Sandy Valley High School didn't need to look far to find its next head football coach. The Cardinals turned to veteran offensive coordinator and head baseball coach Brian Gamble to fill the void left by Zach Gardner in December, who left to take the head coaching job at West Holmes High School.
"I'm really thankful for this opportunity," Gamble said Monday evening. "This has really become my second home. I'm the head baseball coach. I teach physical education here also. My wife is a teacher here as well. We have a great administration and a great community here, and I'm all in."
The move should help ensure continuity for a program that is on the rise. Sandy Valley made its first playoff appearance in school history in 2015 and followed with a successful 7-3 season in 2016. During that span, Gamble directed a high-powered offense that gained more than 3,000 yards each of the last two years.
"We're looking to build off what has been started here," Gamble said. "The senior class that is graduating this year is the winningest football class in Sandy Valley history. We're losing a lot but we also have a lot coming back. ... Everybody is excited about the future."
Gamble learned plenty of important lessons under the previous two head coaches, Gardner and John Groff.
"You have to trust your staff," Gamble said. "You need to departmentalize and trust them to install the game plan. You need to trust them to get the kids to understand what you want and then trust the kids to execute it. I think we've always had great communication between all the assistant coaches during my time here."
Being a middle school physical education teacher also gives Gamble a chance to get younger student-athletes in the Magnolia community excited about the game.
"I made sure that when they announced me as head coach that we had the middle school players in attendance as well," Gamble said. "We want to make sure they feel involved. ... It's a huge benefit for me to be at the middle school because they get a chance to know me as a teacher and by the time they get to high school, they are comfortable with who I am."
Gamble, a Perry High School graduate, is also excited to continue on as head baseball coach. Filling multiple roles comes with the territory for athletes as well as coaches in Sandy Valley.
"There aren't many kids who specialize in just one sport at Sandy Valley," Gamble said. "A lot of them play two or three different sports. It's really rare that we have a kid who just plays football or basketball or baseball. A lot of times, our kids will play all three."
Though he has just taken over the program, Gamble is hard at work on defining the culture for the football program.
"Our goal is simple right now," Gamble said. "Take it day by day. We want to get them in the weight room every day. We want them to focus on the process. We want to get that snowball effect going where you start to improve and you just keep getting better and better. The goals of winning IVC titles and all that are nice goals but I believe that if you focus on the process, those things will eventually come. We just want to get the kids in the weight room and start building for now."
Reach Cliff at 330-580-8494
On Twitter: @chickmanREP