By Cort Reynolds

Ada Herald Writer

ADA — After serving for a decade on the Bulldog football staff as an assistant, Ada graduate Shawn Christopher saw a dream realized when he was named the new Bulldog head varsity football coach last Thursday night.

“It is a dream come true to coach your hometown team, a special thing that people don’t get to do very often,” said Christopher. “The kids (players) are energized and excited. There’s a good feel around the school right now.”

The school’s Board of Education officially voted April 26 to accept the recommendation of Christopher, a junior high math teacher at Ada, as its next head football coach.

“We are excited for coach Christopher to step in and build on the success he has been such a big part of,” said Ada athletic director Ken Jochims.

Christopher did not plan on coaching when he was a youth playing sports in Ada, however.

“Growing up, no way did I think of being the head coach here,” he said. “I just enjoyed playing the game, and my path eventually took me this way. I started coaching as a freshman at OSU-Lima when Chris Sautter asked me to help out with the Ada freshman basketball team.

“Then Jeff Lease asked me to help coach football when I was a college sophomore, and Mike Fell asked me to coach when he took over two years later.

“I wasn’t 100 percent set on an education degree at first, but when I started coaching I got a feel for it and enjoyed being around the kids. I developed a passion for it,” he added.

Christopher noted that he has been fortunate to have been mentored by some good gridiron coaches during his Ada tenure. “Coach Fell helped me out a lot, especially with the interview process. (Line coach) Frank Crea really made a point of telling me why we did certain things when we coached together.

“Dan Evans was great for me,” he continued. “He had a refreshing attitude and helped a lot with the x’s and o’s, the schemes for defensive backs. And I have coached four of the last five years with Dave Allen, who has been phenomenal.”

Christopher played his first two seasons at Ada under Allen in 2000-01, then competed his final two years for Jim Pifer in 2002-03. Both ex-head coaches are former Ada athletic directors as well.

“When I played here, we ran wing-T stuff,” noted Christopher, a former Ada running back/linebacker. Since the early 2000s, there has been a major shift in offensive football philosophy, even in traditionally run-oriented Ohio high school football. “The spread offense really opened my eyes,” he said.

Christopher was an assistant coach his first two years in Ada football under former Allen East/Ohio Northern player Lease, who instituted the spread offense here during future NFL quarterback Zac Dysert’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

“People forget Jeff was the one who started the spread here,” the new coach noted. “Mike Fell followed him and made a smooth transition during Zac’s last two years.”

Christopher said he plans to keep the spread offense virtually intact, but is likely to employ a more run-oriented offense than Ada has featured the last five seasons due to personnel and philosophy.

“I will probably be more like coach Fell in that regard; in a normal game you get 70 plays, and I am looking at running the ball 20-25 times a game,” he offered.

“I want a more balanced attack. We have four senior offensive linemen back, a good group with the Mattson twins, Ethan Hall and Damien Fuqua.”

The battle to replace graduating four-year quarterback Seth Conley will be a three-way competition between sophomores Brandon Hull and Zac Swaney, and senior Brad Clum.

“All three are athletic; I will put that threesome up against about any trio I see in Div. VI football,” said Christopher. Hull is a fine runner and solid passer.

“Brad and Zac are good receivers, too,” he continued. “They all bring different strengths to the position.

“A breakout guy at receiver next year could be Daniel Mattson. He is really good, he catches the ball well, and I look forward to him excelling at the receiver spot next year.”

Christopher has been the defensive coordinator at Ada for the past five seasons, and he intends to be more pro-active in 2018. “My mentality is to attack and force the offense into mistakes,” said the new head coach. “I want to be a little more aggressive than in the past.

“I think attacking more can be a benefit to our personnel.”

The 32-year old assumes the reins immediately, replacing the recently-retired Bob Olwin, whose resignation became official in late March. Veteran mentor Olwin stepped down after serving as Bulldog head coach from 2013 through 2017.

Olwin led Ada to a very solid 34-22 record (24-11 in Northwest Conference play) over the past five seasons, including an NWC co-championship in 2013.

The Bulldogs finished 7-4 (5-2 NWC) in 2016 and 2017.

The Bulldogs made the playoffs in four of Olwin’s campaigns, compiling a 2-4 post-season mark, and compiled a fine 32-18 mark in regular season play.

But after winning the first two playoff games of his tenure in 2013 to reach the regional finals, Ada has lost its last four post-season games, including three first round contests.

Ada came in fifth in the league in 2014, and ended up third in the NWC in each of the last three seasons. Delphos Jefferson won three outright NWC titles in a row from 2014-16 before Spencerville took the crown away in 2017.

Christopher plans on retaining assistants Sean Anderson (defensive line/running backs) and former Bulldog receiver Nolan Roberts (wide receivers/defensive backs) from the 2017 coaching staff.

Jake Blevins, a North Union and University of Findlay graduate who had his college QB career shortened by a knee injury, will be a newcomer to the Bulldog offensive staff.

Eric Perkins, Ada assistant wrestling coach and the former AD and a coach at Fostoria St. Wendelin, will coach the linemen.

“It’s just great, really special to be able to coach your hometown team, the school you played for,” summed up Christopher.

He discussed the situation with current LCC mentor Scott Palte, who played and later coached at his alma mater of Columbus Grove.

“Scott told me to treat it as an asset,” said Christopher. “I don’t have to go somewhere where everything and everyone is new, and I’d have to start from scratch.”

“It is a dream come true, and it means a lot that the community and administration put their trust in me,” he added.

Ada opens its 2018 campaign at home vs. traditional backyard rival USV Friday, August 24. The Bulldogs have made the playoffs 11 of the last 12 years, and with energy, discipline and enthusiasm, Christopher hopes to continue that string of success.