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Shoemaker named new Wartburg football coach

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By The Staff

By BRIAN LANGLEY

Morgan County News

Dan Shoemaker's loyalty and dedication to the Wartburg football program has finally paid off. The 43 year-old career assistant has been named the new football coach at Central High School.

Shoemaker has been through the highs and the lows of the Central High School football program. He was a part of several Morgan County Championships and two playoffs trips during his 13 years as an assistant at Wartburg. He and his Bulldogs, however, enter the 2008 season riding a 32 game losing streak.

"I've been here a while, so I kind of know what Region 2 is about. I know what Wartburg football is about. I've seen some good years and I've seen some bad years and we're ready to turn around to the good years," explained Shoemaker.

Shoemaker has a vested interest in the football program with two sons coming up through the ranks and wanted to make sure that there was some stability in the program after going through two coaches in less than a year.

"Continuity is a huge thing in the program and when I was making the decision on whether to put my name in for consideration, I thought about the guys that would be playing for their third head coach and that is never a good situation. My plan is to bring as much stability as I can and be here for a long time. I want to get this program back on the path of the winning ways," said Shoemaker.

He started out as an assistant under Rory Foster back in 1992. He would then assist Ronnie Trout (1993-94), Larry Davis (1995-2001, 2005 06) and John Bangley (2007). He believes his experience with each of those coaches have helped mold his coaching style.

"From the Ronnie Trout era, we're going to try and bring back a little bit of the power game, especially when we're down on the goal line. He liked to run the wishbone, kind of old-school. From Rory Foster, I remember having four or five different offensive sets. I want to bring a little bit if that variety. From the Larry Davis era, I want to bring back the passing game he had. I thought his spread, Mouse Davis passing game was one of the best I've seen around. From the John Bangley era, I want to bring back some of the pride that he had started," said Shoemaker.

"The big thing I want to bring that I learned from all four of those coaches I assisted at Wartburg is the ability to adapt your offense to what the defense gives you. The ability to fit a system to players. I want to build on those things and put my own touch on it as well."

Shoemaker had already been working hard to get things ready for the 2008 season. He has got a good nucleus of kids in the weight room for off season workouts and has been watching plenty of game tape to evaluate his players.

"We're working pretty hard in the weight room right now. We're running 24-25 kids right now. When we get some more 8th graders, and when we get our basketball and baseball people back, I'm looking for 38-40 in the spring. I wish we could start spring practice next week. I'm excited from the standpoint that the future is bright here at Wartburg. I'm not worried from here to the past. We're looking forward and not looking behind," offered Shoemaker.

Shoemaker has his coaching staff in place with volunteer coach Chuck Heidle as the lone holdover off last year's staff. He has added new blood to the program with former Wartburg standout Travis Nelson set to help coach the quarterbacks, while Rodney Ellison and Steve Cochran will also be key members to the staff. Ellison, who was an assistant at Bearden the last two seasons, will coach the defense, while Cochran, a former Carson-Newman player, will coach the defensive line.

"We're real fortunate that we were able to add Rodney Ellison and Steve Cochran to our staff. Chuck Heidle has been my right-hand guy since Coach (John) Bangley announced his departure. We're going to put Travis (Nelson) to work and he will really helps this program. You have to have that help, because if you don't have that help then it is a long, long season," said Shoemaker.

Shoemaker will take over the play-calling responsibilities after handling the defense for many seasons. He was the Morgan County Defensive Coach of the year back in 2001 when the 'Dogs went 8-4 and made it to the second round of the Class A playoffs. He is really going to stress a balanced offensive attack.

"I want to be balanced. We're going to try to run the ball, we're going to try to throw the ball. We're going to try to throw the ball when we don't have to throw the ball. If you pull some game tapes from ten years ago, you are going to see us running combo routes on the outside, see us throwing the backside post, see us running smash routes and things like that," explained Shoemaker.

"Probably half of what you see in our throwing game is what we ran 10 years ago. We're going to bring back a little bit of the option. We're also going to run the counter game and some midline. It's going to be variety and it's going to be balanced. It's going to be lots of formation, but not a whole lot of plays."

While Shoemaker has been busy compiling a playbook (he recently visited Florida coach Urban Myer), he knows changing the attitude about the Wartburg football program is critical in their success. He must also build numbers to help them compete in Class AA.

"The big thing is they (players) got to believe. We have to put complete games together and they have to realize that they can match up with teams. Our short term goal is to get the numbers up, because there is kids walking the hall at Wartburg that need to be playing football. Another short term and long term goal is to get this sense of dread about playing football away from here. Football is a big deal, should be a big deal and was a big deal back in the 90's when I was here," said Shoemaker.

While many folks think that Wartburg can't compete in Region 2-AA against the likes of Alcoa, Sweetwater, Loudon, CAK and Rockwood, Shoemaker points to the program during the mid 1990's and early 2000's as proof that the Bulldogs can do some special things on the gridiron.

"There was some times that we were really fired up about going and playing football. We didn't fear anybody. We would go play with Alcoa, we would go play with Sweetwater and we would get after them. Win, lose or draw, they had knew they had been in a scrap," recalls Shoemaker.

"Now, there is a sense of dread or people saying we can't compete in 2A. We have competed in 2A and gone to the playoffs in 2A and we want to get back to that point."

Shoemaker believes Wartburg fans are going to like what they see this season. He expects his teams to be competitive, play hard the entire game, and have opportunities to win some close games.

"They (Wartburg) are going to play hard. They are going to get after people and they are going to give great effort for four quarters," Shoemaker added.

"They are going to see a little more variety on offense and they are going to see a little more pressure on defense. We're going to try and keep it close and in the fourth quarter have the opportunity to win. I don't think you will see any blowouts where we just jump up on somebody by four touchdowns and then ride that lead. I think you will see games that will be held close and be won in the fourth quarter."