Vermilion has found its next football coach, and one that is quite familiar with the program.
The school said it has selected Matt Kobal to lead the Sailors, pending approval by the board of education Feb. 13. He has spent most of his football career with the Vermilion program and is a 1998 graduate.
Kobal has spent the last two seasons as the Sailors’ offensive coordinator. He resides in Vermilion and teaches in the school as an intervention specialist. He replaces Rob Duray, who went 12-38 during the last five seasons.
“It’s an awesome time for me being an alumni and taking over the program,” Kobal said. “I’m excited to build the tradition back up here in Vermilion. We actually have a youth fundraiser coming up next month to try to get the youth program back up to where it was when I played, where there were five or six teams in each grade. We want to build some of the tradition while still running some new stuff that the kids will like.”
Athletic director Andrew Stillman said Kobal was chosen from a pool of about 42 applicants from around the state, including some out of state. The school narrowed its search to nine and then four before making its choice.
Kobal’s roots in the Vermilion community and deep ties to the Sailors program certainly helped, but Stillman said it was his qualifications, witnessing his hard work first hand and recommendations from other coaches that really set him apart, noting that Kobal came in with a
90-day plan for the program.
“The kids love him,” Stillman said. “Matt is always around. He’s in the weight room, he’s at baseball games, he’s at the youth football practices and games. The guy is just always around. He wants more than anything to see Vermilion to succeed, especially in football. He has a potential staff coming in that would be an all-star staff. Even though some of these other applicants were current and former successful head coaches in the state, it wasn’t worth potentially losing Matt Kobal as an assistant.”
After graduating from Vermilion, Kobal went on to play offensive line for Mount Union, graduating in 2002. He played varsity for three seasons, during which the Purple Raiders won the national title in 1998 and returned to the semifinals in 1999. An injury during his junior season cut his playing career short.
Kobal returned to Vermilion shortly after college as the freshmen offensive coordinator from 2004-05, then was promoted to junior varsity offensive coordinator from 2006-10.
He briefly left the school to coach the offensive and defensive lines for Firelands from 2011-13, but returned to the Sailors in 2014 as offensive line coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2015. The school said Vermilion’s offense improved each year under his guidance, going from 1,982 total yards in 2015 to 2,648 in 2016.
He doesn’t anticipate changing much offensively, still implementing a spread system. He noted the team started seven sophomores on that side of the ball and he’s hopeful they will continue to develop.
Kobal will enjoy some stability with the program now that it’s found a home in the Sandusky Bay Conference. The Sailors spent three years as an independent after leaving the West Shore Conference. Vermilion ended the year on an eight-game losing streak after starting 2-0, including an 0-7 record in the SBC.
“My senior year we were independent when the Erie Shore broke down,” Kobal said. “That was tough, finding games to play. I believe the SBC is a great fit for us. We’re going to be able to see teams every year now. The basketball team is very successful in the SBC, the baseball team is the same and now we want the football team to do the same. Hopefully we can contend for an SBC title down the road.”
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