by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor
Jim Cleaver has been named the new Onaway varsity football coach. Members of the Onaway Area Community Schools Board of Education meeting approved Cleaver’s hiring at their June 25 workshop session.
Cleaver, who was last year’s linemen coach, will have a talented roster of athletes to work with when he breaks camp in August. The Cards lost in the opening round of the playoffs at Central Lake in 2012.
With many returning starters back in the fold, Onaway could break through with its first football playoff win since the Silverdome team of 1976.
“I am pretty excited about it,” said Cleaver, who has lived in Onaway for 17 years.
“I have a great bunch of kids coming back, and I think we are going to have good year.” He has coached many of the incoming athletes in various sports over the last 10 years, including a stint as a junior varsity football coach, two years ago.
His appointment was only finalized last week, so Cleaver is still deciding what he wants to do on defense. First, he needs to find a defensive coordinator. Paul Zampich was an assistant last year and will return. He coached the quarterbacks.
“I have been talking to a couple of people about coming in and helping with defense,” said Cleaver. His son Chris was a top defensive end last year, but Carlos Bautista and Tommy Auger will be key components of the defense again in 2013.
On offense, Cleaver will play to what should be one of the strengths of the team.
“In my opinion, I have the best quarterback in the Ski Valley, and I am going to use him,” he said of incoming senior Matt Tollini. “I called him ‘Air Tollini,’ already. And he’s probably one of the fastest kids in the school.”
Cleaver would like to conduct a passing camp in Onaway. “Being the new head coach, I would like to feel out what we’ve got,” he said.
Starting on Monday, Cleaver said the weight room would be open. “I will be up there from 6 to 8 p.m. every night,” Cleaver added. “I had it open last week, but only a few kids showed up. I had different times last week because kids were working. Next week, I’m going to really start getting on them to get up there.”
Cleaver is still working out the details of what time the first practice will be. The first official practice is Aug. 12.