Jessie Hubbard saw the Madison High School football job as an opportunity to further his career as a coach. He didn’t expect the transition to be so challenging.
Madison hired Hubbard in January after he directed New Miami to a 16-6 record, two Miami Valley Conference Gray Division titles and a pair of Division VII playoff berths in his two seasons.
Hubbard had one month of weight lifting with the Mohawks before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the school and shut down activities. They resumed offseason workouts last week, but even that hasn’t been “normal” for this time of year, and Hubbard in many ways is still settling in with his new team.
“It was pretty bad timing,” Hubbard said of the starting and stopping with a new team. “Numbers in the weight room were phenomenal. We were going good, and then the virus hit and set us back a couple months.”
The Mohawks did virtual meetings during the time off, but Hubbard said he felt like he missed time developing trust and relationships with the players. Now that restrictions have lifted, the Ohio High School Athletic Association is allowing teams to meet again but with guidelines to keep players in small groups and prevent contact with social distancing methods.
Hubbard said it’s difficult because he can’t address the entire team at once. Madison breaks players into groups according to their class and the coaches repeat verbatim what they say in one meeting compared to the next so the players all receive the same message.
Despite the setbacks, Hubbard is pleased with how things are going so far.
“Madison runs the same offense basically that we ran at New Miami, so there’s a few wrinkles but we aren’t too far behind,” Hubbard said. “It’s the Wing-T, so we are just installing our downhill run game, but we had Zoom so we were able to get the blueprint out to the kids and they were all in. … I couldn’t have asked for better in terms of their attitude and mentality. They are asking for more and asking what else they can do. It’s pretty impressive the initiative they took.”
Madison is coming off a 5-5 finish in 2019 under Ricky Davis, who resigned after one season, but Hubbard believes the Mohawks can contend once again for the division title this fall. They won back-to-back Southwestern Buckeye League-Buckeye Division titles in 2017 and 2018 and made the Division V state semifinals in 2017 and the regional finals in 2018.
Hubbard, a 1989 Edgewood graduate, had an immediate impact on the New Miami program in 2018, after the Vikings won a total of three games over the two previous seasons. They went 6-5 his first season, winning the program’s first conference title since 1988, and last year, Hubbard guided the Vikings to their first unbeaten regular season in program history before falling to New Bremen in the first home playoff game in school history.
“At New Miami you are more than a football coach,” Hubbard said. “Those kids rely on you for more than just football. When you walk away from kids like that, it’s more than Xs and Os and championships. I’m still there for them, and they know that. That’s what I told them my last day. Madison asked me to apply for the job and if I want to keep climbing the ladder as a coach, I can’t let doors close. I felt selfish. I was disgusted in myself. It was a long week, about 72 hours of not sleeping. It’s been a hard transition but now that it’s taken place, the administration has really helped me and being with the kids full-time now helps too.”
Hubbard, who was a first-time head coach at New Miami, said he looked forward to taking over a program like Madison, where football is the “only ticket in town.” The Mohawks have to replace quarterback Quincy Brown but return most of the offensive line as well as running backs Logan Gibson and Justin Gray and all-league linebacker Devin Oligee, among others.
“Those kids work hard,” he said. “That gives me a good feeling we are going to be successful. We don’t have to force them. We have a really good senior class that wants to win. They were there for the 2018 and 2017 seasons, and they are hungry and pushing the younger kids to get them back where they belong.
“The buzz around the community is the two best classes at Madison have come and gone and now we’re back to the ‘old Madison.’ That’s fueled the fire for them to prove people wrong. We can win championships and go to the playoffs and be successful. I think we have a chance to be very successful.”
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