LORAIN — Tony Shoulders pondered the question everybody must be asking him these days.
Why would he consider taking over as football coach at Lorain High School? After all, the Titans dropped their last five games a year ago and finished 2-8 under Mark Solis, who left to be the coach at Olentangy High School.
“I’m comfortable with my decision,” Shoulders said. “Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can see some progress. Maybe a little time off recharged the batteries. It’s just the love of the game.”
Shoulders’ previous stint as a head coach at Southview showed promise. However, after posting 6-4 and 5-5 seasons in 2002 and ’03 and getting the Saints in contention for a league title and possible playoff berth, injuries and depth issues derailed the Saints’ progress.
Southview had back-to-back 0-10 seasons in 2005 and ’06. Though Shoulders’ career mark in seven seasons was 22-48, he brings a wealth of experience and a positive attitude. He’s been in coaching more than 30 years, making stops at Defiance College, Baldwin Wallace, Tennessee State, Southview, Admiral King and Elyria Catholic.
A longtime teacher in Lorain, Shoulders knows his work is cut out for him. Lorain’s consolidation is off to a slow start in football.
The Titans are just 9-21 in three years since Admiral King and Southview merged. Solis was supposed to be the solution, but after what appeared to be a promising first year at 5-5, the Titans ran into all kinds of problems last year.
Shoulders admitted the numbers are down and the enthusiasm has waned, but he’s confident the team will improve. He’s got a number of juniors and sophomores ready to step in.
“I can’t really focus on why some kids didn’t come out,” Shoulders said. “I’m working with the kids who are here. Those are the kids we’re coaching. The kids that don’t want to play? OK, so be it, but we’re going to move on without you. It only takes 11.”
Lorain’s scrimmage schedule sounds like a who’s who of Ohio Football. The Titans played at Toledo Whitmer, last year’s Division-I runner-up, and will take on Massillon and Strongsville.
“I was impressed with the results of our scrimmage,” he said. “I have nothing to complain about it. It was all good. We still have some work to do and they realize that. They didn’t go up there (to Whitmer) and lay down. They came to play football.
“I was concerned about it. (Whitmer’s) numbers outweighed ours but I’m very proud of what they did. We just hope to come out of our scrimmages with no injuries and get ready for Midview.”
Talented junior Eddie Williamson took some lumps last year as a sophomore quarterback, but he’s back and ready for bigger things.
“I’m feeling good and confident,” he said. “I feel we’re going to be OK overall. We just can’t get down on one another and (we have to) stay positive.”
“He’s not only a great football player,” Shoulders said of Williamson, “but he’s a kid of great character. He’s a great kid and a joy to coach.”
Sophomore Josh Fell saw action as a freshman and is being counted on to be a key performer on both lines. Fell was listed at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds a year ago.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Fell said. “With Coach Solis leaving, it’s motivated us to be better. We need to practice hard and stay disciplined.”
Junior tailback/linebacker Aaron Neal agrees.
“We need to depend on each other,” he said. “We feel like this is going to be a better year. We were 2-8 last year and I know we can be better than that.”
Shoulders retained just about all of the staff from a year ago.
“They’ve been a big help to me,” he said. “Hopefully at the end of the year we’ll see some more progress to put Lorain on the map.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Lake Erie League
2012 RECORD: 2-8, 2-5
COACH: Tony Shoulders, 1st season (22-48 in seven seasons at Southview)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 16
RETURNING STARTERS: 11
FAST FACT: Shoulders led Southview to a modest 6-4 mark in 2002 but it was only the third time in the history of the program the Saints were above the break-even mark.
Aug. 30 Midview
Sept. 6 at Avon Lake
Sept. 1 at Toledo Scott
Sept. 20 Warrensville Heights*
Sept. 27 at Shaw*
Oct. 4 Bedford*
Oct. 11 Maple Heights*
Oct. 18 at Euclid*
Oct. 25 Cleveland Heights*
Nov. 1 at Warren Harding*
All games at 7 p.m.
* Lake Erie League game