New Lakota West High School football coach Tom Bolden oversees a pushup drill during a workout session at the school Thursday afternoon. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Bolden’s head-first dive into Lakota West football: ‘Buckle up, let’s go’

WEST CHESTER TWP. — Tom Bolden is a man in motion in Lakota West High School’s weight room, a fact that is surprising to nobody.

Bolden stunned the prep football world last month by giving up the Colerain head coaching position and accepting the same job at West, and he’s already injecting his particular brand of energy and swagger into the Firebirds.

“Find that fire in you. That’s what it takes,” Bolden barked Thursday afternoon during a workout at LWHS. “Guys, you pay for it in here so everybody that we play on Friday night pays for it later. Plain and simple, this is where we win it all right here.”


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Bolden sees a program and a community hungry for victories. West is 8-22 over the past three years. The last winning season came in 2015.

So why is Bolden so confident that West will follow a fast path to consistent success?

“Listen, 12 years ago I took over for a guy that a lot of people thought walked on water at Colerain,” he said of Kerry Coombs, now coaching in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. “And my first two games were against Dayton Wayne with Braxton Miller as a freshman and Hoover, Ala. People thought I was nuts.

“I say, ‘Buckle up, let’s go.’ That’s just who I am. It’s what we do and all I know. I’m going to have fun with it, we’re going to work hard, and we’re going to win.”

Bolden is in the process of finalizing his staff, but Firebird fans will see a lot of familiar coaching faces. The 2019 staff will be loaded with coaches who have decided to stay and work under Bolden.

New Lakota West High School football coach Tom Bolden oversees a drill during a workout session at the school Thursday afternoon. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Jeff Wadl was West’s interim head coach last season and will coach the offensive line. The staff will also include Carlton Gray, Brenton Eisenhard, Andrew Phelan, John Nicol, Will Mahone, Dominic DeNoma, Joe Spadafora, Davonne Calhoun and Dan Bolden.

Tom Bolden called his older brother “my director of football operations” and said he’ll also help with the offensive line. A couple coaching positions have yet to be filled.

Bolden will call the offense. It will be teeming with formations and include more passing than people might expect. He noted that whille Colerain ran the triple option last season, the Cardinals threw 19 touchdown passes — West didn’t score a TD through the air all season.

Gray is the front-runner to be the defensive coordinator.

“He’s a pretty aggressive coach, a lot like I am, so I think our personalities will jibe pretty good,” Bolden said. “I think he’ll end up being the guy. If I bring somebody else in, it might be a co-coordinator situation.”

Of Wadl, who directed the Firebirds to a 4-6 record last fall, Bolden said, “He was one of the first people to text me when I got the job. That went a long way. He’s been very, very supportive, and I think he’s really excited to be part of this.”

New Lakota West High School football coach Tom Bolden talks to his team during a workout session at the school Thursday afternoon. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

The weight room is Bolden’s focus right now, with Izak Tanner playing a big role as West’s strength and conditioning coach. Bolden said he’s got about 70 players involved in workouts, and it’s a loud, spirited atmosphere.

“It’s organized chaos in there,” Bolden said. “I’ve always viewed it like we’re going to train them as much mentally as we are physically, but there’s a lot of heavy weight being moved. You’re grinding kids out in the weight room so hard that they can barely move when it’s over, but they’re thanking me as they’re leaving. It’s like they want those expectations, and so far they’re answering the bell.”

West will open the 2019 season at La Salle and then host Centerville before beginning Greater Miami Conference play. The only GMC team the Firebirds won’t face is Colerain.

Bolden is happy about skipping his old team in the regular season, feeling that a one-year buffer is a good thing. But the two teams will scrimmage at Colerain, with the Cardinals now under the direction of Shawn Cutright, Bolden’s longtime defensive coordinator.

“Shawn and I talked about the scrimmage,” Bolden said. “It’s the one prior to the season, so at least I know with him what we’ll get. I think it’ll be a great scrimmage.

“I’m going to try to go with Moeller for the first scrimmage, Wayne for the second one and then Colerain. If I can’t get Moeller for that first one, I’ll get St. X. That’s the kind of challenges I want to have.”

He’s making the drive to West for workouts while he finishes the school year at Colerain. Bolden said he’s using a backpack to carry his portable office around CHS.

At West, he said the community support for his hiring has been even greater than he expected.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised by it. I just didn’t know it would be this overwhelming,” Bolden said. “I think people are realizing what this is. People are hungry to get it rolling.”

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