By VINCE PELUSO
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
First-year Edgewood football coach Josh Franke knows he’s not coaching Virginia anymore, and as far he’s concerned, that’s a good thing.
Franke is back where he believes he belongs — his home state of Ohio, where football is king and the pressure is high.
But, for the new Warriors coach, that’s just how he likes it.
“It’s refreshing to be completely honest because in Virginia the whole mentality of football is that it’s more of a hobby, the community wasn’t very involved or had high expectations,” he said. “Being up here... For example I had someone deliver a refrigerator to my house. They knew my last name because of the order, but they had no idea who I was. I had never met this person before and my wife (Kendra) was there and he said, ‘Oh your husband’s the new head football coach, huh?’ And she’s like ‘yeah, how did you know that?’ And he said, ‘Oh I just put two and two together. Just tell him we really like winners here.’”
Welcome to Ohio, Coach.
“I perform better when the expectations for myself and my team are higher,” he said. “I think the one common thing that I’ve heard and my wife has heard in the community is that we really want to have a successful team. Our community needs that. Being able to set the bar that high, I like those expectations put on me. I like going in knowing that not only do I want to win but the kids want to win, the whole community wants to win as well and when you get that, everyone seems to be on the same page.
“You deal with a little pressure, but the profession I chose was to be a varsity football coach in Ohio, and I think regardless of the school you’re at, the pressure is going to be on you.”
Expectations are certainly high for a Warriors team reached the playoffs for the first time in school history in 2012 after going 7-3 in the regular season.
Edgewood returns a strong senior class highlighted by Star Beacon Ashtabula County Offensive Lineman of the Year Matt Fitchet and Linebacker of the Year Anthonie Magda.
The relationship between a new coach and the senior class can sometimes be a tricky thing, but so far Franke is pleased with how the team has responded to him.
“I think they’re excited about the things we’re doing, the schemes that we’re running,” he said. “I think that the biggest challenge for any coaching change is the communication. The communication and the terminology of the past staff is going to be very different than what we’re doing this year. I think the biggest hurdle is getting those kids to understand that although we might be doing similar things, the terminology is different and getting past that hurdle and getting them to learn that new terminology and getting them to relate it to their prior experience I think is the biggest challenge.”
While many of the players who were on last year’s team will be the same, this year’s team couldn’t possibly look much different from a schematic standpoint.
Last year’s team ran predominantly from a power running formation and kept the ball on the ground, while Franke’s offense looks to put the ball in the air a considerable amount more while also mixing up the looks it gives opposing defenses.
With that in mind, it was important that he found a quarterback after the Warriors lost last year’s starter, Louie Wisnyai, to graduation.
The former Middlesex (Virginia) coach said when he came in he held an open competition for the spot, but he isn’t shy about announcing who his starter will be when Edgewood hosts Geneva in the season opener on Aug. 30.
“When I came in we had kind of an open contest and hands down (sophomore) Alex Wisnyai has outright won that position,” he said. “We had a 7 on 7 (recently) against some great teams and we ended up winning the tournament, won in the championship game and he played every snap at quarterback the whole day. He’s very young but he has a great arm. He listens, he’s very coachable. He wants to be a great leader and great quarterback and he’s eager to learn.
“That’s what I like with a new guy, it’s kind of a fresh slate and he’s ready to be molded into what you want him to be compared to maybe a senior or someone like that.”
The first-year coach admitted he didn’t necessarily expect to have a starting quarterback named in mid-July, but given the offense he wants to run that certainly is a pleasant surprise.
“I didn’t, but the offensive system we’re running is so complex and there’s so much to learn that I knew coming in we had to find the guy sooner rather than later because there’s so much and every last rep is important to getting them ready,” he said. “Especially with a senior quarterback last year, I didn’t know who it would be this year. I knew it was going to be someone with no varsity game experience whatsoever so every single rep we could get our incoming quarterback was going to be important for them learning the system and recognizing defensive coverages and things like that.
“We’re very fortunate that it did work itself out earlier than, say, August for example.”
Franke put together an aggressive summer schedule that included multiple 7 on 7s — something last year’s team didn’t do — as well as longer practices and open fields.
He admitted there was some concern as to how the team would respond, but so far so good.
“At first I was (concerned) and the administration had brought up that I was putting together practices that are going to be way longer than what they’re accustomed to,” he said. “I’d say probably a week into it I realized that it wasn’t going to be issue. Everywhere I’ve been I’ve told the kids we’re not going to be successful unless the players want to win more than the coaches do. If the coaches want to win more than the player do then we’re going to have a sub-par season. Being here, it’s very evident that these kids want to win just as bad as I do. I think they’re willing to make the sacrifices and put the time in.
“With this group of kids, they want to be a winner, they want to win a playoff game. They’re very dedicated to being successful on the field, once I saw their commitment level I wasn’t concerned about there being any problems as far as attendance or anything like that.”
Much of last year’s coaching staff remains and Franke has said they have taken to each other well.
“It’s been great, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with,” he said. “They were very accepting and open when I came in here. They’ve been nothing but eager to learn what we’re going to be doing this year. Even though it’s a staff from a previous coach I think it’s a little bit of fresh air for them to have some new stuff that we’re going to be doing. They’re excited about what we’re doing.
“I think everyone has really bought into what we’re trying to accomplish this year.”
Although not from Ashtabula, on a personal level, Franke said it’s nice to be home.
“I love it here, we’re living in North Kingsville, right up the road (from Edgewood),” he said. “I was born and raised in Ohio, living in Ohio is very different than living in Virginia. From the people to the community to the weather. This is... I was sitting on the lawn mower cutting the lawn the other night and the sun was going down and you just got the feeling that you were in Ohio and it was a cool summer night and I’ve missed that.
“I’m happy to be back.”