The Sonny Unger Foundation awards banquet annually salutes the Centerville High School graduate and namesake casualty of the Vietnam War. An outstanding all-around athlete who excelled in football, former class and teammates enthusiastically honor one of their own with an annual memorial scholarship that benefits Elks football players.
That shared honor went to three Centerville seniors on Tuesday night at Fairhaven Church, quarterback Alec Grandin and receiver Jake Spiewak (offense) and lineman Sam Vance (defense). They’ll all play at the next level, Grandin at Marian University (Ind.) and Spiewak and Vance both for the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs.
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They were the latest in a long and distinguished run that has been celebrated for 52 years. What separated this fund-raising event from previous banquets were the special guests.
Greater Western Ohio Conference head football coaches Brent Ullery (Centerville), Dave Miller (Fairmont), Nic Black (Beavercreek), Jay Minton (Wayne), Ryan Wilhite (Springboro) and Jeff Graham (Trotwood-Madison) joined forces for a lively interchange that was emceed by former Centerville quarterback Ryan Hawk.
Here’s what the coaches had to say on hot-button topics such as concussion protocol, parents, peewee football, recruiting, changes in the game and even the impending bust-up of the GWOC.
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• Wilhite on the GWOC split. Now 20 teams, 10 will break away to form a new affiliation following the 2018-19 school year:
“The Dayton area has changed and it looks like it shifts further toward Cincinnati and the (Greater Miami Conference). The landscape changes for communities that are thriving and the GWOC continues to find itself accessible to this area. We’re going through that now.”
• Black on statistics and analytics:
“We do some things that are different and we do them in a calculated way. We have a guy on staff who’s really good at math. We use statistics and analytics to give us the best opportunity to win. We don’t often line up 11 vs. 11 that is tilted in our favor. But we do have control of things that are within our power that tilt things in our direction.”
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• Graham on concussion protocol:
“I’m part of the NFL concussion lawsuit … We make sure we have proper protocol to help our kids understand. We don’t tackle (in practice). We have contact drills, but we don’t tackle. Our kids don’t have to experience that contact during the week because they’re just a couple days away from playing.”
• Miller on change in coaching:
“We have to change and it’s really hard. It’s the way we did things and toughness is a part of that. There’s a time and place for that. It’s about safety of the game. Your trapezoid area, neck area and keeping your neck stabilized is a big thing. We put a lot of emphasis on strengthening that in weight room.”
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• Ullery on peewee football:
“We have an open policy for all our youth programs, come on out and watch practice. Watch a tackling circuit. Watch us teach and see how and what to be done vs. the way we all grew up doing it.
“Football is moving in one direction, but everybody is coaching it in a different way. We all learned it was mental toughness and you get your head bashed in. If your head is not in front, you’re wrong. Now, if your head is in front you’re wrong. It’s the opposite and it’s taken a lot of humility for coaches to willingly teach a different way.”
• Minton on how coaching must change:
“USA Football has really made great strides with the game, especially with youth. The game has almost re-evolved and it has to. It’s about not being stubborn. Don’t (teach) the way you were taught. I know a lot of people hate to hear that. If we don’t make a change like that, we’re going to lose the game.”
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• Ullery on football parents:
“It’s a resource that you can tap. You better have parents that you are comfortable enough saying this is how to do it. This is what we tolerate and this is what we don’t tolerate. ”
• Minton on recruiting:
“I’ve been coaching for 36 years. (Recruiting) has changed dramatically. It always goes back to your culture that you set. When somebody starts to step outside – and we’ve had guys do that – you know it right away. If you can’t get them back in you know what you’re in store for.
“(Ohio State coaches) Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel, they’re not going to circumvent the head coach. You’ve got to be honest. There’s some guys I’ve said no to. You want those (coaches) to come back. It’s about trust.”