Don’t let Filtz’s size fool you

Todd Porter
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
New McKinley head coach Todd Filtz.  Repository Scott Heckel<br /><div id="dfp-300x250" style="float:right;"><script type="text/javascript">googletag.display("dfp-300x250");</script></div>
New McKinley head coach Todd Filtz. Repository Scott Heckel

CANTON  There isn’t much Reno Saccoccia has not seen on a football field. He has been the head coach at Steubenville High School for 29 years.

McKinley’s new football coach has been alive that long.

And Saccoccia has no doubt Todd Filtz can handle the pressure and expectations that come with coaching at McKinley High School. More than that, Filtz will be able to handle any underlying obstacles that may come along after the controversial firing of former head coach Ron Johnson.

“His mental toughness is probably what’s gotten him to his 29th birthday,” Saccoccia said. “He’s a mentally tough kid. He has a good healthy mind. His mind is way beyond his years.”

Filtz was an undersized middle linebacker and fullback for Saccoccia at Steubenville. That didn’t keep him from being an All-Ohio linebacker in 2000 and then earning four letters at Muskingum College.

Filtz is clean-shaven and doesn’t look a day past his 29 years. He’ll turn 30 in October.

“People look at him and say he’s small,” Saccoccia said. “He’s not small. He’s short ... but he’s a tough kid. He was a tough kid in the weight room, and he was a tough kid on the field.”

Filtz was introduced to McKinley fans Monday night before a unanimous board vote approved him for a one-year coaching supplemental. His teaching contract has not been worked out, but neither Filtz nor Superintendent Chris Smith see that as an issue.

Tuesday morning, McKinley Principal Deidre Stokes-Davis introduced Filtz to the players. Smith said it was attended by about 100 players.

“When he started talking, every set of eyes was on him, and those who weren’t looking him in the eye were looking at his (state championship) ring,” Smith said.

Filtz is the son of an assistant coach. His father, Paul, spent 26 years on Saccoccia’s staff. His brother, Dan, is on Saccoccia’s staff.

Saccoccia said he never advised Filtz on what to do regarding McKinley.

“He gives me advice,” Saccoccia said. “No, we talked and I told him if you want the job, just be honest. Let them know what they’re getting when you come in and you won’t have any problems.”

There are similarities between Steubenville and McKinley. Both are football-proud cities and Friday nights in the fall are practically religious events. McKinley fans have wanted a state title since the team won consecutive championships in 1997 and ’98.

Yes, this has been a restless time.

“If they want a person that can take them from where they are to where they want to be, he’s the perfect person,” Saccoccia said. “Coach Johnson was a strong, tough coach. Mental toughness gets you through the tough times. When you’re at a program like Canton or any school where the will to win is great, you’re going to have as many tough times as good times.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see (Filtz) do anything he sets as a goal in Canton. They got a good person.”

At Maple Heights, Filtz won one Division II state title and played for another. He was 41-9 and 9-2 in the playoffs.

But he’s only been a coach for seven years. All of his head coaching experience is the last four seasons at Maple Heights.

That didn’t keep Charlie Keenan, a former Canton City Schools administrator, from hiring him. Keenan is the superintendent at Maple Heights. He used to be Steubenville’s career record holder for tackles. Filtz broke it.

“There’s high expectations for winning in Canton,” Keenan said. “That’s the same in Steubenville, and that’s the same as we’ve developed here. He’s been around that his whole life. He knows the expectations and he will not shy away from it.”