him.”
After watching a recent seven-on-seven passing scrimmage, Romano said he was impressed with the Wildcats’ fundamentals, the players’ attitude and the culture that Keys has created in his short time.
“I think we will have a very quick turnaround in our program,” he added.
Fox exceeding expectations
In Norwalk, during a Feb. 22 special board meeting, the district hired Fox as the Truckers head coach and the guidance counselor for grades four through six.
“Todd has brought a lot of leadership, a lot of experience. He has done a lot of things when it comes to just building well-rounded individuals,” said Josh Schlotterer, Norwalk High School director student activities.
In addition the conditioning program and teaching the Truckers the Xs and Os, “he’s out there trying to develop leaders throughout the program,” Schlotterer added. He also praised Fox for his work ethic and “the relationships he’s built with the kids.”
“I’m just happy he’s involved in character-building,” said a mother of a junior on the team at this week’s seven-on-seven scrimmage against Western Reserve. “He is concerned about the whole person, not just the football program.”
Fox replaces Chris MacFarland, who coached the Truckers for nine years, going 49-44 overall. The 2013 team (9-1) made the playoffs for the first time since its 1974 Class AA state championship. Norwalk went 10-0 in the 2014 regular season for its third-ever Northern Ohio League title and hosted a first-round playoff game at Whitney Field for the first time.
Fox was the head coach at Division VII Tiffin Calvert for the past eight seasons. The Senecas went 56-36, with seven straight playoff appearances. Fox’s teams won first-round games in six of those seven seasons, including five straight years from 2011 through 2015.
“He’s just done an amazing job coming in (since) Day One, putting the time in. It’s difficult when you work in another district and having to go back and forth, but since the day he’s been hired, he’s been in here three or four days a week,” Schlotterer said.
The student activities director said there’s no doubt that Fox has exceeded expectations so far.
“I’ve been really impressed with what he’s done. I knew we were getting a good coach, but the more I’ve been around him, he’s better than I thought he was,” Schlotterer said. “On different days during his off-season program, they talk about building different leaders and developing better versions of themselves.”
While coaching, Fox has been acclimating himself for his job as guidance counselor.
“Being a coach I think will help him with that position. He’s been an administrator; he was an elementary (school) principal over there at (Tiffin) Calvert,” Schlotterer said. “You’re kind of a guidance counselor out there as a coach — those relationships you build, so I think he’s going to do an outstanding job.”
Previously, Norwalk had guidance counselors split their time between the middle and elementary schools. Schlotterer said that makes it a challenge to address the needs of the students in those buildings.
“It’s going to free up time for our middle-school guidance counselor,” Schlotterer said, referring to Stacy Thimke. “It’s going to be a big impact in our school. With guidance counselors, you can never have enough, really with some of the needs we have within our district.”
The Truckers spent spent three days and two nights at their camp in Sherrodsville, where they did team-building exercises.
Beyond teams learning football fundamentals, Schlotterer said he and Fox believe “the most important thing is building those relationships and those bonds.”
“I think that’s the biggest thing; if you get your kids to buy into your program, they will run through a wall for you and they need to know you care about them. They’re going to go out there and give it their all. We are very excited about the positivity within our program and where we’re going,” Schlotterer added.
Despite this being the first year of Fox building his program, Schlotterer said he is excited to see the Truckers take the field.
“I know we’re going to be a team that works hard, that represents the city and the school the right way. I know we’ve got the pieces to have a very good season (even) with the very tough schedule this year. We’re going to be competitive; we’re going to work hard day in and day out and we’re going to represent our city and our community in a very positive way.
“He’s ready to go. I know he’s chomping at the bit with the football season, but also educationally being a part of our community,” Schlotterer said.