Jeff Wadl’s football coaching career has taken a sudden turn.
An assistant coach for more than three decades who’s spent 18 seasons with the Lakota West High School program, Wadl has been named interim head coach at West after the resignation of Larry Cox.
“We’re moving forward, and we’re going to win football games,” Wadl said. “We’re not going to stand pat. We’re not going to sit and wallow in misery. We’ve got things to do. We’ve got a fully loaded schedule.”
Wadl, the Firebirds’ offensive line coach, said he got a call from Cox last Friday informing him of his decision. Then Wadl got a call from athletic director Scott Kaufman asking him to come down to the school. Then he was announced as the interim head coach for the 2018 season.
“I talked to Scott and (principal) Elgin (Card), and they asked if I would be the interim head coach,” Wadl said. “It’s basically a lease with an option to buy if things work out well. If they’re happy with what I’ve done, I guess I’ve got a chance at getting the job permanently.
“The interim tag is what it is. My objective isn’t to worry about labels or titles or anything like that. My objective is to create an environment and a culture for these kids where they can perform to the best of their ability and win football games.”
Cox had a 114-103 record in 21 years as the only head coach in West history. Wadl spent three seasons in the middle of that stretch coaching under Ron Johnson at Middletown. Beyond that, he’s been with the Firebirds.
Wadl, 58, is a 1978 Western Hills High School graduate. His coaching career includes three different stints at Western Hills, along with stops at Purcell Marian and Withrow.
“I know I’m kind of old. People probably look at me and say, ‘You’re ancient. You’re ready for pasture,’ ” said Wadl, the Dean of Students at West. “I don’t know. Fifty’s the new 40, I guess. I think you’re as old as you feel.
“I still have energy for the game. I still love coaching the game. I still love teaching and watching kids develop, and I’ve got a passion for it. I think that more than anything else is more important than guys that come in and have all the answers and aren’t really there for the kids. Unfortunately, I see that in some of the younger guys.”
Wadl helped Cox run the offense last season, and Carlton Gray was the defensive coordinator.
“I believe Carlton will be back. If he’s back, he will be the defensive coordinator,” Wadl said. “As far as the offensive coordinator, I haven’t decided yet. Part of me says I’ll do it, and part of me says let somebody else do it. I don’t think it’s anything you really do by yourself anyway. I think it’s a cooperative effort.”
Will the Firebirds be changing things in terms of Xs and Os?
“I’m not going to say there’s going to be drastic changes,” Wadl said. “I don’t know if the casual fan would necessarily recognize anything differently. We’re going to stay within the talent that we’re given.
“We’re not going to run the triple. We’re not going to run the Wing-T. We’re going to be more of a pro-style offense. We’ll run some pistol. We’ll be a zone team with a gap scheme, and we’ll probaby huddle with some tempo if we want to go that direction sometimes. So we’re going to mix and match some things we’ve done through the years and link that up with the talent set that we have.
“We’re going to try to do fundamental football more than anything else. We want to be good at blocking and tackling and catching the ball and running the ball. It’s going to be fairly simple. We’re not going to get outside of ourselves and try to do something exotic.
“We have to be ready to play football, and getting ready started in January. Lakota West fans are going to see kids playing hard and understanding that getting ready to play a game and going through the process will take care of the score.”
West will open the 2018 campaign against four teams that made the Division I playoffs last year: St. Xavier (11-2), Centerville (10-2), Sycamore (9-3) and Fairfield (6-5).