COLUMBUS GROVE – During his midget football playing days in grade school, Columbus Grove’s Tadd Koch played quarterback.
However, once Koch got into middle school and began to put on some size, he was moved to a linebacker position.
That move to the defensive side of the football paid off.
Koch, now a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior, is wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks at his middle linebacker position.
Koch’s aggressive style of play at linebacker this season has helped lead Columbus Grove to a deep run into the postseason playoffs.
With his stellar performance this year, Koch was named The Lima News Dream Team Defensive Player of the Year.
Koch was named First Team All-Northwest Conference this year at linebacker, as well as NWC Defensive Player of the Year.
This past week, Koch was named First Team All-Northwest District in Division VI at linebacker. He also was tabbed Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Northwest District.
In the regular season (10 games), Koch recorded 103 tackles. Of those tackles, Koch had three sacks and five tackles for a loss. He also made two interceptions at his middle linebacker spot. The Bulldogs ended the regular season 8-2.
The week this story was filed, Columbus Grove (12-2) was preparing to play Marion Local (14-0) in a Division VI state semifinal.
Through 13 games this season, Koch tallied 133 tackles. He had six tackles for loss, three sacks, nine hurries, two interceptions, and caused one fumble.
For his career, Koch has the most tackles in school history (406, through week 13 of this season).
“I actually started playing (linebacker) in junior high,” Koch said. “In midgets I was offense only, and I played quarterback. I got bigger. … So, I started playing linebacker. … It worked out pretty well. Ever since junior high, I’ve played linebacker. So, I’m pretty comfortable with it right now.”
Koch gives credit to the other two linebackers on Columbus Grove’s defense for his success.
Seniors AJ Schafer and Landen Schroeder round out the strong Columbus Grove linebacker corps. Schafer’s father, Andy Schafer, is Columbus Grove’s head coach. AJ Schafer also was named First Team All-Northwest District this past week, while Schroeder was an honorable-mention selection in the Northwest District.
“AJ (Schafer) does a great job on the edge,” Koch said. “His (Schafer’s) goal is to funnel everything inside. He does a great job of doing that. There’s competition every game. … If he makes a play, then I try to outdo him; and I know he does the same thing. We’re extremely competitive. They (Schafer and Schroeder) do a great job of funneling everything inside. Landen does not get enough credit. … He’s also a great linebacker.”
Coach Schafer said his linebackers do a great job of working together.
“I’ve said this multiple times, that Landen and AJ are so good at setting the edge and making somebody cut back. When you have a guy (Koch) at 240 pounds that can move – and when they (the running backs) cut back – it’s not a pretty sight, because they are cutting right back into Tadd,” said Coach Schafer.
Coach Schafer gives credit to assistant coach Brandon Craft for the success of not only Koch, but the entire linebacker group.
“He (Craft) has been with me for quite a long time,” Schafer said. “I coached him at Liberty-Benton. I had the opportunity to bring him on board here. He’s a great linebacker coach. He played at the University of Findlay. He’s done a great job of teaching these guys technique. I think he teaches linebackers a little differently than some people – just because of the way he played the game and how he understood it.”
Koch is not only a standout on the gridiron but also in track-and-field, where he was a Division III state placer (third) in the discus this past spring. During the winter, Koch also plays on the basketball team.
“Tadd’s not just successful in football,” Schafer said. “He’s great in track as well, and he’s on the basketball team. I think that competitiveness – with all these guys playing multiple sports – has really pushed them to be really good.
“Usually, when you see a guy that size, you don’t see that lateral movement. I think Coach Craft brings that to the table – the ability to teach those guys lateral movement.”
Koch said that playing multiple sports gives him the opportunity to compete year-round.
“You don’t get burned out (by playing other sports). I love football, but playing just football can burn you out,” Koch said.
Koch also plays left tackle on the offensive line.
“I want to be out there, helping the team. I don’t want to stand on the sideline and watch,” Koch said.
Koch feels that as this season progressed, the team really came together.
“It’s been extremely exciting, especially here at the end of the season. We’ve come together as a family,” Koch said. “I think this is the closest that any (Columbus Grove) team has been in the four years that I’ve been here.
“It was a little rocky at the beginning (of this season). We lost a couple games. We didn’t win the NWC this year, which was a big disappointment. But it might have been one of the better things to ever happen; because at this point of the year, we’ve really been playing together as a team.”