The Bryan football program has made a steady climb in its five years under head coach Grant Redhead.
From 0-10 in 2015 to 7-4 with a playoff appearance in 2018, Redhead is starting to build something special in the Fountain City. And now with a roster of 66 players, including 14 returning starters back from last year, the Bears could be in for even more success this season.
One of Redhead’s first goals when he came to Bryan was to build the culture and get all the kids to buy into his program. Flash forward to today, and with Redhead having coached or taught all his players since middle school, he’s happy with the direction the program is headed.
“They’ve got goals and they’re focused,” Redhead said of the group he has out for this year’s team. “They have something to prove in the league ... and one of their goals is to win the league and the other goal is to go back to the playoffs and stay there. That’s where those driven kids come from and what they’re doing is they’re pulling all the other kids up with them and getting them to the committed levels.”
The program is even starting to draw the respect of surrounding coaches. In the Northwest Ohio Athletic League preseason coaches poll, the Bears were voted second behind defending champion Patrick Henry.
It’s a league the Bears haven’t won since 2013, and like Redhead said, it’s one of the goals his players are shooting for. They know it’s likely to be a dog fight with talented squads like Liberty Center and Archbold also thrown into the mix. Still, players are excited at the opportunity they have before them.
“You only get four years of high school sports, so all of us set out freshmen year to make the best of it, especially in football,” said senior quarterback Nate Miller, the reigning NWOAL Offensive Player of the Year. “Having a good senior class like this is a great way to start the year, just knowing you have guys that have played before and you have guys that have been in those positions in those tough games. We know if we have those guys on the field, we have a chance to win every time.”
“And I think having the amount of competitive people that we do here, it really pushes each other to get better,” fellow senior Connor Arthur added. “And it’s really helping us this year, especially. A competitive senior class is helping the underclassmen and some kids are starting to step up, being competitive and fighting for jobs.”
Of the Bears’ returning lettermen, a number of them return on the offensive side of the ball. Miller is back at quarterback after leading the team through the air and ground a season ago with 1,836 yards and 16 touchdowns passing and 561 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
He’ll also have a slew of his pass catchers back, including Titus Rohrer (32 catches, 494 yards, five touchdowns), Connor Arthur (nine catches, 172 yards), Austin Dean (16 catches, 114 yards) and Adam Fireovid (10 catches, 103 yards, one touchdown).
Dom James, who rushed for 198 yards and nine touchdowns last year, will likely lead the charge at running back behind an offensive line returning four starters, including Payne Frank, Carter Hoffman, Tom Snyder and Dylan McCandless.
Defensively, a lot of the same names are expected to make an impact. James had 93 tackles at linebacker a season ago, Rohrer had 6.5 sacks as a defensive lineman, while at defensive back, Arthur and Clemens each had four interceptions.
“I think we’re ahead of where we’ve been in year’s past,” Miller said. “The team just looks better and we’re more prepared. We’re ready to go. This is a big year for us and it’s a chance for us to win league and get back to the playoffs.”
“We’ve got a very experienced group,” Arthur added. “We’re experienced playing football of course, but we have a lot of good people and leaders out here and bunch of people are stepping up, which is good, because it’s still early.”