With three decades of coaching experience and a deep familiarity with the city’s football history, it wasn’t a huge surprise when Tony Shoulders was named the interim head football coach at Lorain High on Wednesday afternoon.
“Tony is a tremendous coach, and an even better person,” Lorain athletic director Bryan Koury said in a release. “He’s developed a great relationship with both the players and the coaching staff so we felt that he stepping in and taking the reins this season was a great fit for everyone involved.”
Shoulders, who graduated from Mansfield Senior High in 1976, began teaching in the Lorain school system in 1985, the same year he began coaching football at Southview. He had two stints with the Saints —- also serving as head coach from 2000-06 — and coached for a season at Admiral King.
Shoulders has also coached at his alma mater, Defiance College, as well as Baldwin Wallace, Tennessee State University and Elyria Catholic.
“I just have a general concern for kids here in Lorain,” said Shoulders, who resides in the city. “I think a lot of times Lorain’s given a bad rap. We have a lot of good kids in our program and I have big expectations for them.”
Shoulders’ most notable season in Lorain came in 2002 when he led the Saints to a 6-4 finish … just the program’s third winning season in 41 years and the first in two decades.
Shoulders was named the Lorain County coach of the year that season, and was named to the Ohio coaching staff for the Big 33 Classic in 2003.
“We had some good years (at Southview),” he said. “We were in the Lake Erie League that year and a lot of people don’t realize that if we had won that game (versus Euclid in Week 8), we’d have won a share of the title.
“But it was nice seeing that progress. It was great when the kids bought in and we told everyone that we were no longer a doormat.”
It’s the same philosophy Shoulders wants to instill in a young Titans team that finished 2-8 last season, but has several solid core players returning in 2013.
Running back Sherman Saunders, quarterback Eddie Williamson and wide receiver Rashod Berry were sophomores last season, while lineman Josh Fenn — who’s attracted interest from Ohio State and Michigan — was just a freshman.
“They have a year under their belts so they know what to expect,” Shoulders said. “They’ve seen what it takes to get there. Now we have to just keep rolling on … we’re going to stay positive.”
Shoulders is taking on the role with the interim tag because of the sudden departure of Mark Solis, who will coach Olentangy High next year, and because Shoulders has toyed with walking away from the sport in recent years.
“I didn’t even think about putting my hat in (when Admiral King and Southview consolidated),” Shoulders said. “I was going to retire from football, but then I got that itch again. I didn’t come back here to be a head coach. But we’ll take a look at it again at the end of the season.”
Shoulders took last season off — after three years as an assistant for Elyria Catholic — and talked with Solis about joining the Titans staff.
“He contacted me before Christmas break in December, and I decided to come aboard,” Shoulders said. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the players, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of game film (from last season) yet. We’re trying not to skip a beat (from last year). They were headed in a great direction.”