Ischy takes over the reins at Monroe Central
By RICK THORP
Times Leader Sports Writer
WOODSFIELD — As his players readied for media day outside of his office, Josh Ischy sat behind his desk riffling through a myriad of paperwork.
Ischy is a familiar face inside the Jay Circosta Fieldhouse, but not one accustomed to being seated in “the captain’s chair.”
That spot was reserved for Circosta for the last 47 years. But when the winner of 336 games called it a career in coaching in May after 50 years in the business, the Switzerland of Ohio School District called upon Ischy to fill his shoes, as if anyone could really do that.
“I’m learning a lot of things sitting in this chair that I really didn’t learn all that much about as an assistant coach,” Ischy said. “I had been here for 10 years, so I knew about the things we did and I knew there was a lot of work that took place behind the scenes that had to take place for those things to come to fruition.”
Organizing media day, working with boosters, meeting with parents — all of the things outside of the Xs and Os were relatively new for Ischy, who played for Circosta in the early 2000s.
“A lot of those things, no one else thinks about other than the head coach,” Ischy said. “Thankfully, (Jay) has been a good source. If I need something, he’s open and able to help me out.”
But Circosta has told Ischy it’s his program now, and he’ll only help if asked. And Ischy has consulted with his former boss on some things, tapping into the mind of a man ripe with grid wisdom.
“There are a lot of things I want to emulate,” he said. “Just add my own touch to.
“I understand why Coach Circosta doesn’t fish or hunt or golf because when you do everything he’s done in the program — and that I’m learning to do — you realize you don’t have time for much else.”
Ischy quickly realized when practice began being a head coach is quite different than being an assistant. A person who likes to be hands on, Ischy said he’s had to learn to be more of an overseer and trust his assistants with handling things.
“Now, I’m kind of overseeing practice and I may not do the hands-on instruction like I once did,” he said. “I have a great coaching staff and they’re doing it.”
Despite the change at the top spot of the Seminoles’ coaching tree, the bulk of the staff has a familiar look. John Ischy, Jon Perkins and John Speelman return. Former Monroe Central standouts Curtis Nixon and Kole Hogue are also part of the staff.
Ischy feels fortunate to have been around a plethora of great coaches throughout his career who’ve helped prepare him for his first head job. Circosta, Larry Kehres at Mount Union, along with Matt Campbell (Toledo, Iowa State) and Jason Candle (Toledo), all, Ischy said, have been influential, in some form of fashion.
“I wasn’t a superstar athlete (in college),” he said, “but I thought I could be a role player and learn the game. I tried to soak up all the knowledge I could. I was around guys that were really success, or who are now on the cusp of being that next successful college coach. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard.”
And after graduating college, Ischy was able to return to his alma mater and step right in with Circosta on his coaching staff. He and Michael Jorris learned the ropes from Circosta, with Jorris assuming play-calling duties the last few seasons. That, Ischy said, helped make the transition smooth.
“There’s a lot of pressure to maintain the standard of winning, but a lot of things were in place when I took this job,” he said. “I have to make sure they’re maintained and the expectations don’t diminish and drop.
“The pressure I feel myself isn’t personal, it’s not wins or losses, it’s I want the program to keep teaching kids the lessons that served me well.. That’s where I feel the pressure. I want to make sure I’m molding young men who’ll be productive in society.”
While he transition has been smooth for the coaching staff, it’s been relatively smooth for the payers, too.
“I think I’ve had to crack the whip a bit more often,” he smiled, “but they’ve been great.
“I have a great senior class as far as leadership goes and I’ve brought them in on a lot of decisions when we’re making changes.
“I’m really happy with the guys we have in the locker room. Everything we’ve thrown at them, they’ve handled.
“They know what I’m about. They know I grew up in the program and that I know the expectations.. We’ve held them accountable to that. We all understand how things are done.
“We may change things here or there, but the expectations of doing things how you’re supposed to do it and go as hard as you can, those things overlap like everything we do.”
Monroe Central has 28 players this fall which, looking at the numbers the Seminoles have had the past few years, is quite good. The team will young, though, with just three starters returning on both sides of the ball.
Still, Ischy is confident when the team takes the field Friday night at Union Local, it will be one that strives to be great.
“Our football IQ is a little higher that it’s been the past few years,” he said. “I don’t know if we have the top-end talent that we had with the players that graduated. Those were special players. Do we some guys that are there yet? Maybe not. Do we have some guys that have some potential? Definitely. So, collectively, our chemistry is very strong. I think we’re a high-character team.
“We want each other to do well and there’s a sense of competition.”
Monroe Central’s schedule is the same as 2017, with just the sites flipped. The Seminoles will visits Shadyside in Week 2, followed by home dates against River and Caldwell. PVC action continues September 21 at Fort Frye, with a home date vs. Magnolia slated for Week 6.
Games against Shenandoah, Barnesville, Frontier and West Muskingum round out the slate.
“There are some patches on our schedule that include some tough, quality teams,” Ischy cautioned.
He isn’t thinking in terms of wins and losses, but growth.
“We’ve never thought in terms of a 10-0 season or anything like that,” he said. “We’re focusing on things like going out every day and getting better, competing, being a good teammate.”
Ryan LaFollette was certainly that. As Monroe Central’s quarterback last season he threw for more than 1,100 yards and earned MVP honors in last month’s Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Game. He threw for a season-best 303 yards vs. Magnolia, one of the Seminoles’ six victories.
Others lost on offense include: tackles Lukas Rose, Alex Webb and Jay Brinson, receivers Robert Bigler and Dalton Dick, and running back Cole McLaughlin.
Battling to replace LaFollette are junior Wyatt Young (5-10, 150) and freshman Malachi Rose-Burton (5-10). Ischy said both players bring something different to the table.
“I think we have two guys that are quality athletes, have good ball skills and are learning the game as they keep going,” Ischy said. “I’m excited to see how the offense evolves.
“They’re always battling to be better than the other one. ‘They’re helping each other out.”
Sophomore Alex Kilburn (5-11, 205) is the team’s top returning running back, but he only played thee sparingly last fall, collecting just 59 yards on 11 carries.
He’s pegged to get the bulk of the carries this season, along with juniors Jagger Keylor (5-11, 160) and Talin Babcock (5-9, 165), a former soccer player, who played hoops last winter for Perkins. Others in the mix include sophomore Kaden Tomlin (5-11, 150) and freshman Dillon Lincoln (5-9, 145).
Whomever the quarterback is, they’ll have a tall target to throw to in Zac Jones. The 6-5 senior (175 pounds), reminiscent in size to Gavin Morton from a few years back, is the lone returning receiver, with his big game last year coming against Shenandoah. He made seven catches vs. the Zeps for 172 yards.
“It’s nice to have a guy with a 6-5 frame, especially when you’re grooming two guys at quarterback,” Ischy said. “He can go up and get it.”
Young, Rose-Burton, Lincoln, Tomlin, sophomore Auston Hogue (5-6, 120) and Tomlin are other receiving candidates.
Ischy is excited about the prospects along the offensive line, which sees the return of senior Ian Rouse (6-0, 260), who missed virtually all of last season with an injured arm.
Rouse will e joined up front by classmates Logan Biedenbach (5-11, 260) and Owen Hartshorn (6-0, 200) — each of whom started at some point last year — and sophomore Garet Cramer (5-10, 275), who saw some action in 2017.
Others vying for playing time there include sophomore Payton Robison (5-7, 220) and juniors Dakota Cochran (5-11, 290) and Paul Yonak (5-11, 160), another former soccer player.
many of the same players on the offensive line will make up the defense front, too. Add in Jones and Kilburn and Ischy said the unit has the makings of a group with potential.
Keylor is a returnee at linebacker. He’ll be joined there by Cramer, Yonak and sophomore David Habig (6-1, 165).
The secondary will be green, as well.
Young has some experience there, but outside of that, most of the players there will be new. Expect to see Rose-Burton, Tomlin, Hogue, Lincoln and Babcock competing for playing time there.
LaFollette wasn’t just the team’s quarterback, he also served as the kicker and punter. Ischy said Jones has emerged as a possible candidates to fulfill those duties.