Nick Marino is 25 and learning that the job of head coach in a tradition-rich high school program like Urbana is more than football.
“There’s a lot more things you don’t think about as an assistant coach that you have to take care of,” said Marino, who played linebacker for the Hillclimbers. “The football part’s the easiest.”
That was handed to him after a 9-2 season, another Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division title and a playoff berth. He has one of the best passers in the area, four starters back on the offensive line, a strong nucleus back on defense and what he calls a good group of seniors.
Marino was the defensive coordinator under Geron Stokes for the past three seasons and will continue in that role. To coach what was the highest-scoring offense in the CBC last year, Marino has dipped into the past and brought back Bill Moss. Moss, also the girls basketball coach at Urbana, coached the varsity offense in the ’80s and ’90s before being put in charge of the junior high program. He was Marino’s junior high coach.
“He’s a guy that I’ve looked up to a lot,” Marino said. “He’s done a good job with our junior high staff, and he knows a lot about football.”
Moss also knows a lot about junior quarterback Nathan Mays, who already has had two productive seasons. As a freshman he threw for 1,888 yards and 27 touchdowns. His sophomore numbers: 2,103 yards, 31 touchdowns and 58.3 percent completion rate. In almost 400 regular-season attempts, Mays has thrown only seven interceptions.
“He’s starting to grow a little bit as a leader,” Marino said. “And we’re giving him a little bit more responsibility at the line.”
Mays will be throwing to the mostly new group of Cody Grim, Sam Niswonger, Alex Niswonger and Ethan Edwards. Tyler Powell, who led the CBC in receiving yards and catches last year, graduated, and Shane Ware, third in the CBC in yards and catches, has moved to running back. Ware is taking over for Tanner Lawrence, who rushed for over 1,500 yards last year.
Mays and Ware will be operating behind an offensive line led by senior returning starters Gunnar Lanning at center, Jake Quick and Ryan Prince on the left side and Justin Weller on the right side.
Marino isn’t changing his 3-5 defense. He is counting on Prince and sophomore nose guard Keith Gale to lead up front, Drake Frost to be the unit’s vocal leader at middle linebacker and safeties Grim and Ware and cornerback Sam Niswonger to lead in the secondary.
Urbana hosts London in the season opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday.