ADA – In the last 17 years, Ada has only missed the playoffs once.
Shawn Christopher is looking to continue that winning tradition after taking over the head coach duties after spending 13 years on the Ada coaching staff.
Christopher began his assistant coaching duties under Mike Fell and then continued on the sidelines with Bob Olwin the last five years as the defensive coordinator so when Olwin retired, Christopher jumped as the opportunity to be the main Bulldog.
“I knew there was no other question to apply for this job,” Christopher said. “It is a great job to have. It is a great community to be a part of and I have been blessed enough to help coach this talent for the last 13 years.”
Christopher added that he felt it was the right time to take on the head coach duties and felt that he has learned a lot from Fell and Olwin but from other coaches such Frank Crea, Dan Evans and Dave Allen.
“They have taught me as much as Fell and Olwin have taught me,” Christopher said. “Frank Crea has been a great mentor for me.”
Because he has been part of the Bulldog football program for more than a dozen years, the transition from assistant to head coach has been a relative smooth one.
“They were all in right away,” Christopher said. “I been blessed that these guys were ready to work hard for my staff and myself and they kind of had a feel for who I am as a person and they knew me as a coach and so they knew what to expect. It has been a lot of fun because we hit the ground running.”
Being a little younger and having helped these players on and off the field, Christopher added that he brings a more approachable quality with him.
“I think these guys can come to me with a lot of things,” Christopher said. “They view me as somebody where I can mentor them in a lot of different ways and I have created relationships with a lot of different guys that are not just football relationships where I can help them in steps in whatever they want to do after high school.”
Christopher said he knows making the playoffs is no easy task especially playing in the always competitive Northwest Conference and having to replace two all-state performers in quarterback Seth Conley and receiver and defensive back Chase Summers.
Thirteen letter winners return for Summers with the bulk of the starters coming on the offensive and defensive lines so it will be the skilled players who will need to adjust and perform at the varsity level.
“We are athletic,” Christopher said. “They fight. They battle and they have picked up offensively of what we do pretty quickly and really well.
Replacing Conley at quarterback is sophomore Brandon Hull.
“He is an athlete and we are giving our best athlete the ball behind the center,” Christopher said.
In addition to a veteran line returning, Hull will be assisted by returning receivers Brad Clum, Phillip Coulson and Zac Sweeney with newcomer Daniel Mattson in the mix. Christopher describes Coulson as a grinder, Clum has speed to burn and Mattson has good hands.
In the backfield Landon Blankenship will receive the majority of carries and even though the Bulldogs have a reputation of being pass happy, Christopher said he will still continue the spread but would like to see a little more balance offensively.
Three senior starters on the offensive line will the dehelp with the adjustment of the inexperienced skilled player. Three-year letter winners Noah Mattson and Nathan Mattson, along with two year letter winner, Ethan Hall provide stability up front. Joining these three will be Logan Conrad and Brice Paul
“It all starts with the line,” Christopher said. “They are getting cohesion as a unit and they are getting to the point where the are feeling off each other. I’m excited.”
The loss of Conley and Summers will also be felt on the defensive side of the ball, however, like the offense is strong up front.
Noah Mattson, Nathan Mattson and Ethan Hall all return with Ty Miller and Carson Hissong making up the defensive front.
Christopher said Miller and Hisson are the new faces and will play defensive end and he describes the duo as disciplined individuals that do their jobs and play their roles very well.
Anchoring the linebacking corps is returner Blankenship while Holden Purdy and Dylan East will have first shots at the outside positions.
Expected to play in the defensive backfield is made up of Swaney, Clum, Coulson and Keagan Hull. Due to a summer injury to Swaney, Hull, a freshman, is getting a shot as a cornerback.
“Defensively I am aggressive,” Christopher said. “I have been the defensive coordinator for the last five years and I am an aggressive guy so I am going to continue that.”
With the Bulldogs missing the playoffs once since 2006, Christopher understands the expectations of the program and embraces it. In fact, after early exits the last two seasons, the new Bulldog coach is looking to make deep runs into the playoffs.
“When you coach and play at Ada high school, your expectation is to compete for an NWC championship and see if you can make a run in the playoffs. Making the playoffs is a given,” Christopher said. “We have to work and do the things to get there. We can’t play week 11 without playing week one.”