Myers accepts new challenge

Myers accepts new challenge

SULLIVAN — Jeff Myers waited on a phone call.

It finally arrived.

Hours after his eldest son, Colton, walked across the stage during a graduation ceremony at the University of Florida last May, Myers was in the midst of a four-hour drive between Gainesville, Fla., and Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., when he received the good news.

Myers was offered the job of head football coach at Sullivan/Okaw Valley — a moment he wasn't sure would come to fruition.

"It happened kind of quick," said Myers, who was actually en route to a spring practice at South Walton (Fla.) High School, where he was an assistant coach, when he got the job offer from Sullivan/Okaw Valley. ... "I really didn't have a feel one way or the other."

Three months later, Myers — a central Illinois native who graduated from Moweaqua in 1988 — will roam the sidelines tonight for the first time as a head coach when the Redskins open their 2018 campaign at Nokomis.

While Myers admits that being a head coach wasn't always at the forefront of his mind — the itch only arrived a few years ago — the Southern Illinois University graduate has definitely paid his dues in the business in the form of 21 years as an assistant coach. He had made stops at Class 1A St. Teresa and Class 2A Central A&M in Illinois before an extended stint in Florida at Class 4A South Walton.

Still, Myers had to wonder if Sullivan was the right place for him to start anew. The Redskins, after all, have only been to the playoffs twice in the past 16 seasons and endured an 0-9 campaign in 2017.

"Of course, you think about it before you make that decision: 'Is this really what I want to do?'" Myers said. "I had already kind of made my mind up that I wanted to do it if given the opportunity. So, I didn't take long to decide. Prior to that, I had weighed the situation that they were in."

Myers plans to draw from his experience at South Walton. Under Phil Tisa, the Seahawks went from a 1-9 season in 2012 to a combined 22-8 mark from 2013-2015.

Myers, who served as Tisa's offensive coordinator, hopes the up-tempo, spread offense he utilized to great success in northwest Florida will work seamlessly at Sullivan/Okaw Valley.

The first-year coach believes returning starting quarterback Luke Harlin fits the new scheme well.

"He really has a chance to be a special player," Myers said of the 6-foot, 175-pound junior who threw for 540 yards and three touchdowns last season. "It all starts with his intelligence. It should be a big transition for him, but he's picked up on things so quickly. He's embraced it. That's the thing about the quarterback in our system. They have to orchestrate the whole thing. He's way above where I'd thought he'd be at this point in terms of understanding the offense.

"He wants to know why we're doing what we're doing, and I like that in a quarterback."

Myers said the Redskins will rely on a "running-back- by-committee" approach with senior Cameron Kesterson (5-11, 170) as the leading option and deploy four wide-receiver sets featuring newcomers in sophomore Dominick Kimberlin (6-2, 180) and junior Adam Collins (6-2, 175).

With a roster still in flux and the program mired in a 13-game losing streak, it would be easy to call Sullivan/Okaw Valley a major rebuild.

Yet, Myers said the Redskins have taken a successful step forward in just three short months.

"They're buying into the culture that we're trying to create and they're excited about their program again, which when I got here they weren't," Myers said. So, I feel that's been a success. After that, in terms of on the field, I expect us to win. The kids, they want to win. We expect to be able to win, compete for a (Central Illinois Conference) championship, and if you can do that, you can compete for the playoffs.

"And people might think those are pretty lofty expectations being that we've lost 13 straight. But that's the only way I know to be. I can't look at this and say, 'Well, this might be a two-year process, we expect to take our lumps this year.' We've gone out here and worked our tails off. We expect to win (tonight)."

SULLIVAN/OKAW VALLEY 2018 SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Today at Nokomis 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Newton 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Warrensburg-Latham 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Shelbyville 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 vs. Meridian 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Tuscola 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. St. Teresa 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Clinton 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Central A&M 7 p.m.

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