on his watch
It’s safe to say both Western Reserve High School and Andy Hake have plenty to be thankful for.
Just five years after taking over a football program that had never advanced past the second round of the playoffs — and in his first stint as a head coach — Hake has turned a small school out in the country into a program with a recent history of postsesason success topped only by perennial power, Cardinal Mooney.
The Blue Devils recorded an abysmal 29-120 record from 1991-2005. When they take the field in St. Clairsville on Saturday night, it will be their second state semifinal appearance in three years.
It will also be an opportunity for Hake to improve his 53-8 record as a head coach.
“It’s a real dream come true,” Hake said. “I feel lucky and again, I’m just coaching football. I have great kids that want to do things that we ask them to do as coaches.
“We have a real plan and the kids execute the plan and that’s really what it is. People sometimes make more or less of it.”
Hake got his coaching start at his alma mater, Mineral Ridge. But after a few years with the Rams he took an assistant position with Youngstown East. Then, in 2009, the Western Reserve head coaching job opened up. Hake said he was familiar with the school from playing the Blue Devils while with Mineral Ridge in the Inter Tri-County League, but it didn’t extend much beyond that.
“Through the years they’ve struggled, but at the same time there’s always kids out there,” Hake said. “When [the job] opened up I just thought it was a great opportunity. I was coaching in the city and I thought this was a great chance to get a head [coaching] job.”
Hake’s career path should come as no surprise to anyone who knows, or has been around him. His parents were both teachers, prompting Hake to become a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher, and his father coached football for more than 30 years, explaining the passion he has for the game.
However when it comes to the fire and emotion he displays not just on the sideline, but every day in practice, that’s not something he picked up from his father.
“My dad’s demeanor is a lot more calm and patient. I’m probably the opposite,” Hake said. “I gotta be more patient — I think that’s very important, especially with young people.”
And his eccentric personality?
“I guess I gotta blame that on my mother’s side,” Hake joked. “No, no, I just believe you have to enjoy what you’re doing in life. Enjoy what you do and do it 100 percent — you gotta enjoy your life.”
After being around Hake for five years now, this year’s senior class has become accustomed to their coach’s unique style.
“He’s awesome,” senior Jon Timko said. “A lot of people say he’s a players coach, which I think is really important to have a relationship with your coach. We just feed off of his energy and when things go wrong he’s always there to make sure that we respond correctly.”
Yet just because they’re used to it, doesn’t mean they can explain it.
“In practice, lifting, watching film — I don’t know how he does it,” said senior running back and linebacker Dan Zilke.