RACINE, Ohio — Ready to kick up a storm.
At a recent meeting, the Southern Local School District Board of Education approved the hire of Cassady Willford as the varsity football coach.
Willford will be replacing his high school coach, Mike Chancey, who in two seasons led the Tornadoes to a 15-6 record and the program’s second-ever postseason appearence. Southern shut out four opponents, while going 4-0 in regular season non-conference games in Chancey’s two years with the Tornadoes.
“Coach Chancey left me a good group of guys,” Willford said. “We have 11 seniors returning, so we’re deep. We have about 18-to-20 showing up everyday for lifting, the kids are excited, the coaches are excited, it seems like even the community is excited. It’s going to be a little different pace offensively and defensively for them, but they’re stepping up quickly and learning.”
The Purple and Gold were 7-3 on the gridiron last fall, with two of their three losses coming to playoff teams.
Willford is a 2008 graduate of Meigs High School, and a 2012 graduate of Heidelberg University, where he played four years of football. He was a four-year letter winner and a three-year starter on the offensive line for the Student Princes.
For the past six seasons, Willford has been an varsity assistant coach for at Meigs, helping the Maroon and Gold to a 29-31 record.
Willford was the Marauders’ offensive coordinator for the last four seasons, and was offensive play-caller for the last two campaigns. In Willford’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Meigs averaged over 28 points per game and scored 40-or-more points a dozen times.
“Give credit to Coach (Mike) Bartrum, he really helped me out by letting me call plays as the offensive coordinator the last two years,” Willford said. “It helped me out a ton, learning from him what he brought to the game, and the other coaches that he had on his staff.
“Truthfully, what has helped me the most is that I’ve already been a head coach with the wrestling team at Meigs for the last five years. I’ve already had that head coaching experience, having to deal with parents, discipline issues, how to get the kids out, how to get their grades up, stuff like that. Overall, I feel like my experiences at Meigs have helped me out tremendously and I feel like I’m easily ready for this position.”
Willford won’t be detached from Meigs completely, as he will head into his sixth season as MHS wrestling coach this winter.
“In the fall I’m Purple and Gold, in the winter I’m Maroon and Gold, and then after that I’m back to Purple and Gold,” said Willford. “I can’t leave my baby yet, I haven’t found the right guy to fill my shoes at Meigs. I love Meigs wrestling and I’m going to stay there for at least a few more years.”
Although Willford and the Tornadoes are just days into summer workouts, the leader of the Purple and Gold is already impressed by his squad.
“This group of kids is so smart, they’re intelligent and fiery,” Willford said. “We’ve already chalk-talked almost our whole offense. They’re learning what we want done in the weight room. They’re really a great group of kids to each other, they really push each other along and help each other out. They have that close-knit brotherhood, I just want to bring it all together. Five days in, I feel like we’re making strides, and I feel like we’ll continue to make strides.”
Willford’s support staff will include former Meigs assistants Rick Olexa and Paul Dailey, former Southern assistants Jason Circle and Nick Stevens, as well as former Tornadoes quarterback Blake Johnson.
“Coach Rick Olexa will run my defense for me, he was the defensive coordinator at Meigs for the last few years,” said Willford. “Paul Dailey helped out at Meigs a couple years ago, he’s now coming with me to help Coach Olexa with the defense.
“I kept two volunteers from Coach Chancey’s staff last year, Jason Circle and Nick Stevens, they’re going to help me on the offensive side of the ball. Former playoff quarterback Blake Johnson is also going to volunteer his time and help with my quarterbacks a little bit.”
The Tornadoes will open the 2018 season at the friendly confines of Roger Lee Adams Memorial Field, where they will host Portsmouth Notre Dame on Aug. 24.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.