ELIDA – Home sweet home.
Kyle Harmon, a 2003 Elida graduate, has always dreamed of taking over the reins of the Elida football program.
It was the place where Harmon played sports, and also where he began his coaching career.
Now, Harmon will be calling the shots as the new head football coach at Elida.
Harmon is taking over an Elida program that was winless last season.
However, despite the dismal 2019 campaign, Harmon is optimistic on the prospects of the upcoming season.
“I honestly try not to dwell on last year,” Harmon said. “I try to give all the kids a fresh start. We’re trying not to put a lot of thought on their production in the past. We’re trying to see what they can come out and do this year.”
After graduating from Elida, Harmon attended Ohio Northern University. Ironically, his first coaching job was at Elida, where he started out as a middle school coach in 2005 and soon was elevated to assistant coach on the high school staff. He stayed at Elida up through the 2015 campaign.
Harmon later went on to become Lima Senior’s offensive coordinator for a couple seasons. For the past two seasons, Harmon was the pass/outside run
game coordinator at Wapakoneta. Wapakoneta went 20-4 in those two seasons and were back-to-back WBL champions.
“It’s exciting to be back,” Harmon said. “My heart has always been here. I had good experiences at where I was at. I loved my time at Lima Senior under Coach Griff (Andre Griffin). He was great to coach for. And then to go down to Wapak and coach with (head coach Travis) Moyer and win two WBL championships. … That’s something you won’t forget. We had some really good kids at Wapak.”
Harmon, a physical education teacher at Elida High School, is very familiar with the Elida program, as well as the student body.
“I know the kids from class. I had a lot of them in middle school and a lot of them in high school,” Harmon said. “So, it’s nice to see how they’ve come out and worked really hard, both in the weight room and on the field.”
When Harmon was hired as the head coach at Elida this past winter, he immediately opened up the weight room, and received a great response from the players.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt halt to the early momentum.
“When we first starting lifting, I thought we were starting to close that gap,” Harmon said. “Obviously, our strength numbers weren’t where I wanted them to be, since we have a young team, but we were closing the gap. Then we had the quarantine. We still had quite a few kids lifting at home, and doing things they could do. But ever since we got back (during the summer), we’ve been getting after it. I do think we’re a little behind on where we would have been. But the kids are showing up and doing what we are asking them to do.”
The Bulldogs will showcase a pro spread look on the offensive side of the ball. Harmon wants his offensive unit to take full advantage of what the defense gives them.
“We are going to take pride in a physical running game and an efficient passing game,” he said. “The offensive scheme is going to look like what I ran when I was here (as Elida’s offensive coordinator) and at Lima Senior. We’re going to be a run-based football team. A lot of stuff is going to come off our run. We’ll strive to be 50/50 (run/pass). But honestly, whatever the defense is going to give us, we’re going to take it. We don’t care if we pass for 400 yards or rush for 400 yards. Whatever is working, is what we’re going to do.
“We have quite a bit of speed. We also have some guys up front. We’re trying to mold the offense with the players that we have. We have a lot of speed and some guys who came back out who haven’t played the last couple years. What it comes down to, is seeing what we are good at, and rolling with it.”
Last season, Elida’s balanced offensive unit was eighth in the Western Buckeye League in total offense, averaging 258.8 yards per game. The Bulldogs rolled up 2,588 total yards (1,380 rushing, 1,208 passing). They scored 17.4 points per contest.
Sophomore Larkin Henderson (5-9, 185) and junior Brandon Howard (5-11, 190), who split time behind center last season, are battling for the starting quarterback job.
Last season, Henderson passed for 347 yards, two touchdowns and rushed for a TD.
According to Harmon, some of the athletes to watch for on the offensive side of the ball are Layton Mowery (Sr., slot, 5-8, 160), Jayden Irons (Jr., WR, 6-1, 155), Carter Harsh (Sr., WR, 6-2, 185), Nick Niebel (Sr., slot, 5-8, 175), Mike Niebel (Jr., RB, 5-8, 175), Gunnar Kuhn (Jr., WR, 5-10, 155), Noah Bowman (Sr., TE, 6-0,
185), Jameir Jackson (Sr., TE, 6-1, 175), D’Angelo Smith (So., WR, 5-11, 160) and Tyler Carter (So., RB, 5-8, 165).
Anchoring both the offensive and defensive lines is senior Dylan Harmon (Sr., 6-0, 265), a cousin of Coach Harmon.
“We just go week by week,” Dylan Harmon said. “As long as we can win the week we are on – that’s our goal.”
The first-year head coach’s biggest challenge this season, will probably be on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2019, Elida was last in the league in total defense (359.8 yards per game), rushing defense (227.7 yards per game), and scoring defense (41.3 points per game).
“We’re going to show multiple fronts on defense,” Harmon said. “We’re going to try to play to our strengths. We got some big guys up front. We have some linebackers that can run. We have some defensive backs that can cover. So, we’re going to do multiple things and try to confuse the opposing teams.
“We’re going to build defense first. Obviously, you have to be able to stop the run to stand a chance in the WBL.”
Senior linebacker Nick Niebel, who recorded 81 tackles last season, is very anxious to get the season started.
“I’m pretty excited – a new coach, new system,” Niebel said. “A lot of the guys bought in this year. So, that’s exciting. Coach Harmon has done a good job of getting people to buy into the culture.”
Niebel’s brother, Mike, made 88 tackles in 2019 (sixth in the WBL), which included six for losses. He also had three interceptions. Andrew Etzkorn, who also returns, made 73 tackles (four TFLs) in 2019.
“Right now, we talk about going on a week-to-week basis,” Coach Harmon said. “That goes with everything. We’re not sure what tomorrow is going to bring. We always talk about being 1-0 at the end of the week.”