GREEN  Mark Geis knows he faces an immense challenge at the new head football coach for the Green Bulldogs.

However, the North Canton native has taken on a similar challenge in recent years and succeeded, so he’s optimistic that he can take the program to new heights. He’s also excited to be close to where he grew up and coaching in an area and a league with which he’s very familiar.

“I am honored and excited to be a part of the Green community. It is a special place that my family and I have had close ties with for many, many years,” Geis said.

He takes over a program that went 1-9 this season and just 1-5 and Federal League play. It continued the struggles the Bulldogs have had since joining the league, winning just four league games in four seasons. In the four years since entering the league at the start of the 2015 season, Green is just 11-29 overall.

Head coach Jon Wallace informed players shortly after the season that he would not be returning next season and also told athletic director Erich Muzi and administration of his intent not to seek a renewed supplemental contract for the position. The 2018 season was especially challenging as Green dropped its first two games by a combined three points, but allowed 42 or more points in its last five contests - all league games - and its final six defeats came by an average of nearly 26 points a game.

After a search that included three rounds of interviews, Geis was chosen and approved in a unanimous vote by the district’s board of education. His success in turning around a struggling Rootstown program made him the  2017 Akron Touchdown Club Portage County Coach of the Year and earned him honorable mention for the 2017 Plain Dealer Coach of the Year award.

In 2017, the Rovers submitted an undefeated regular season and reached the regional final in Division VI, Region 21. The 12-1 campaign saw Rootstown topple perennial Portage Trail Conference County Division power Mogadore, besting the Wildcats on the field for the second consecutive season, and win both the division title and two playoff games.

That came after seasons of 5-5 in 2015 and 6-4 in 2016, but was just four years removed from a winless 2013 campaign that ended with the program on an 18-game losing streak. Muzi knows that taking Green through a similar climb will be as big a challenge, if not bigger, than what Geis did at Rootstown given the strength of the Federal League.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Mark Geis as our new head football coach. Coach Geis’ passion, enthusiasm, and dedication for building a first-class program will undoubtedly instill a championship mindset within our football program, our athletes, and our community,” Muzi said. “Coach Geis is committed to building a comprehensive program that emphasizes strong ties with our alumni and youth level programs, including Green Bulldog Youth Football. In working with our youth program, Coach Geis is dedicated to retaining more of our youth football players while supporting them in their many academic and athletic pursuits as they transition from middle school to high school.”

Geis, a graduate of Hoover High School and Kent State University, inherits a program whose freshman team went 9-0 this season and should provide additional talent for the varsity roster from its ranks. According to district officials, Geis’ strengths they believe will translate to the district include successful program building, community involvement, and player development in the areas of character building, academic excellence and athletic excellence.

“His focused approach on the development and well-being of our student-athletes, both on and off the field, will be a key component of Green football. His selflessness as a leader, his ability to motivate, and his team concept approach will create a unified culture for many years to come,” Muzi said.

Geis’ approach to the program is one he calls “Kindergarten through Alumni,” and in taking over the Bulldogs and moving from the Division VI level to Division II - with plenty of Division I teams on the schedule - it will be put to the test. He was hired following a search by a six-member panel consisting of individuals from the community, alumni, district head coaches and former athletes.

Along with interviews, the panel sent  a survey requesting input on characteristics and values for the new coach and football program to the district’s youth football organization, current and former players and the Green All Sports Booster Club. Parents were also made aware of the survey, which was available to the public on the district’s website.

In stepping into his new role, Geis acknowledged the challenges ahead, but pointed to the need to connect not just players and coaches, but the community itself, to the team as a means of building the program to where he wants it to be

“I, along with the coaching staff, are eager to develop relationships with our community, students, staff and all levels of Bulldog football as we build a program that will make this city proud.” Geis said. “Most of all, I am excited to work with our student athletes as we build a tough and disciplined program.”