Green is headed to the Federal League beginning in the 2015-16 school year, and the high school recently did much to prepare itself for that challenging move by hiring Jon Wallace as head football coach.
If you're a Bulldogs fan, you have to be excited — really excited, in fact — for Green could not have landed a better man for the job.
Wallace knows the school, he knows the kids, he knows how to coach at the high school level, he knows how to win and build championship teams, and he really knows football. Plus, he's fully aware of how hungry everyone in Green is to get the program back on top, and he, too, is hungry to get started on the work needed to get there.
As such, it is a perfect fit. It really is.
This is a tremendously significant hire for Green. For nearly every high school in Ohio that fields a team, football is the biggest and most important sport. It is a legitimate part of a school's curriculum.
Showing up on Friday nights to watch high school football games is a tradition in this state that has been around for nearly a century. Even people who don't particularly like football and/or don't know the difference between a fly pattern and a fly swatter are there, sitting in the stands and cheering. It is a community social event second to none. Be there or be square.
Particularly with the fact it's played in the fall as classes resume, football sets the trend — the pace — for the rest of the school year, both sportswise and in general. A good football season gets things started on the right foot.
But at Green, all that is amped up — tremendously so, in fact. No school — especially in this area — embraces football more.
For decades upon decades, kids in Green have grown up dreaming of being Bulldogs, wearing the orange and black and playing under the bright lights in the age-old stadium on Steese Road. Legendary Cleveland TV weatherman Dick Goddard has talked many times about being a punter for the former Greensburg High School in the late 1940s and dreaming of some day playing for the Cleveland Browns. Many, many others have followed him as Bulldogs, and many, many more are anxiouisly waiting to do so.
People — kids, adults, whomever — like to be, want to be, part of a winner. And the Bulldogs have been winners for a long, long time. From 1968-77, Green was a football dynasty, winning eight Suburban League championships in a 10-year period. Nobody beat the Bulldogs back then, at least on a consistent basis. They were this generation's New England Patriots in that no matter how far behind they got in a game, and no matter how bleak it looked, they somehow found a way to win.
Page 2 of 3 - Those kids were winners through and through. They weren't always the best football players and the best team in the league, but they always were the very, very best in the league when it came to knowing how to win. No boy wanted to be on the team that didn't get it done, so week in and week out, year in and year out, the Bulldogs played above their ability level. Failure wasn't an option.
There are enough people left in Green who remember those years and that success. They yearn for those times to return, because they know how good it is, how much fun it is, how exciting it is and how much of an uplifting feeling it is when the Bulldogs are winning. It gives everyone in the community a bounce in their step.
With Wallace now at the helm, there is a much better chance of those days happening again.
Wallace has been an assistant coach at Green, Massillon and GlenOak and served as the offensive line coach at University of Mount Union.
A faculty member at Green since 1999, he is best known as being the school's highly successful head baseball coach, fashioning a 214-119 record and turning the program into one of the best in the region. But to make sure his new job has his entire focus, he recently resigned as baseball coach.
Yes, Wallace is all in, which is exactly what it will take to put Green back on the map the way the school wants to be.
It's not fair to say the Bulldogs have fallen on hard times in recent seasons. They simply have slipped back to the middle of the Suburban League. Being in that spot would be great for a lot of schools. They would have a parade down through the middle of town, followed by a party to beat all parties.
But that's not how they look at their football program in Green. Finishing anywhere but in first place means there is unfinished business, and, as such, the Bulldogs and their new coach go into 2014 eager to climb back into the driver's seat in their final season in the Suburban League. They want to go out with a bang, not a whimper. It will mean a lot to them, particularly with the fact Green is a charter member of the league going all the way back to 1949, three months after Goddard graduated. That's a long, long time.
But it won't be easy for the Bulldogs next season. Not at all. The Suburban League is good. Nordonia raised the bar when it became a member several years ago, Wadsworth has been outstanding for a long while and Highland really flexed its muscles last year, defeating tradition-rich Massillon en route to getting to the Division II state playoff semifinals. With that, then, programs have to sprint to keep up.
Page 3 of 3 - But as good as the Suburban League is, has been been and could be in the future, the Federal League is better. It's a step up. Some would say it's a big step up. It's just that simple. Because of that, the Bulldogs will have to sprint even harder to keep from getting left behind. Indeed, running at the Suburban League pace won't be good enough anymore once the 2015 season rolls around.
From his time at Federal League member GlenOak and at Massillon and Green, and from his recruiting efforts when he was at Mount Union, Wallace knows all that. He knows the deal. He gets it.
So it's good that Wallace will have one season to get his offensive and defensive systems — and his overall coaching philosophy — installed before the jump to the Federal League. Having a new coach begin in that initial Federal League season would have been too much — too much change, too much of an obstacle, just too much of everything. It would have been a bad idea. Green officials are to be commended for realizing that and making the coaching move when they did. Their decision will produce dividends both now and down the road.
They may not be felt immediately, though. It's going to take some time for everything to come together, and the Federal League schools won't be warm and fuzzy and take it easy on the Bulldogs until that happens.
But in the end, making Wallace the point man for the Green football program will work out for the best.
It's a new era for the Bulldogs, and it has begun.