By JAMIE BAKER
Van Buren High School will have its third different football coach in three seasons when the Black Knights line up against Carey to open the 2017 season this fall.
J.T. Bates has been hired as the school’s new head football coach.
Bates, a 1998 Mohawk graduate and current teacher and head basketball coach at Fostoria High School, was recommended by a search committee put together to find a football coach. He was hired by the Van Buren Board of Education earlier this month.
Bates takes over for Pat Gehrisch, who was named Van Buren’s interim coach just prior to the beginning of two-a-day practices in July. Gehrisch took over as head coach when the previous coach, Kevin Shoup, left shortly before the start of the school year to take an administrative post with Findlay City Schools.
The school was coming off its second straight playoff appearance in 2015. Gehrisch led the Black Knights to a 7-3 overall record and ninth-place finish in their region. One play, a missed two-point conversion late in the Black Knights’ 27-26 loss to Allen East in the season opener, is the only thing that kept Van Buren from a third consecutive postseason appearance.
Gehrisch applied for the job but was not the committee’s choice.
While Bates, who played at Mohawk for veteran area head coach Shane Jacoby, has only served as a head coach in basketball, he does have six seasons of football coaching with former Fostoria coach Beau Carmon at Port Clinton and under current Fostoria coach Derek Kidwell.
“I got into coaching football about six years ago and I have been engrossed with football. I just love the different aspects of it,” Bates said.
“I love the film study and the more I was around it, the more I wanted to be a head coach. I’m trying to take a lot of things I learned in basketball about discipline, the practice plan, structure and mix it together for football.
“I applied and it all worked out. I am happy to have the opportunity. It was definitely something I wanted to do and I’m excited about it.”
He’s also excited to take over a Van Buren football program that’s been on an upswing. The Black Knights went from a middle-of-the-pack BVC team to a conference championship and playoff contender under Shoup and then Gehrisch.
Bates wants to make sure that new-found success continues.
“They have had pretty good success at Van Buren. The previous coaches have laid a pretty good foundation and my goal is to build on that foundation,” he said.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to has been very welcoming and have had nothing but good things to say about it. The program has been doing well the last couple of years and that excited me.
“I love the small-school setting. I love that the whole town comes to see you play on a Friday night in the fall. Football is different than anything else. Friday night lights are something special that you just can’t duplicate in any other sport.”
While basketball and football are different, Bates’ philosophy is that the most important aspect of coaching is what he does each day in the classroom — teach.
“Obviously, the Xs and Os are different, the game-planning, the scheme, the film study and preparation,” Bates said. “But coaching is teaching and you have to be able to teach to be successful as a coach in any sport. Some of the verbiage and language is different but you have to teach to get your point across.
“Ultimately, you want to make it enjoyable. As a former football player you know that some of your best times of your life are on that field. As a coach, you want to make sure you give your players the opportunity to experience the same things you did when you played.”
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