OFHS hires new head football coach

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Nick Bohl served as a line coach last year

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent

Nick Bohl is excited for his first varsity head coaching job, but the new Oconto Falls football coach will have his work cut out for himself.

The Panthers are coming off an 0-9 season, have dropped their last 12 games in a row and sport a 3-51 record in the last six seasons.

Bohl — who replaces Barry Derickson who spent two seasons at Oconto Falls before leaving for an assistant coaching job at Eastern Kentucky University — is up for the challenge of turning around the program.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Bohl said. “The school and community are entrusting me to develop these kids not only on the field but off the field as well. Football’s just more than a game; there’s a lot of life lessons from the game of football.”

The 28-year-old was on the Oconto Falls staff last season, coaching the offensive and defensive lines. Bohl came to Oconto Falls after nine years coaching in the Chippewa Falls football program. He spent two years at the middle school level, moved up to coach the freshman team for two years and then the final five seasons as a varsity assistant and offensive line coach.

Bohl was part of plenty of success at Chippewa Falls as a player — getting to the Level 3 playoffs twice. Graduating from Chippewa Falls in 2008, he was supposed to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but he was injured during his senior season of high school baseball. Bohl never had a chance to play college football.

He latched onto the Chippewa Falls program to coach under Chuck Raykovich. Bohl graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 and then went back to school and graduated from UW-Stout last year with a degree in marketing and business education.

The new coach is hoping to create a trickle-down effect in the program. He wants the players at the middle school level to slowly learn the varsity offense and defense and run them for years so they’re prepared once they get to high school. That all starts this summer when Bohl can utilize his five contact days allowed by the WIAA in the offseason.

“Coming from a program like Chippewa Falls where you learn the offense and defense in youth football, that’s the expectation there,” Bohl said. “The way I see it, our juniors and seniors (at Oconto Falls), we’re six, seven years behind where we need to be. So, we have to cram a lot of stuff, a lot of information, a lot of terminology, Xs and Os, to try to get up to speed really quick. It’s going to be a really hard thing.”

Bohl will be presenting the players with a plethora of information, but he doesn’t want to bombard the guys. His philosophy is to keep it simple on both sides of the ball.

“You’re not going to see this crazy throw the football all over the field stuff, but we’re going to do what we do and we’re going to get after teams and we’re going to execute efficiently, that’s our biggest goal,” Bohl said.

Bohl is a run-first type of coach. That’s what he’s used to and that’s what he will preach.

“Run to win, throw to score,” Bohl said. “That’s kind of the motto I like to use as well.”

Defensively, Bohl has been meeting with his coaching personnel to try to figure out what’s the best base formation to run with the players he has coming through the system.

What’s helpful for both Bohl and his players is they got to know one another on and off the field last season.

“Being a teacher on staff is the one thing that’s really important and they made that known throughout the whole process of hiring a head football coach,” said Bohl, who teaches in the business and marketing department at the high school. “Being a teacher on staff you can make those day-to-day connections with those students. You see them every day and you’re able to stay on top of them and ask them about their grades and make sure their grades are up.

“Ask them questions, ‘Where are you in the weight room? Are you going out for other sports?’ Just building those connections day to day is just so valuable and so important to turning our program around.”

Bohl has a vision to get Oconto Falls back to its winning ways. The Panthers haven’t won more than two games in a season since 2011. It’s going to take small steps throughout the entire program to move the culture in the right direction.

“It takes a lot of commitment from the coaching staff, getting kids to not only get out for football, pushing kids to get their grades up, stay eligible, getting kids to get into the weight, and that’s a day-to-day thing,” Bohl said. “It’s just improving communication throughout the whole program itself, all the way from the youth level to the high school level, just making sure everybody’s on the same page.

“I always use the analogy, ‘You don’t teach calculus to kindergartners.’ That’s the same thing with football, you cannot teach our fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade kids the varsity-level stuff, they’ve got to be at the basic level and each year just keep adding to it, adding to it.”

Bohl knows getting the numbers to climb in the program will help create competition — competition in turn breeds success.

“That’s a hard thing, getting the numbers up,” Bohl said. “You’ve got to focus on changing the culture, changing the attitude of the football program. Even the athletic program itself, it’s a hard thing to do. We haven’t been very successful on the field, and kids don’t see the value of coming out for sports in that sense. Getting kids to buy in, that’s been the No. 1 goal this year is getting kids to buy into what we’re doing and getting them to believe in what we’re doing.”