The Miami Trace Panthers have started a new chapter in the storied history of their football program by selecting Jerry Williams as their new coach.
Williams was approved by the Miami Trace Board of Education Tuesday evening by a 5-0 vote.
He succeeds former head coach Steve Bartlett, who had a record of 28-24 in five seasons at Miami Trace, leading the Panthers to the playoffs in 2013 and 2014.
Williams, 48, is a 1986 graduate of Big Walnut High School.
After his playing days at West Liberty University (Va.), Williams entered the business world, but football was never out of the picture.
Williams has over 20 years of coaching experience, including stints at Big Walnut, Centerburg and Mount Vernon.
He coached at Ohio Wesleyan for three years before becoming the head coach at Cardington Lincoln High School for the past three seasons.
Williams took a program that had won three games in the two seasons previous to his arrival and went 18-12 the past three years.
He was named the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2015.
“My wife, Jennifer, has been following me around for a number of years as I’ve been coaching,” Williams said. “Our last of five kids will be graduating high school this year and he’ll be heading off to college. My wife’s mom graduated from Miami Trace. Her aunt works in the district and she has a niece in the district. My wife is a graduate of Westfall High School.
“What I’m excited about is, I’m coming to a school that’s rich in tradition,” Williams said. “I know that they’ve had a couple of down years, but, I’m excited about coming in here and changing the culture, rebuilding the culture, building upon the foundation that’s been built here and taking it from there.
“At Cardington, when I started there, they were down a couple of years, as well,” Williams said. “Coming in here, I know what has to be done to get it going again.
“It starts with the kids,” Williams said. “Changing the culture with the kids and getting them to understand and think about championships again. That’s my interest.”
Williams will begin by putting a coaching staff together.
“The first thing on my agenda will be to put the coaching staff together,” Williams said. “I genuinely have interest in possibly bringing some of the current staff back, if they’re willing to come back. I have a couple of guys that will be coming with me.
“I am moving back into the district,” Williams said. “One of the young men I’m bringing with me will be moving to the district. The rest of the staff will be existing guys or guys from the area.”
Williams said one of the key factors to a successful program is the feeder system.
Just this past year, Miami Trace began a new youth football program.
“It starts with the youth program, then working up to the junior high and the freshman and j-v to varsity,” Williams said. “The program that we have in place is going to be seamless. We will have the same program all the way through.
“I’m excited to be out here,” Williams said. “To move down here and be a part of this community. We want to get this train back on the tracks. I know the rich football tradition here and we’re going to get it going again.
“Talking to my wife on the way down here, I am truly looking forward to that date, Oct. 27,” Williams said, referring to the date of the next Washington-Miami Trace football game.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1