Fifty-seven of Indiana’s high school football programs will be guided by first-year head coaches this season.
None are in Johnson County.
Four of the county’s six coaches are firmly entrenched at their current workplace, having been there no less than a decade.
Center Grove’s Eric Moore is the dean of local coaches.
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In 17 seasons, Moore has guided the Trojans to 10 semistate appearances and two state championships. Playing in the state’s most difficult conference (Metropolitan Interscholastic), Center Grove still has managed to average 9.5 victories per season.
Also testaments to the practice of staying put are Mike Gillin at Indian Creek (15 seasons), Whiteland’s Darrin Fisher (11) and Greenwood’s Mike Campbell (10).
Success, combined with a genuine liking of their school and community, keep these men coming back for more.
Their coaching careers combined amount to 700 victories.
“For me, it’s the kind of kids you coach, the families they come from and the chance to be competitive every year,” said Gillin, who enjoyed successful 11-year stints at Tri-West and Decatur Central prior to taking over the Braves program in 2001.
“I’ve always said the kids at Indian Creek remind me of the kids I coached at Tri-West,” Gillin said. “I can’t think of a better place to start my career and to end my career.”
Gillin, who sits on 299 career wins — eighth-most all-time in Indiana — entering this season, is the very definition of a football lifer.
Moore, too, falls into this category, having been a successful high school coach in Florida before making Center Grove one of his home state’s elite programs.
Fisher enjoyed his five-year run at Cascade High School (1991-95), leading the Cadets to the program’s lone sectional title in 1992. He moved to Iowa for four seasons as head coach at Nevada High School and five at Des Moines East.
He arrived at Whiteland in 2005.
Eight winning seasons, five Mid-State Conference championships and three sectional titles later, Fisher knows what the Warriors have accomplished embodies teamwork.
“The No. 1 thing is just the continuity for us. We’ve had mostly the same staff in place going on the 12th year, which has been huge,” said Fisher, who saw two of his assistants land head coaching jobs this offseason in Kyle Ray (Heritage Christian) and Steve Spinks (Cascade).
“The second thing is we have great kids here who work hard,” Fisher said. “And our parents, school and administration are very supportive. The last thing is I still love teaching the game of football and watching kids get better.”
Familiarity also plays an important role at Greenwood.
Previously an assistant coach for former Woodmen head coach Rick Wimmer, Campbell was hired to succeed him in 2006.
“One of the main things is finding the right fit and having a coaching staff you work well with and get along with,” Campbell said. “Most of my staff were assistants with me when I was an assistant here.
“I believe (defensive backs coach) Rick Guipe has been here 17 years and (defensive coordinator) Jerrod Watson 15 years. Most of my coaches live within a four- or five-block radius of the high school. It works for us, and it’s been enjoyable.”
Greenwood is coming off a 7-5 season. Over the past five seasons, the Woodmen are 33-23.
Eric Moore;Center Grove;17
Mike Gillin;Indian Creek;15