CHILLICOTHE – Jeff Metzler and football go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The longtime defensive coordinator for multiple teams now finds himself — finally — at the helm of a high school program; at Unioto High School.
“I’m happy to be here and I’m eager to get these guys going because it’s a challenge,” Metzler said. “Becoming a head coach makes you step out of your comfort zone and go into a courage zone. My guys work hard, just like every other school. I’m happy to have the opportunity to be here and be in a head coaching role.”
Though the position is his first career head coaching gig, Metzler boasts one of the most accomplished resumes in the area.
“I started as a volunteer assistant coach at Circleville High School back in 1987,” Metzler said, during one of the Tanks’ summer workouts. “Then I went to Southeastern for two years, under John Roberts, where I was the defensive coordinator. I got out of teaching for awhile and then came back to Chillicothe for quite a few years where I coached for Dick Tipton, Bill Dennis and Bill Davidson. After the Davidson regime, I came out to Unioto under coach (Jerry) Hudnell and here I am today.”
In total, Metzler has been around the high school football scene for more than 25 years — most of which were spent on the defensive side of the ball.
Unioto fans can expect that part of his personality to shine brightly under the Friday night lights come this fall.
“Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships,” Metzler said. “And we’re trying to win a championship. We’re going to have to play sound defense. Our guys know the scheme because that hasn’t changed. I think that will help us play a little faster because we won’t have to think as much. That’s the theory of it.”
After starting 3-0 for the first time since 1968 under head coach Jerry Hudnell, last year’s version of the Tanks finished 8-2 — good enough for second in the Scioto Valley Conference.
After Hudnell resigned this past off-season, Metzler has let his players know what they can expect from him.
“I want to be a players’ coach,” Metzler said. “I want those guys to know I’m firm, I’m fair and I care. We try to instill our five core values of toughness, technique, tempo, trust and team in everything we do. And I try to interact with the kids along the lines of being a disciplinarian as well.”
Last season, the Shermans had players who stood out on both sides of the ball. This season, they’ll be looking to do the same, just in a slightly different manner.
“We’re going to do everything as a team,” Metzler said. “We’re going to have the same color shoes, same socks, same t-shirts, etc. Everything is going to be team oriented. If you want to stand out, you’re not going to do that with a different shirt, a different pair of socks or a different pair of shoes. I want you to stand out by scoring five touchdowns or coming off the edge and breaking a quarterback’s face mask. If you do those things, you’ll stand out.”
Concerning expectations for the Shermans’ 2015 slate, Metzler talked playoffs and championships.
“The only way we’re going to get to the playoffs is if we win our first game against Vinton County and then we’ve got to beat Zane Trace and Paint Valley. And you can’t leave out Adena and you can’t leave out Piketon. You really can’t leave out anybody. In our division and the teams we play, we pretty much have to go undefeated to make the playoffs because of computer points. But there’s nothing we can do about that right now.”
While the playoffs may be a goal in Frenchtown, there’s one goal that stands above all the rest.
“First of all, we’ve got to win the SVC,” Metzler said. “The playoffs are secondary after the SVC. We can’t make the playoffs unless we win the SVC. And we can’t win the SVC if we don’t beat the teams on our conference schedule; all seven of them.”
Metzler will kick off his head coaching career, August 27, at Vinton County. He’ll make his home debut, September 4, against McClain.