»Wildcats open practice with great expectations
»Tecumseh hopes to contend for playoffs
»Southeastern buoyed by new coach, offense
»Kenton Ridge looking to rekindle winning ways
»First-year coach excited to lead Hillclimbers
»Graham next success story on coach’s list
»First-year coach sees potential at Northwestern
Haines takes over after Neal Kasner’s six-season run (40-26). Greeneview had not experienced a winning season since 1996 when Kasner took over in 2011. He led them to a 6-4 record in 2013. He followed that with seasons of 10-2, 8-4 and 9-3.
Kasner remains on Haines’ staff this season as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
“It really is a dream come true,” Haines, a 2005 Greeneview grad, said of taking over his alma mater. “Taking over for a man and a coach like Neal Kasner is never an easy thing to do. He taught me so much about football, life and leadership. He probably doesn’t know this but he’s easily the second-most influential man in my life behind my dad.”
Haines spent the past four seasons on Kasner’s staff, including the past three as defensive coordinator. He was also a graduate assistant coach at Wilmington College and spent his junior year at Ohio State University as a student intern coach with Jim Tressel and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
Greeneview returns five starters on offense and six on defense from a team that went 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the Ohio Heritage Conference. The Rams reached the Division V regional semifinals against then four-time defending state champion Coldwater, where a blocked field goal with 1:37 left in the game ended the Rams’ season 27-24.
“We definitely use that as a measuring stick to set goals for ourselves,” Haines said of the postseason success. “We’re a group that has learned how to win in the last couple years in the playoffs. Keeping the kids hungry for success and knowing the second round is not a plateau for us, that’s a hump we’ve got to get over.”
The Rams return their top two leading rushers with seniors Jake Green (121 carries for 725 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Griffin Mangan (110 for 653, 10 TDs). Sophomore Clay Payton is also in the mix.
Graduation losses left the biggest questions at quarterback and the offensive line, which lost four starters. Juniors Ian Tamplin and Nick Clevenger are competing at quarterback. Seniors Tylor Tackett and Hunter Grim and junior Jaron Stoneburner are anchoring the offensive line.
“There are definitely some pieces to keep that line strong,” Haines said.
Senior Tyler Robinette (10 catches for 107 yards, 1 touchdown) and junior Collin Wilson (14 for 277 yards, 3 TDs) are the primary receiving threats.
Defensively, the secondary is solid with Robinette (48 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Wilson (34 tackles, 3 interceptions) at cornerback and Tamplin (29 tackles, 1 interception) at safety. Green (48 tackles), Mangan (46) and Payton are at linebacker.
Like the offensive line, Haines labeled the defensive line “a work in progress.”
The Rams, who suit up 35 players this season, are again expected to challenge in the Ohio Heritage Conference. The league split into divisions for the 2017 season with the recent additions of Fairbanks, Greenon, Madison Plains and West Jefferson. Greeneview plays in the South Division with Catholic Central, Cedarville, Greenon, Madison Plains and Southeastern.
“I always hope and expect us, which is a coach’s answer,” Haines said of teams he sees as front-runners in the division. “I think Madison Plains is a very good football program. I know Southeastern and Greenon are on the way back up. Catholic Central had a good season with low numbers, which means they’re well coached. We’ll never take Cedarville for granted. We pride ourselves in wanting to be the class of the South Division. We definitely respect all the opponents on our schedule, that’s for sure.
“I think the conference did a good job of finding teams for competitive balance. I’m looking forward to having those other schools in the conference. We’re pretty familiar with them. I think it’ll be good.”