MIAMI — Zach Gardner, who guided Afton to the Class A state championship in December, has been named head football coach at Miami High School.
Gardner succeeds Andrew Rice as the Wardogs’ coach.
“I’m excited for the opportunity MPS is giving me and my family,” Gardner said by text on his way to Oklahoma City to receive a citation on the championship team from the Oklahoma legislature. “I am leaving some great people at Afton that has supported me through all phases of my career.”
Gardner told his players of the decision prior to them leaving for Oklahoma City.
Rice resigned after one season to become offensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Gardner’s hiring is pending approval of the Miami Board of Education at a special Wednesday meeting.
“I do think he’s the right guy at the right time for Wardog football,” Miami athletic director Chad Davis said. “I think people will be really excited about it locally with Zach having the credibility he has earned over the last decade-plus.
“His tenure at Afton speaks for itself.’
This will actually be Gardner’s second stint in the Miami School District.
From June 2004 to June 2006 he was an assistant coach in football, wrestling and baseball and an elementary physical education instructor at Wilson and Washington schools.
He also served a spring internship in the MPS in 2004.
Gardner was 99-33 in 11 seasons at Afton.
The Eagles ran the table in 2017, going 10-0 in the regular season. Their closest call was a 22-20 win against Rejoice Christian in Week 6.
Then in the playoffs, Afton rolled 48-7 over Savanna, 40-14 against Cashion in the second round, 30-6 over Minco in the quarterfinals and 52-7 against Thomas in the semifinal round.
During a 44-12 win over Crescent in the championship game, quarterback Wil Amos — who signed with Emporia (Kansas) State University last week — had 418 yards and five touchdowns.
He had one losing season in that stretch — 5-6 in 2015 — but his teams have won 26 of 27 games the two seasons.
In addition to its football prowess, Gardner has built Afton into a state powerlifting powerhouse.
The Eagles won back-to-back state titles in 2016-2017, have had three individual state champions and 83 state qualifiers.
He’s also coached three individual and one relay state champions.
Gardner has worked with Lincoln Riley and Josh Heupel the past eight years at the Oklahoma Football Camp and with Todd Monken, Mike Yurcich and Casey Dunn for four years at OSU’s camp.
Gardner inherits a Miami program that has won just twice over the past two seasons.
The Wardogs were 1-9 in 2017, the lone win a 32-19 decision over Vinita.
They topped Tulsa McLain 21-20 for the only win in 2016.