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The Suburbanite
  • BURNING QUESTIONS: Numbers game for Coventry

  • Football is the biggest sport at many schools, especially in Northeast Ohio, but the gridiron hasn't exactly been a beacon for Coventry's best athletes in recent years.

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  • Football is the biggest sport at many schools, especially in Northeast Ohio, but the gridiron hasn't exactly been a beacon for Coventry's best athletes in recent years.
    New head coach Ed Egan intends to change that dynamic and believes the process has already begun for the Comets. Egan, who was named head coach this spring, succeeding Jerami Hodgkinson, has taught physical education at Coventry Middle School for the past 14 years and served as defensive coordinator for the Comets from 2000-08.
    He moved to East in 2009 and spent two years there as the Dragons' defensive coordinator before working in the same position at Field in 2011 and Garfield in 2012 as he chased his dream of becoming a varsity head coach. Now 38, he has a chance to lead a program for the first time and is tasked with helping a Coventry program that has stalled out in the 4-5 win range in recent years break through for a winning record.
    That sort of decent, but not great record has led to low turnouts and small rosters. A lack of depth and having some of the school's best athletes elsewhere than on the field on Friday nights has proven to be a faulty formula for competing with PTC powers such as Kent Roosevelt, Ravenna and Field.
    A NEW REGIME
    Just a few months into his tenure, Egan has already seen an increase in the number of players taking part in team activities. The excitement in his voice is palpable as he talks about what the experience has been like so far.
    "It's awesome and it's what my goal's been for 14 years, just waiting for a job to come open," Egan said. "Our numbers are way up and the kids are working hard in the weight room. I've always been a big weight room guy and that's where it starts."
    During the month of June, when the coaching staff opened the weight room twice a day for players who wanted to lift, the team averaged 65 a day for workouts. Egan estimates that by the time the season starts, the roster could number around 70 - without including freshmen.
    During his time teaching in the district, Egan can't remember a roster larger than 65 players and believes his existing relationships with players and roots in the district have contributed to the increase in interest for the program.
    "Those relationships were biggest part of it. I already have great connections and what I've been doing so far is building relationships with the booster club, parents and players and trying to build community togetherness. I'm the middle school gym teacher and these are my kids. I've been teaching them since fifth grade."
    ON THE FIELD
    Page 2 of 3 - The process of installing the new offensive and defensive systems has already begun with team camps. The Comets have played 7-on-7 scrimmages with Garfield and Barberton and the coaching staff has worked to communicate the aims of their new game plan to the players. Egan plans to run the same base defense he has run as a defensive coordinator for the past 14 years, working off a basic four-man front.
    On offense, the team's approach is a work in progress. Egan intends to build his playbook around the talents of his skill players, meaning the run-pass balance could shift depending on where the team's strengths lie.
    "We'll be balanced, butif we have a really good running back, then we'll lean that way. The plan is to mirror the offense to and base it on the strengths of our kids," Egan explained.
    Continuity will be one strength the Comets will not have. A total of nine starters will return from last year's 4-6 squad. Five of the returning starters will be on offense, where scoring points was a consistent challenge last season. The schedule will not do Coventry any favors, as contests against Canton South and East will open the year before back-to-back games against the Portage Trail Conference's defending division champions, Mogadore and Kent Roosevelt.
    Mogadore, which went undefeated in 2012 and reached the Division VI state semifinals, was added to the schedule because East Canton and Windham left the league after last season, setting off a series of falling logistical dominoes that saw Streetsboro move back to the PTC County to form two seven-team divisions. That left both the County and Metro divisions with seven teams each and one less league game on their schedule.
    To fill that void, PTC teams will play an additional crossover game against a team from the opposing division. The crossover games will serve as non-league contests, but Egan knows winning out of the PTC is an important part of building his program.
    "We have to win our three non-league games," Egan said. "Canton South, East and Mogadore are three completely different challenges, styles and philosophies, but have to go into league playing well."
    Success, both in the short and long term, will be predicated largely on Egan and his staff's ability to convince the best athletes to come out for football and not eschew the gridiron for basketball, wrestling or baseball. Larger numbers mean fewer players having to play on both sides of the ball, which in turn leads to less fatigue and better overall depth.
    "You can't go out there with 18 kids on the sideline in a varsity game," Egan concluded. "We need numbers, numbers, numbers. It's all about having more kids to choose from and attacking those who play basketball or wrestle or run track and getting them to come out for football.  With the levy passing, people are starting to see that we can have good things here in Coventry."
    Page 3 of 3 - Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB