MIAMI — The most immediate goal of new Miami High School head football coach Zach Gardner?
“Obviously we would like to win a few more games, but we have to start getting things back with the core in the weight room and with the strength,” Gardner said during a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 14 to announce his hiring as the Wardogs’ new coach.
Gardner inherits a Miami program that has had back-to-back 1-9 seasons and has gone 33-68 since its last winning record — 7-5 in a 2008 campaign that ended with a heartbreaking 14-7 second round playoff loss at El Reno.
“The winning will take place eventually, but we’ve got to get the kids to buy into the new culture,” he said. “We are not going to accept failure. We are going to be in a very tough district with Oologah, Wagoner and Catoosa — programs that have already established themselves year in and year out. We want to be one of those guys in the future.”
Lending some stability in another way could be a key: Gardner is Miami’s eighth head coach since Bob Homer’s 19-year stint ended following the 2000 season.
“We want some longevity to the program. That’s what he brought to Afton,” Miami superintendent Jeremy Hogan said. “That is all you can ask for. That is a big ask, but you need that longevity to build the program up to have the pinnacle to have success.”
Gardner wants to look at the player talent on the Wardog roster before committing to a specific offense.
He’s used the spread in the past at Afton.
“We will have to evaluate personnel before determining what the offense will be,” he said. “If that fits our kids, that will be great, but we have to see what skill level we have and what plays into our kids’ hand.
“It’s not the college level where we can recruit the kids that fit our style of offense. As a coach, we have to fit our kids.”
Gardner said he asked Miami athletic director Chad Davis about the vacancy shortly after former head coach Andrew Rice had resigned to become an assistant at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“I had some people in the community reach out to me as soon as it happened,” Gardner said. “I felt wanted as a person and as a coach. Everyone wants to feel wanted, but I feel like the kids at Afton allowed me to move on.
“Their accomplishments made me look good as a coach as well.”