By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NORTH LIMA -- Many high school football coaches who achieve success at small programs set their sights on the challenge of turning around teams at bigger schools.
And then there are those like South Range's Dan Yeagley who is preparing for his 11th season as head coach at his alma mater.
With seven playoff appearances and four Inter-County League titles since 1996, Yeagley's success with the Raiders (86-26 overall) has to have put him on the radar screens of bigger schools.
It doesn't matter.
Yeagley's going nowhere. The Greenford native is home -- and he's happy.
"My parents live here, my brother and sister, [wife] Kelli's family lives here -- this is where I want to be and this is where I want my kids to grow up, where I want them to graduate," Yeagley said. "I'm not worried about anything else but here."
An opportunity to return
After graduating from Muskingum College, Yeagley began his teaching career at Watkins Memorial High School in Pataskala (near Columbus). A mathematics teacher, he spent eight years as an assistant football coach when an opportunity at South Range opened up.
"There was a teaching position open," Yeagley said. "My dream always was to come back to coach and teach here at the high school I grew up.
"It was a family move -- my wife went to school here, too, and we have two sons. It was a chance to be back here with their grandparents and aunts and uncles. That's important to me."
The Yeagleys feel the small-town atmosphere of North Lima is just about perfect.
Their oldest son, Scott, is a junior and will be the Raiders' long snapper and a backup for several positions on offense and defense.
Their younger son, Luke, will be playing a different style of football, as he will be part of South Range's inaugural soccer team this fall.
Yeagley says the prospect of watching Luke's games as a parent and not a coach is appealing, especially on Saturday nights.
Fridays however, belong to football.
"I love coaching football, I love teaching," Yeagley said. "It's been great.
"As long as the community and the school board want me to coach, I'm going to continue. As long as they want me to teach, I'm going to continue.
Praise for players, staff
"I love these kids -- they try hard," Yeagley said. "Plus I've got a great staff -- they're phenomenal. There are a lot of times where I can sit back and watch them -- they are great teachers."
Yeagley's assistants are Wayne Allegretto, Rich McClellan, Alan Kimmel, Mike Owen, Dave Purins, Paul Lindstrom and Gary Snyder. All but one are teachers and of those, only one doesn't teach in the South Range system.
"That's a plus," Yeagley said. "They are good teachers in the classroom and good teachers on the field. These kids see them every day, all day. It helps on discipline."
Senior lineman Greg Snyder, twice a first-team All-Inter-County League selection, says he has "a lot of respect for a coach who would stay so long.
"His experience matters," Snyder said. 'He knows his team, he knows who is going to be coming up. He's a family-oriented guy."
'A good bond'
Senior wingback Tom DeChellis says Yeagley "is really dedicated to us. I don't think he'll go anywhere. He really loves us.
"We have a good bond between coaches and players. Everyone works real well together," DeChellis said. "Sometimes I think we take it for granted how nice we've had it to have the same coaches stick with us."
Snyder said the Raiders' success of the past nine seasons creates a good kind of challenge.
"[Our players] know South Range is going to be good every year, so there is pressure, but I think it's tradition," Snyder said. "We work hard pretty much every season because of the coaching staff we have.
"The [current players] want to do the same as the seniors before them," Snyder said. "The players want to live up to what the players before them have done.
"When we go out on that field, we're not playing for ourselves but for those who went out there before us and for those who will be out there when we've [graduated].
"So we're pretty much playing for the whole town," Snyder said.
DeChellis added, "When we're on the field and we look to see all that burgundy and gold -- it's great. It really boosts our morale."
Enjoying the job
Yeagley says he enjoys coaching where he grew up.
"Some of the kids' parents I went to high school with, so it creates another level, another bonding that you don't get at other places," Yeagley said. "This is a great school, it really is."
He praised Superintendent James Hall and Principal Dennis Dunham for being "great supporters of our program. I am so fortunate that I was able to come back here and I thank them all the time.
"Having gone to school here, there are teachers here that I had in high school that still teach," Yeagley said.
"This is like a dream. I'm floating on Cloud Nine because this is awesome," Yeagley said. "Right now, the only people I'm worried about are these kids right here."