Swanton knew when successful football coach Mike Vicars stepped down in March that they would have to find someone with a lot of integrity to replace him. They hope they’ve found that with new coach Randy Kerns, who they lured away from his alma mater of National Trail High School in New Paris, Ohio.
Kerns, 30, is from West Manchester, Ohio and graduated from National Trail in 2005.
He also earned a Bachelor of Science in History and a Master’s Degree in Teaching at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., where he attended from August 2005 until May 2010.
“Coach Kerns possesses a much greater understanding of the game of football than most coaches his age,” said Swanton Athletic Director Wade Haselman on the school’s reasons for making the hire. “It was this understanding, coupled with his passion for the game and for getting the most out of his players both on and off the field that really made the decision for us.”
Kerns had many reasons for coming to Swanton, with one of those being evident on the drive up for his first interview for the job.
He got down by Luce’s Chimney and Stove Shop at the corner of County Road 3 and Airport Highway when his truck gave out. But, within a minute of being broke down, he had four cars stop and help him.
“That doesn’t happen everywhere,” Kerns said of the experience. “Where I’m from, that doesn’t happen. So I knew right away that this is a community (where) these people really look out for each other. I really want to be a part of it.”
It has only gotten better the more time he’s spent around the community.
“A big disadvantage I had (at my previous job) was a lack of community feel,” said Kerns. “I was looking for a solid foundational community that was close to things, but it had its own small town feel.
“Really, so far after two weeks, I feel like I’m one of the luckiest guys around right now getting this job.”
The new coach likes the group he is inheriting as well. And how could he not, it is a team coming off three straight winning seasons. The Bulldogs amassed a record of 26-8 in Vicars’ three seasons at the helm.
“(The talent) is definitely not bare. Coach (Mike) Vicars did a good job,” explained Kerns of his new team. “There is obviously a lot of talent, specifically some of the younger kids coming up I’m really excited about. But also the kids we have now, for this season, I am really excited about. They now believe they can win.”
To that point, he has gotten a glimpse of that winner’s mentality in just a few short weeks working with the team – both in the weight room and in summer workouts.
“I’ve walked into a situation where kids are very responsive,” he said. “They do everything I’ve asked. They’ve worked really hard. And they are excited about getting better. There is enthusiasm every day.”
Even with the limited time he’s had with the team, Kerns has had the opportunity to outline some of his expecations.
“I am a (high) energy guy,” he noted. “I’m going fast, I’m going positive all the time. I expect them to do the same. Basically, my culture demands a certain amount of energy.”
There are “a ton” of similarities between the system that he and former coach Vicars run. Like Vicars, Kerns also runs the Wing-T, but it is more of a hybrid Wing-T as he put it.
Kerns emphasizes the 50 front on defense. This is a defensive structure involving five defensive lineman (1 noseguard, 2 defensive tackles, and 2 defensive ends) on the line of scrimmage with two linebackers behind them.
“There are just some slight differences (in philosophy),” said Kerns. “But again, a lot of the plays are the same. A lot of the defensive calls and the way they taught things are the same. So, the transition should be, in that regard, pretty smooth I think.”
Although he has only two years of experience as a head coach, Kerns’ message for any skeptics would be for them to wait and see how the Bulldogs perform under his watch. The expectations will not be anything less than when Vicars was in charge.
“I really feel with what we have coming back, and the establishment of success the last few years, I really feel like we can put a very competitive and solid team (on the field),” said Kerns on the expectations for the season ahead. “I already informed the seniors, the team goals at this point are league championships. There is no like, ‘well we are gonna be competitive.’ Our kids go there to win this league, so that’s what we are gonna go for.”
The Bulldog athletic director has faith the new coach can be successful as well.
“Coach Kerns shows an understanding that is well beyond his years of experience, and even though he is young, we have complete confidence in his ability to lead the Swanton High School football team,” said Haselman.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010