The squad will be inexperienced with a few returners. The coaching staff will have a few old faces back with the program along with a new head coach.
Rob Hedrick is the new head coach after spending the past eight years as a Cyclone assistant. He has surrounded himself with an experienced staff. Pat Boeh returns to the program. He spent 20 years as a Cyclone assistant and head coach. Evan Shaffer also has two decades of experience as an assistant and head coach. He was Boeh’s offensive coordinator. Blake Lasley also has a decade of coaching under his belt.
Shawn Walters returns for his second season after spending more than a decade as defensive coordinator for Williamsburg and West Franklin. Don Brown also returns from last year’s staff.
“That was the best part of getting the job,” Hedrick said. “All of these guys have head coach or coordinator experience. The experience is fantastic. I don’t have to worry about them putting the time in. They know how much time it takes.
“They love it. They have great enthusiasm. I like watching coach Shaffer, coach Boeh and coach Walters get after it. It is like a security blanket having them on the staff.”
Hedrick will continue to run the offense. Boeh will head up the defense. Shaffer coaches the offensive line and will be the junior varsity offensive coach. Walters will head up the JV defense. Brown coaches the receivers and freshmen offense. Lasley coaches the freshmen defense.
“When they decided to come back it made me awful happy,” Hedrick said. “I know we are going in the right direction. They want to see Ottawa do well.
The players have seen a difference in the staff.
“It is way different,” senior Dalton Weidl said. “There is a lot of adjustment. We have a new offense. We have been working with the coaches.
“It is kind of hard. It is harder for the younger kids. It is going to be fun.”
Junior Andre Lewis said having Hedrick as the head coach makes it an easier transition for the returning players.
Hedrick said that part was a reason why he wanted to be the head coach.
“I know the kids,” Hedrick said. “I am very excited about the opportunity. I want our kids to do well. Football has always been my first love.”
Senior Cory Peoples said Hedrick is the kind of coach he can relate to.
“He is a nice guy,” Peoples said. “He is stubborn when it comes to his offensive plays. I can talk to him. He will listen to my opinion. He is a good football coach.”
Moving from an assistant to the head coach has been an adjustment for Hedrick, who has spent a lot of time dealing with off the field head coaching responsibilities.
Plus he put together the summer schedule and working with the players. He said one thing he did early was talk to them about their role.
“Their attitude has been outstanding,” Hedrick said. “We are changing our schemes completely.”
The players lift weights early in the morning and have position work on the field every day.
“A different position works every day,” Hedrick said. “The kids who have been here know what the new coaches expect of them.”
Ottawa had three days of football camp this past week. The players and coaches said it was a chance to spend more time together.
“The camp is just a continuation of what we have been doing,” Hedrick said. “It is the next step. We have been putting stuff in all summer. It will be a work in progress.”
Hedrick expects to see Ottawa make a leap and contend for a playoff spot.
“We are the only Frontier League team to not make the playoffs last year,” Hedrick said. “We have been close the past three or four years.
“Nothing will be easy with our schedule. We need a little more depth and need to be more mentally tough.”
Hedrick hopes the combination of the new staff, philosophy and attitude can be a catalyst toward that goal.
“I feel really good where we are at going into fall,” Hedrick said.