By TED RADICK
RAWSON — Nate Westenbarger has already hit the ground running in his first week as Cory-Rawson’s new football coach.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us, we’re fully aware of that and we talked about it Monday morning,” Westenbarger said of his first week of meeting his players and overseeing weight room work. “We all see the direction the program wants to go and we’re willing to put forth the effort to do so.”
Westenbarger was officially hired Thursday by a 4-0 vote, with one board member absent, by Cory-Rawson’s board of education. Chad Hirschy was hired as the new athletic director and Nate Latta as boys basketball coach.
Latta and Westenbarger were both longtime assistant coaches in their sport at McComb. Hirschy was assistant AD under Josh Meyer, who resigned as football coach/AD earlier this month to take the athletic director position at Napoleon High School.
Cory-Rawson was 2-8 on the gridiron last season, with a 1-7 mark in the Blanchard Valley Conference. The Hornets’ last .500 season was 2010 and their last playoff appearance came in 2009.
Westenbarger, 30, wants to pump up the number of players in the program and turn Cory-Rawson’s fortunes around.
“We want people excited in the community, and we want the student body excited about Cory-Rawson football,” he said. “We had 20 kids show up for weight work on Monday, and I was pretty happy with our Monday turnout. These guys were prepared, and they knew what was expected of them. We challenged the guys, ‘everybody in this room get one more guy out for football.’
“I don’t care if somebody we think is going to help us this year, or if it’s somebody we think can help two or three or four years down the road.”
Westenbarger, like Latta, is a McComb graduate and graduated from Bowling Green State University. He was also hired Thursday as a Cory-Rawson Middle School math teacher.
He coached under McComb’s Kris Alge for 11 years in a variety of roles. He coached both the offensive and defensive lines, the defensive backs and the linebackers. Most recently, he was offensive run game coordinator.
“Coach Alge is one of my best friends and he’s been really supportive,” Westenbarger said. “He was the first person I called after I got of the phone with (Cory-Rawson Superintendent Bob) Hlasko. It was an emotional phone call. He’s 100 percent supportive. It was bittersweet thing, obviously, having played and coached under him, but it doesn’t take away from how excited I am.”
Expect the Hornets to open up the offense this fall.
“Being from McComb and playing and coaching under coach Alge, obviously I’m a spread person,” Westenbarger said. “I think here, right now with the personnel we have, we have a lot of skill position players that can put some pressure on teams.
“Offense is all about getting kids in space and creating mismatches, and I think that’s maybe the one thing I learned from coach Alge than anything else: his ability to create mismatches was second to none.”
Latta, 32, takes the reins from Aaron Long after Cory-Rawson went 7-15, 3-6 BVC last season. Like Westenbarger, he sees team speed as a weapon.
“Looking at this year’s team, I’d like to get up and down the floor a little bit,” he said. “We have some athletes that can really run the floor. We’ll concentrate on the defensive end and try and get stops every time down the floor.”
Latta, also a BGSU grad with a master’s in technology education from the University of Findlay, was an assistant at McComb for 11 years and at Bowling Green High School for one season. He is an eighth-grade science teacher at Bowling Green Middle School.
“We’ve had a few practices so far, and the kids have shown the ability to come in work very hard,” he said. “We’ve been to shootouts at Bluffton University and Defiance College, and we’ve shown improvement already this summer. That’s all I can ask for.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. Like I said, I’ve been in the league 11 years now at McComb and studied from some good coaches. I studied under (McComb) coach (Aaron) Roth and watched (former Liberty-Benton) coach (Steve) Williman. I’ve really learned from them.”
Hirschy, 28, is a Van Wert High School and Bluffton University graduate and has been at Cory-Rawson since. He was assistant AD for five years.
Hirschy is aware the Hornets haven’t had a strong run of athletic success in recent years, and says the district’s construction of a new building brings hope for the future.
“Our enrollment is climbing,” he said. “We added a third section of kindergarten this year, and the new building is going to help. We want families to send their children to Cory-Rawson. Enrollment helps; you need athletes.
“Obviously, you want to focus on hiring quality coaches and we’ve done that here. We have some great coaches at the middle school level teaching fundamentals at that level.”
Hirschy said Cory-Rawson is committed to offering both boys soccer and football.
“You hear that a lot of the community, that soccer affects football,” he said. “My job is to provide as many students as many opportunities as I can. I think soccer affords that to students. I don’t think you should cut a program, and cut opportunities for some students, just for the sake of winning more football games.”
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