By Brad Morris
ASHVILLE — To lead its transition to the Ohio Capital Conference in 2024, Teays Valley turned to a Hall of Fame coach on Friday with 23 years of experience coaching in the state’s largest conference.
Pending approval by the Teays Valley Board of Education on January 9, Brian Cross is slated to become the next head football coach for the Vikings.
“Brian’s resume was impressive at first glance, with the success he has had wherever he has coached, but what made him stand out during the interview process was his passion for student athletes and the game of football,” Teays Valley Athletic Director Joel Baker said. “…Brian will bring a wealth of football knowledge to the program and will instill toughness and discipline in the program.
“He has years of experience coaching in the OCC and will use that experience to have our team prepared for the move to the OCC in 2024.”
Cross, 70, has 25 years of experience as a head coach with stops at Canton McKinley, Grove City, Bishop Ready, Eastmoor Academy, Olentangy Orange and Pymatuning Valley, and compiled a career record of 248-146 that earned him a spot in the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2020.
He retired in 2015 as a physical education teacher and monitoring credit recovery at Olentangy Orange and spent this past season as an assistant coach at Westerville Central.
Cross said he was attracted to apply for the job due to the district’s investment in athletics and its dynamic of being a rural district that is developing a suburban-feel due to the expansion of the Columbus metropolitan area into northwest Pickaway County.
“I started coaching at Pymatuning Valley, which is a rural community, so I have a soft spot for those type of kids,” Cross noted. “Teays Valley is an interesting district because its mostly rural, but it also has a growing suburban element with the construction of new homes going on at Foxfire (Golf Club) and other areas in the northern part of the district.
“This is also a district that invests in its students and has the community behind it. I was down here a couple of years ago and saw the stadium, the field turf and now they’ve added a fieldhouse to the high school campus. They really take care of the facilities and are committed to having a successful athletic program.”
Cross discussed the transition that the Vikings will have moving into the OCC’s Buckeye Division for the 2024 season, the challenges it will bring and how he can help position the program to meet those challenges.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge because Teays Valley will be going from being the largest school in the Mid-State League to being one of the smaller schools in the Ohio Capital Conference, which only has a handful of Division II schools,” he said. “I believe there will be a few keys that we will need to accomplish in order to have success in the OCC.
“First, we need to increase the number of players that we have out for football. Second, we need to go to work and get our players bigger and stronger and build on the good weight program that Teays Valley already has in place. There are going to be times when we face teams who will be more talented than we are, so it’s going to be a big key for us to at least be as physical as those teams, if not more, to be a very disciplined team and not beat ourselves with turnovers and things like that.”
The OCC-Buckeye will include Division I schools Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg, Groveport, Newark and Lancaster, and Division II schools Canal Winchester, Logan and Teays Valley.
To help in its transition to the OCC, the Vikings played an OCC schedule in middle school this past season and will do so again this season before officially moving into the conference.
“That’s a really good opportunity for our kids coming up through the program to see the caliber of play in the OCC and become used to it,” Cross said. “The MSL is a quality middle-division league that has a number of good football players. The difference between the MSL and the OCC is the OCC has more good football players on each team than the MSL does, because you are dealing with larger schools who have more students to draw from.”
Over his career, Cross has been recognized for his success by being named Associated Press Division I and Division II Ohio Coach of the Year, Central District Coach of the Year, Ohio Capital Conference Coach of the Year, Federal League Coach of the Year, Columbus City League Coach of Year and Ashtabula County Coach of Year.
Cross takes over for Mark Weber, who resigned last month after a successful nine-year run that included leading the Vikings to five league championships and becoming the program’s winningest coach with a 60-31 record. Teays Valley finished last season with a 5-5 mark.
“Obviously, Coach (Weber) did a nice job here and he built a foundation that we want to build upon,” Cross said. “We are going to play a physical brand of football and build a team-first attitude where we want to have team success because that leads to individual success and having kids go on to play college football and be successful in life.”
While Cross wants to instill a physical brand of football, he hasn’t decided what systems he will incorporate on offense and defense. That will come after he meets his new players and fills out a coaching staff.
“What we want to do is evaluate our kids, the talent that they have and put them into the proper schemes on offense and defense that will best utilize their talent,” Cross said.
Cross is looking forward to getting a season to coach in the MSL and start preparing the Vikings for their move to the OCC.
The Vikings are slated to get a taste of OCC football to open the 2023 season when they travel to Fulton Field and take on the Lancaster Golden Gales.
“I respect the MSL, because it’s a quality league with good players and good coaches,” Cross said. “It’ll be like a blast from the past coaching in a smaller-division league from when I started coaching, and I am looking forward to it.
“It will also give us an opportunity to start building the program, the team-first attitude and the discipline that we’ll need to have for a successful final season in the MSL before making the transition into the OCC.”
Date Opponent 2022 Record
Aug. 18 at Lancaster 2-9
Aug. 25 Logan 4-6
Sept. 1 at Watkins Memorial 9-3
Sept. 8 Liberty Union 2-8
Sept. 15 Hamilton Township 6-4
Sept. 22 at Circleville 5-6
Sept. 29 Amanda-Clearcreek 0-10
Oct. 6 at Bloom-Carroll 14-2
Oct. 13 Logan Elm 8-3
Oct. 20 at Fairfield Union 5-5