Sandy Valley High School football helmet / Image courtesy head coach Zach Gardner
First-year Sandy High School varsity football coach Zach Gardner has spent the majority of his time since being hired in February establishing the hallmarks of his program - family, effort, selflessness and toughness - and demonstrating to his players how believing in and embodying the idealistic concepts while on the gridiron will, eventually, lead to positive results.
"We know that if we exhibit those characteristics that will not only put ourselves in position to be successful on the football field but in life as well," Gardner said.
While Gardner is entering his first season at the helm of a prep football program, he witnessed first-hand the final product of a similar process while serving as defensive coordinator at Indian Valley the past three years. The Braves have qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state playoffs each of the past two seasons.
The Cardinals have adopted "Believe it! Do it!" as their slogan for the 2013 season.
"We believe we can build this program the right way," Gardner said. "We just need to execute to have our first winning season since 2002."
Sandy Valley, which returns 11 letterwinners, will operate a no-huddle spread offense and use a read 3-5 defensive scheme.
Gardner is counting on the team's seniors - Nate Shepler, Jake Geiger, Mike Cunningham and Andrew Lancaster - to lead the program's transformation.
"They need to set the example for all senior classes to come of what it takes to be part of a successful football family," Gardner said.
But the team's new leader has also stressed to the entire squad the importance of each player - no matter his current position on the depth chart - throughout the preseason.
"We need our young players to step up and fill some pivotal roles for us, including giving us a great scout-team look in practice," Gardner said. "At Sandy Valley, we know that every player has a role in our football family, and we need great depth to fill those roles and to be successful."
Gardner identified the team's offensive line as its greatest strength.
"We are stronger than Sandy Valley has ever been after implementing an offseason lifting program," Gardner said.
The Cardinals posted a 4-6 overall record and a 1-5 mark in Inter-Valley Conference play in 2012, so Gardner set forward-thinking goals for his team during the upcoming campaign.
"To lay the foundation for a dynamic football program that will teach our student-athletes what they need to find success after high school," Gardner said of his goals for the season. "We want to play with great attitude and effort every chance we get."
Sandy Valley, a Division V football program, is set to open the regular season at home in Magnolia against Indian Valley on Aug. 30.
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