Talawanda coach J.D. Vonderheide talks to quarterback Adam Crank during an August practice at the schoo. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Prep football: Vonderheide out at Talawanda after seven seasons

OXFORD — After seven seasons, J.D. Vonderheide is out as the head football coach at Talawanda High School.

His Braves finished 2-8 this year, making him 17-54 during his time in Oxford. Their only winning record (7-4) came in the 2014 Division III playoff season that included record-setting tailback Maurice Thomas.

Vonderheide said he met with school officials Monday and was given an ultimatum — resign or be let go.

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“This totally caught me off guard,” Vonderheide said. “I wanted to get one more year, and if we didn’t get the results, then I would go. I was just told it was time for a change. I wasn’t given a reason. Simply put, we didn’t win enough football games, and they felt it was time for a change. Sometimes resigning makes it look like you quit, but this wasn’t the case.”

Talawanda athletic director Wes Cole wouldn’t comment on the Monday meeting. He simply stated that Vonderheide had resigned and the search for his replacement will begin immediately.

“All our coaches are non-renewed at the end of each season,” Cole said. “(Vonderheide) let us know Tuesday he wasn’t coming back and submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday. We appreciate his time with the program and the players and all he accomplished here at Talawanda.”

Cole said current assistant coaches will be considered for the head position. The goal is to find a coach who can take Talawanda to a sustained level of success.

A search committee will be formed, Cole said, and the hope is to have a new coach in place as soon as possible.

“We will look within the district and around Southwest Ohio,” Cole said. “We feel this is a very good job. We are looking for a role model and a motivator.”

Talawanda lost its last seven games in 2018. In addition to losing starting quarterback Adam Crank in the season opener, 11 other key players went down with season-ending injuries.

The Braves were 0-6 in the Southwest Ohio Conference and faced five playoff teams, four from the SWOC (Little Miami, Harrison, Mount Healthy, Edgewood) and one from outside the conference (Badin).

Vonderheide took over a struggling program that had won three games in three years prior to his arrival in 2012. His teams were 10-34 in SWOC play.

Talawanda’s playoff appearance in 2014 was the program’s first since 2000, and Vonderheide was named Associated Press Division III All-Southwest District Coach of the Year.

“We went to the playoffs. We accomplished a lot in seven years,” Vonderheide said. “We built up our relations in the community and had an unprecedented amount of kids make all-academic. This really stings and hurts right now, but what has helped is the amount of support from coaching colleagues and former players calling/texting.”

Vonderheide is a former Miami University walk-on who went on to become the backup quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger, currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A graduate of East Central (Ind.), Vonderheide coached two years at the College of Wooster and was a graduate assistant for three years at Miami. He served as the RedHawks’ director of football operations and tight ends coach before running the offense at Harrison in 2011. The Wildcats made the Division II playoffs that year.

Vonderheide said he plans to look for another coaching job.

“I want to coach,” he said. “Despite the injuries, we as coaches spent every week putting the guys in the proper places to be successful. Every week we really didn’t know who we were going to have due to injuries. I feel good we did it the way you are supposed to do it. I can tell you if you told me I could do it again, coach seven years at Talawanda and then have to resign, I would do it all again.”

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