The 2001 graduate replaces Tim Johnson, who stepped down after one season.
By STEVE RUMAN
NILES — In an effort to maintain success in the future, the Niles McKinley High football program is turning to its past.
Brad Yeager, a 2001 Niles McKinley graduate who helped lead the school to its first postseason appearance in 1999, has been named the Red Dragons’ coach.
Niles Superintendent Rocco Adduci on Friday confirmed the hiring of Yeager.
In December, Tim Johnson stepped down as the Red Dragons’ coach following a one-year stint.
“The board still has to officially act on the hiring at its next meeting, but I talked to the board members and they assured me they were very much in favor of the selection,” Adduci said. “Brad will meet with the team Monday and immediately begin performing his duties.
“We’re excited. Brad bleeds red and blue, and he is extremely knowledgeable. We had 17 quality applicants, we narrowed it down to eight, but in the end we felt that Brad was the most qualified of the bunch,” Adduci added.
During Yeager’s senior season in 2000, he was Niles’ starting quarterback when the Red Dragons won a school-record 11 games, advancing to the Division III, Region 9 title game.
Following graduation, Yeager immediately began working as a coach within the system, first at the junior high level then at the freshmen and varsity level.
“There was a reason I didn’t leave with the other coaches when they left the program,” Yeager said. “All my life, I was dealt the pride speech regarding Niles, and I totally bought into it. It was my dream to run through the tunnel of Bo Rein Stadium as a player, and then it became my dream to do the same as a coach.
“To me, this isn’t a steppingstone to something bigger,” Yeager said. “This is my dream job.”
Yeager becomes the 31st Niles coach since the school began keeping official records in 1912. And at 25 years of age, he also becomes the youngest to guide the program.
“I look at my age as a positive, and not a negative,” Yeager said. “I have a great relationship with the kids, both at the varsity and junior high level. I’m not too far removed, so I’m confident the player-coach relationship will be strong, and there will be a lot of respect both ways.”
Yeager played for, and later worked under Bill Bohren — the veteran coach who is now at LaBrae.
Bohren isn’t surprised to that his one-time pupil is now guiding the Niles program.
“Even as a young player, Brad was a student of the game,” Bohren said. “He prepared himself extremely well for every game and every practice. He knew he wanted to one day be a coach, and he definitely had the knowledge and determination to make it happen.
“Niles isn’t just getting a smart football guy, they’re getting a quality individual,” Bohren added.
Mahoning Valley Thunder general manager Adam Tokash served on an eight-man committee which interviewed applicants and recommended Yeager to the Niles BOE. Tokash echoed Bohren’s comments.
“Brad has a passion for football and for the community of Niles,” Tokash said. “That was a big selling point as far as we were concerned. But the biggest factor was his knowledge of the game. I have no doubt he is going to be a quickly-rising star.”
Tokash noted the committee expressed concern regarding Yeager’s age, “but in the end, in Brad’s case we felt that it was more of an asset rather than a liability.”
Yeager becomes the fourth coach in seven years to guide the Niles program. Bohren resigned following the 2002 season. Following a four-year stint, Phil Annarella resigned in 2006. That led to Johnson’s one-year stint.
Yeager said his first goal is to establish stability within the program.
“You look at the successful programs in the area, there is one constant — they have had the same coach for a long period of time,” Yeager said. “I want the same thing for this program.
“My future is in Niles. I want that future to include a successful high school football program.”
Following a 9-2 season in 2006, Niles finished 7-3 in ’07. However, it loses a wealth of experience, including 20 seniors.