After he was hired to coach the Greenon High School football team in February, one of the first things Josh Wooten did was find his “yes” men. Well, in a manner of speaking.
Wooten presented potential coaching hires with four questions: Can I trust you? Do you love Greenon? Do you love our community? Do you love our kids?
“If your answer is yes then we want you a part of our staff,” Wooten said.
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Wooten and staff take on the challenge of turning around a Knights program that carries a 31-game losing streak into this season. Greenon’s last victory came in Week 9 of the 2013 season, 14-7 against Benjamin Logan. A loss in Week 10 and three straight 0-10 seasons have followed.
Greenon nearly ended that streak last season with narrow setbacks to London, 20-14, and West Carrollton, 22-20, in Weeks 2-3.
The Knights left the Central Buckeye Conference for the Ohio Heritage Conference and will play in the South Division this season along with Catholic Central, Cedarville, Greeneview, Madison Plains and Southeastern. Non-conference games are against Marion Pleasant and Fort Loramie with OHC crossover games against West Jefferson, Triad and West Liberty-Salem.
“Our schedule from top to bottom is extremely difficult. It’s going to be tough,” Wooten said. “I’ve told our kids from day one the two things we can control are our attitude and our effort. We’re going to play who they put in front of us. I think it’s a great conference. It’s been a very successful conference and a lot of great teams and tradition. From a geographical standpoint it makes perfect sense. … Not only from a football standpoint, I think overall it’s good for our entire athletic program.”
Wooten brings coaching experience from Kettering Fairmont, Centerville and Fayetteville-Perry. More importantly, he also brings a love for Greenon. Wooten attended the Greenon district through the eighth grade. He graduated from Shawnee.
“I enjoyed my time spent at Centerville and Fairmont. But I’m coming home,” said Wooten, who was the Knights’ defensive coordinator from 2009-11. “It’s the only job I applied for. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the my parents, the teachers, the coaches and the community when I was a child. They all played a big role. The decision was easy. I’m just ecstatic to be the head coach at Greenon and be given the opportunity to change the culture and get some wins for these kids. They deserve it. We’ve got great kids.”
Senior Cooper Chaffin returns at quarterback and defensive back. He could also see time at wide receiver. He completed 24 of 65 passes for 271 yards last season and received protection from senior offensive left tackle Zach Wilson.
“If I was to start a football team — he’s not the biggest kid — but if I could have 22 Cooper Chaffins we’d win a lot of football games,” Wooten said. “He’s a kid you want on your side because he’s going to give you 100 percent and be a great leader on the field.”
Senior running back and defensive back Derek Brown is the fastest player on the team, clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“The kid can flat out run,” Wooten said. “As he starts to understand the offense he has a chance to provide us with some big plays.”
Junior Levi Morrison, a running back and linebacker last season, moves to guard. He led the team with 72 tackles last season.
“He’s accepted a role and he’s excelled at it,” Wooten said. “He’s the strongest kid on our football team and I’m excited to have him for two years.”
Junior Josh Johnson remains on the offensive line and moves to nose guard after playing linebacker last season.
Sophomores Ryan Stockdale and Luke Downing are both around 6-foot-3 to give Chaffin tall targets. Dylan Bardnell moves from tight end to center and also plays linebacker. Freshmen running back and freshman quarterback Cade Rice are also expected to see quality time.
Greenon has 38 players on the roster with half of them sophomores and freshmen.
“We’ve got to build some confidence,” Wooten said. “Last week our word of the week was confidence. Getting them to believe is a big thing. They’ve done a really good job and I’m proud of the core group that we have.”