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Gardner named Knights' football coach

Led Sandy Valley to school's first playoff berth

By MIKE PLANT Sports Writer Published: December 24, 2016 5:00 AM

MILLERSBURG -- Having engineered one turnaround already, Zach Gardner doesn't think his newest job should be considered in the same category.

Gardner was named head football coach at West Holmes on Thursday, Dec. 15. He comes to the school after four seasons at Sandy Valley.

The Knights have won just three games over the past two seasons, including a 2-8 record in 2016 under co-head coaches Ron Hay and Tom Eastep, who shared the job after Kevin Maltarich stepped down just prior to the start of preseason practice.

The 33-year-old Gardner was 27-15 at Sandy Valley, including a 10-2 season in 2015, when he took his team to the playoffs for the first time in school history and was named Ohio's Div. V Coach of the Year. The Cardinals were 7-3 this past season.

Although West Holmes hasn't had that kind of success in recent years, Gardner called it "a very desireable position."

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"It has all the intangibles you could look for," he said. "There's great community support, great administrative support, a great staff and hard-working kids. I'm very, very excited to get started and build on an already great culture there."

A native of Dover, Gardner was an All-Ohio linebacker for the Tornadoes. After graduating from Kent State, he was the defensive coordinator for two playoff seasons at Indian Valley, then moved to Sandy Valley, where he took the dormant program to a first-round playoff win in just three seasons.

"It's very tough," he said of leaving Sandy Valley. "I'm very proud of what I was a part of building there, so it's bittersweet.

"But this is a great opportunity to coach the type of kids I want to coach in the type of community I want to be in. I'm thrilled, and humbled, to be part of it."

Married with two children, Gardner will be the 14th coach in the 52-year history of West Holmes football.

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He was officially named to the post at the Monday, Dec. 19 school board meeting and is expected to teach social studies at the high school.

At Sandy Valley, Gardner said his offenses were built around the talents of the players.

West Holmes has been known for a run-heavy offensive attack with very little passing.

"You have to evaluate the athletes you have and I've got a lot of film to look at," Gardner said. "Offensively, you put the kids in the best possible position to be successful.

"We played up-tempo and fast at Sandy Valley, we tried to snap it as many times as possible. There were years we ran it well and years we threw it well, but we'll base our schemes on the talent we have."

Gardner was at West Holmes Wednesday to meet his new team and the current coaching staff.

"We are very excited to have Zach on board and can't wait to see how he molds and prepares our young men for battle next season on the gridiron," West Holmes athletic director Lee Ann Race said in a press release.


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