BETHEL – Roughly three weeks after former head coach Bill Jenike announced his resignation, the Bethel-Tate Tigers football team has chosen a familiar face as their new head coach.
On Thursday, Dec. 17, Bethel-Tate Board of Education approved the hiring of Western Brown offensive coordinator Jeff Essig to the head coach position. Essig used to be an assistant at Bethel and currently teaches in the middle school. He says he’s happy and is anticipating talking to the team tomorrow morning.
“I’m very excited,” Essig said. “I can’t wait to see the boys and get things going.”
Essig was likely one of the first candidates who applied for the job, though Bethel-Tate athletic director Matt Koenig noted there were 30 applicants for the position. The last time Bethel searched for a coach, just three people applied for the job.
“I had applied as soon as they posted it,” Essig said. “With me being in the district, obviously we had the first notice before it went out to the public. I was able to get my résumé and references in. Once it went to the public, they compiled some more. My interview was on Monday and on Tuesday they had a follow-up and here we are.”
Essig has a level of familiarity with the team already, noting he has kept tabs on the squad.
“I had shown a lot of interest in the job over the past few years,” Essig said. “Being in the district I’ve always paid attention to how the Bethel program was doing.”
Despite having the job for less than a day, Essig already has laid out plans for the future.
“I plan to build on the success that they experienced last year,” Essig said. “The way that Coach Jenike has turned that around over the past two years, I’m excited. When you’re only losing Jeffrey Botts and Justin Hixson, we’ve got a lot of returning guys.”
Bethel may have a lot of returning players, but the team’s roster last season consisted of just 24 total students. That’s something Essig wants to change.
“I’m hoping to build those numbers up,” Essig said. “That’s one of my first goals, obviously. I want to get more kids at Bethel-Tate high school to play football. When I was there in 2009 as an assistant, we had 65 athletes on the football team. That’s one of my main goals first and foremost: get our participation up and get some players in pads.”
The participation has to increase, as Essig utilizes a spread offense. His Western Brown team threw for over 3,000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns this past season, a style that will be in sharp contrast to the system the Tigers ran this past season. Bethel ran for over 1,600 yards but threw for less than 400 total in their 10 games.
“I’m a spread guy,” essig said. “We’re going to have the same principles. There are going to be some tweaks and things, maybe some growing pains here in this offseason. For the most part, that’s the system I worked hard to build through some help with Oak Hills coach Evan Dreyer. There are some aspects of it that obviously we’d like to be two-platooned, which is why one of my main goals is to get participation up and get players to come out. In that system, we’re going to allow players to get touches with the football. The system they’ve been using, Botts and Steven Cooper got a lot of touches which could be one of the reasons why some of the student-athletes aren’t coming out. I’m hoping that’ll be a good recruiting tool.”
Essig had been with the Broncos since 2010, last serving as the team’s offensive coordinator under head coach Don Sizer.