Veteran Niles coach not slowed by COVID-19
It would have been easy for Niles assistant coach Bill Bohren to sit out the 2020 season.
After all, Bohren’s age (he is 86) puts him in the high risk category for COVID-19.
It’s also worth noting that the Niles football program had to shut down for a week in August due to a positive COVID-19 test.
So, was Bohren ever hesitant to roam the sidelines this fall?
“Heck no, and I wouldn’t be wearing this mask if I didn’t have to,” Bohren said Friday as he made his way off the Bo Rein Stadium field following Niles’ 35-7 win over Lakeview. “Every year we play into the flu season and that affects tens of thousands and it’s ignored. Now we have shutdowns and everything else.
“The rules keep changing. The mandates about when we can play, what we can and can’t do, how many fans can attend. It’s different every day.”
Bohren owns a 295-174-6 record as a head coach. He has missed just one game due to illness in a career that spans 56 years and more than 500 games. In 2000, a health issue put Bohren in the hospital the morning that a 5-0 Niles team traveled to arch-rival Howland. Ironically, that night the power went out in Howland with a 7-7 score and the game had to be completed the following day.
Niles returned to Howland the following morning and won 14-7.
“I’m in the hospital and the nurses are telling me that the game was 7-7,” Bohren said. “I’m telling them it couldn’t end that way, they must have the wrong score. Then I found out what happened. I never wanted to miss another game after that.”
McDonald lifted its record to 4-1 Friday with a 23-16 road win over Western Reserve. In the process, Blue Devils head coach Dan Williams picked up his 150th win at the school.
“This is all about a supportive community that thrives on tradition,” Williams said. “It’s about family. Generation after generation you see the same families, the same names.”
“There is also a lot of continuity in this program. I’ve had a lot of the same coaches with me for a long time. That’s huge.”
Williams — a McDonald graduate — owns a 150-69 record in his 21st season with the Blue Devils. He is just the eleventh coach in a program that began in 1925. He owns the most wins in program history. He is averaging more than seven wins per season.
“Early on we had some struggles and you just never know how things might play out,” Williams said. “I was following a legend (Andy Golubic Jr.) and the winningest coach in McDonald history. I knew the expectations were high.
“But during my whole career here, this is the only place I’ve ever wanted to coach. I never looked elsewhere. This is where I want to be. This is home.”
Williams’ first victory with McDonald occurred on Aug. 24, 2000. The Blue Devils defeated Leetonia, 29-20.
“What I remember most about that game is that it was delayed because of lightning,” Williams said. “I think that game ended close to midnight.”
WARRIORS ON THE WARPATH
Following a 2-8 season in 2019, the West Brach Warriors are off to their best start in over two decades. West Branch lifted its record to 5-0 Friday with a 34-28 home win over East Liverpool.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year is a year of experience,” West Branch coach Ken Harris said. “We have a lot of seniors who gained a great deal of experience a year ago.
“Our biggest concerns were our offensive and defensive lines, because we only returned one starter on each side. But those units have really come together. They’re playing really well.”
In its previous two games, West Branch built large first-half leads before hanging on for wins. Against East Liverpool, the Warriors started out slow. Their first four possessions resulted in an interception, punt, blocked punt and a fumble. The Warriors trailed 14-7 at halftime and eventually turned the ball over four times.
“As a coach, you don’t want to see those mistakes, you don’t want to see your team put itself in a hole,” Harris said. “But I was really impressed with the way our kids responded when faced with adversity. It showed a lot against a really good opponent.”
Something has to give Friday as the Warriors host 5-0 Canton South.