With about five weeks until the first official practice of the year, the Cottage Grove High School football team now has a head coach.
Last Friday, Chad Smith, 32, received the call from CGHS principal Kevin Herington offering him the position of both head coach and PE teacher at the high school.
“They’ve had success, which is obviously great, (but) they are great kids here as well. Not just as athletes, but the kids are respectful,” said Smith in a phone interview on Thursday. “This is probably one of the better schools I’ve been at athletically as a head coach.”
This will be Smith’s fourth different varsity head coaching position in Oregon since 2014. In 2014 Smith was the head coach at La Grande where the team went (5-4). After being an assistant coach at Seaside in 2015, he was named head coach in 2016 and the team went 3-5. In 2017 he served as an athletic director/PE coach at a Seattle-area middle school before last season heading to Siuslaw where the Vikings finished the season 0-8.
Smith was also the PE coach and girls basketball coach at Siuslaw last year.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for me teaching-wise and coaching-wise,” said Smith. “This is where I want to be, it’s an exciting opportunity for me.”
New CGHS athletic director Matt Myers was pleased with Smith’s knowledge of Oregon high school football.
“He’s got head coaching experience. Last year he was the head coach at Siuslaw and so he already knows, sort of, the role of what a high school head football coach needs to do,” said Myers. “And Siuslaw High School is fairly similar in size to here so he’s kind of got a background, and he wasn’t going to be a first-time head coach which is nice.”
Before Smith’s head coaching tour around Oregon, Smith, who graduated from Sweet Home High School in 2005, also had a stop at Sheldon High School in Eugene where he coached with former CGHS head coach Gary Roberts. He also coached under former Sheldon head coach, and CGHS offensive coordinator, Marty Johnson and coached Johnson’s son, and former CGHS coach, Jordan Johnson.
After two years as an assistant at Sheldon, Smith was an assistant at Sprague from 2008-2010. During this time he was also finishing up his undergraduate degree at Western and his Master’s at Willamette University.
Smith’s experience – and experience with Sheldon especially – was something that especially interested Myers.
“Cottage Grove uses a lot of the same systems Sheldon used… So a lot of the same language and a lot of the same systems that they used are going to stay the same. So that appealed, too,” said Myers noting that it was one less thing the football players would have to worry about. “They have a new athletic director, they have a new coach, they don’t really need to be learning a new system on top of all that other stuff.”
Already on the same page as his team, Smith is looking to use that to his advantage.
“You don’t want to come in and reinvent the wheel, you want to come in and move things along and if there are little changes that maybe I’ll do but we’re not going to do a whole bunch of wholesale changes,” said Smith. “Especially right now, being July, that’s unfair to the kids, I think. We’re trying to keep things as similar as possible and just move forward and just get ready for the season.”
Now that he has the job, Smith notes that the two biggest challenges are getting to know the team and filling out his assistant coaches. On Thursday Smith met some of his athletes while they were lifting with assistant coach and athletic trainer Jared Hutchins. Hutchins is one of just a few remaining assistant coaches left from last year’s team. Those that will not be returning include Jordan Johnson, Marty Johnson, Kyle Tucker, Chris Joyce and Dan Geiszler.
“That’s my goal this weekend is to call those guys and I’ve talked to a few and just try to see where they’re out, how they’re feeling,” said Smith. “So when I get home today I’ve got about four or five different people I’m going to call and talk to them and see where they’re at and how they’re feeling.”
Smith is planning for both a team and parent meeting sometime next week. The first official day of football practice is Aug. 19. And the Lions will play in a jamboree on Aug. 30. The first game of the season is Sept. 6 on the road at Cascade.
The hiring of Smith marks the end of what had been an eventful offseason for Cottage Grove. In January Gary Roberts stepped down after 11 seasons as head coach. After that announcement, Roberts then took a job as assistant principal at his alma mater Marshfield in Coos Bay.
In April, Roberts’ defensive coordinator Jordan Johnson was then hired as head coach. But things took a turn at the start of June when Johnson abruptly resigned before coaching a game. The former CGHS math teacher is now headed to his alma mater Sheldon High School to be an assistant coach for the football team and math teacher.