Lambert hired as Northwestern football coach

SPRINGFIELD — Northwestern High School has hired Lance Lambert as its next head football coach.

Lambert takes over the program from Nick Bandstra, who went 1-19 over two seasons with the Warriors. Lambert served as an assistant coach at Northwestern last fall and coached at West Jefferson during their run to the Division VI state semifinals in 2021.

“The search for our next head football coach was thorough and extensive, taking us to the corners of the state,” said Northwestern Athletic Director Brad Beals in a statement. “At the conclusion of the interview process, it became clear to me that we had our man on staff at Northwestern. Lance Lambert has a clear vision and plan to take our football program to the next level. His passion and enthusiasm are infectious. Coach Lambert has been a part of successful football programs as both a player and coach. I am eager to work with Coach Lambert!”

Lambert, 22, played quarterback at West Jefferson High School and later at Wittenberg University. He currently teaches English at Northwestern Middle School.

“With me being as young as I am, I think it’s a great opportunity for me and my coaching staff to make a name for ourselves and build a program for a community that certainly deserves it,” Lambert said. “One thing that enticed me about Northwestern was how much support we get, even with the football program being down right now, from the fans and the community as a whole.”

Lambert will likely enter the season as the youngest coach in the Central Buckeye Conference. He’ll have a coaching staff made up of several former Northwestern coaches and players, as well as several former teammates and coaches from West Jefferson.

“The doubts about my age are going to come,” he said. “I’ve expected those and I’m prepared for those. When it comes down to my job, it’s about carrying myself as I always have as a player and a coach and continuing to be successful in a profession I’ve always wanted to be in.”

The Northwestern football program has had three straight losing seasons since one of its biggest runs of success in 2018 and 2019. The Warriors qualified for the playoffs and won a share of their first-ever Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division title in 2018 under former coach Shane Carter. In 2019, the Warriors finished 6-4 and finished second in the Mad River Division. Since that time, the program is 4-26, going 0-10 in 2021 and 1-9 in 2022.

The key to turning the program around, Lambert said, will be getting the players to believe they can win football games.

“We’re definitely not short on athleticism or players to work with,” Lambert said. “I think Northwestern has a lot of good players. It’s going to be the coaching staff’s job to turn the culture around and make this a place where discipline, physicality and relentless effort is what we’re known for. It’s a culture thing; it’s not necessarily a football thing.”

The Warriors will have a young roster again in 2023. They graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad and will return a strong group of underclassmen.

“Winning is an expectation for me,” Lambert said. “We’re going to teach these kids how to win, not just on the football field, but in life. I was fortunate enough to be able to turn things around at West Jefferson as a player and make it to a Final Four as a coach. Those experiences as a player and as a coach, being around excellence my entire playing career, we’re going to be able to bring that to Northwestern and show these kids how to be winners, not just on the football field, but in life as well.”

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