A new league, a new head coach and a major athletic facility upgrade has infused a welcome dose of enthusiasm for the Greenville High School football program.
That’s been a tough sell for Darke County’s largest high school.
“It’s an exciting time,” said new Green Wave varsity head football coach Bart Schmitz, who was promoted to succeed Aaron Shaffer. “I love the community. I want to see this place be as successful as possible and we’re working as hard as possible to get it there.”
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Greenville was part of a mass exodus from the Greater Western Ohio Conference to a revived 10-team Miami Valley League. That breakaway served to reinvigorate the new MVL teams, most of which had previous ties in the original MVL, including charter member Greenville.
Schmitz played on football state-title teams at Versailles and is in his ninth season at Greenville and first as a head coach. He also is one of five new football coaches in the MVL.
Shaffer, a Greenville grad, spent the past seven seasons guiding the Green Wave. He gave up coaching to succeed Randy Swisher as Greenville’s athletic director. Shaffer liked the can-do attitude Schmitz brought to the program.
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“We’ve got a great group of guys coaching the football team, so it was a good time for me to step over to the other side,” Shaffer said. “I’m excited for Bart. I know he’s going to lead our football team the way we need it to be led.”
That will be a formidable task. Lumped in the GWOC American North, Greenville (3-7 in 2018) last won a conference game in 2015 and hauls a five-game losing skid into this season. But there have been significant changes in the Green Wave program.
This will be the third season for historic Harmon Field to have the popular artificial FieldTurf. There’s an adjoining Jennings Center Track & Field Complex, an eight-lane running surface that’s adorned with a grass infield, stadium lights and generous home seating.
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Nestled between those signature sports facilities is a fieldhouse that’s home to equipment, locker and weight rooms, coaching offices and meeting rooms. All that is the fruition of what the Friends of Harmon Field, a fund-raising group began by favorite sons Matt Light and Jon McGreevey.
Those are state-of-the-art improvements and difference-makers for Greenville sports moving forward.
“Our kids have a quality environment,” Shaffer said. “For us to be able to do things like that is really exciting. Our community and our school district rallied up and made a commitment to better our facilities.”
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None of that guarantees success on the football field, but it sure helps. Like all other MVL teams, Greenville will play non-league games in Weeks 1-3 and finish with seven MVL contests. There are several early MVL crossover games that will not count in league standings, including Stebbins at Greenville in Week 2.
There are no Division I football teams in the MVL. Greenville is lumped with Butler and Tippecanoe in D-III, Region 12. Greenville opens the season against visiting Eaton on Friday, Aug. 30.
“It’s a competitive league,” said Schmitz, whose father Dave Schmitz, the longtime defensive coordinator under Al Hetrick at Versailles, has joined the Green Wave staff. “Everybody is pretty close (in ability). It’s exciting to be here.
“A lot of schools have a lot of things in common. We’re all pretty much the same size and it’s teams we’ve always played against. If you play hard, fast, physical football and fundamentally sound, at the end of the day you’re going to be OK and that’s what we’re trying to build.”
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• MVL football is split into two divisions. Butler (head coach John Puckett), Greenville (Schmitz), Piqua (Bill Nees), Tippecanoe (Matt Burgbacher) and Troy (Danny Gress) comprise the MVL Miami Division.
In the MVL Valley Division are Fairborn (Randy Kerns), Sidney (Adam Doenges), Stebbins (Greg Bonifay), West Carrollton (Dion Black) and Xenia (Trace Smitherman).
Sidney, Piqua and Troy are in D-II, Region 7. Fairborn, Stebbins, West Carrollton and Xenia are in D-II, Region 8.
• The new MVL head football coaches are Burgbacher, Gress, Kerns, Black and Schmitz. Burgbacher left Troy to return to Tipp, where he graduated and played for his father, longtime Red Devils head coach Charlie Burgbacher. Matt Burgbacher succeeds Joel Derge, who remains on the Tipp staff as an assistant.
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Gress was promoted to Troy’s coach. An outstanding linebacker at Northmont, it’s the first head coach job for Gress.
Kerns left Swanton to succeed Chris Roark, who lasted three seasons at Fairborn. Kerns previously was the head coach at National Trail.
It’s also the first head job for Black, who was the defensive coordinator for Trotwood-Madison’s unbeaten D-III state champs in 2017 and prior to that was a key assistant at Miamisburg. He succeeds Derek Hauk, who led the Pirates the last two seasons.
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• Nees is the dean of MVL coaches. Piqua needs just five wins for him to reach 200 in his career, all with the Indians. This is Nees’ 28th season coaching Piqua football. He was inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association hall of fame in June.
• The MVL commissioner is Eric Spahr, who also has been the longtime GWOC commissioner. The original MVL existed from 1926-75. Other charter members besides Greenville were Piqua, Sidney, Tippecanoe, Troy and Xenia.
• Top returning quarterbacks: Seniors Ryan Dunham (Sidney), Brayden Siler (Troy) and Tyler Byke (Greenville).
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Dunham had 1,480 yards passing and 14 TD passes for Sidney (5-5). Siler had 1,374 yards passing to go with 12 touchdown tosses for Troy (10-2), which won its third straight GWOC American North title and went unbeaten (15-0) in divisional play in that span. Byke had 1,282 yards passing and eight TDs for Greenville (3-7).
• Top receivers: Seniors Austin Jones (West Carrollton), Marcus Wood (Greenville) and Kelbi Cox (Stebbins).
Jones was graduated record-setting QB Tristan Dillon’s go-to target, with 49 catches for 725 yards and 12 TDs in nine games. Wood had 44 catches for 537 yards and eight TDs. He also returned two punts for scores and had five interceptions. Cox had 19 receptions for 180 yards and a score.
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• Top running back: Tipp senior Cade Beam had 732 yards rushing and tallied 14 touchdowns as a junior.
• Top defenders: Hunter Warner (Fairborn junior linebacker), Lance Reaves-Hicks (Piqua junior lineman), Devin Hall (Xenia senior lineman), Gavin Casella (Butler senior defensive back) and Bobby Buckler (Butler senior DB).
Warner had 109 tackles, four forced fumbles and one interception last season.
• Top offensive linemen: That’s a massive Troy sweep by senior center Riley Hubbard (6 feet, 260 pounds), junior Adam Decerbo (6-3, 275) and junior Jacob Moorman (6-3, 310).
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• Notable games: Xenia (7-3 last season) hosts Beavercreek and Troy (10-2) is paired against Belmont at Welcome Stadium in Dayton in Week 1 games on Thursday, Aug. 29.
The other eight MVL teams open on Friday, Aug. 30: Chaminade Julienne at Piqua, Eaton at Greenville, Harrison at Butler, St. Marys Memorial at Sidney, Stebbins at Greeneview, Tecumseh at Fairborn, Tippecanoe at Mount Healthy and West Carrollton at Little Miami.
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Fittingly, Piqua is at Troy in the Week 10 regular-season finale on Friday, Nov. 1.
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