MOUNT VERNON — Danville High School football fans may do a double take next season when the team hits the field. The Blue Devils received a blast from the past when Ed Honabarger was hired on Thursday to retake the reins of the program.
Honabarger, who coached at Danville from 1999 through 2004, has a history of success with the Blue Devils, leading them to a 54-21 record. During his six-year tenure, the Blue Devils made five playoff appearances, including four straight (2001-04), and advanced to the state semifinals twice (1999, 2004).
“I’m very happy about this opportunity,” said Honabarger. “Danville is special and for the administration and board (of education) to give me the opportunity to come back and, hopefully, get things rolling again like they were several years ago is great.
“I have a great love for the school and the community, and for Danville football,” added Honabarger. “It is something that I never lost in the five years I’ve been gone. I missed it a lot, and this was a great time to (take back over the program).”
Honabarger left Danville for family reasons, but he has remained active in football. In the last couple of years, he has coached at the middle school and high school levels.
“I took some time off (from coaching) when I left Danville, but I’ve been coaching at a couple of schools,” said Honabarger. “I teach at New Philadelphia right now, middle school physical education, and I’ve coached up there. This past year, since I live in the Ridgewood School District and my children go to school there, I helped coach at Ridgewood. I started a Little League tackle football program there. They hadn’t had tackle football since 1973, so I started it. I also coached varsity at Ridgewood and we made it to the Final Four.”
Perhaps the biggest thing the Blue Devils need is a solid foundation. The program has had four different head coaches in the five years since Honabarger left, posting a combined 29-26 record. Danville had made two playoff appearances in that time as well. This season, Danville finished 2-8.
“It has been tough (to watch) especially because I know a lot of the kids and the coaches,” Honabarger said. “You don’t want them to fail; you want them to succeed. It’s been hard to watch them struggle.
“From my standpoint, we need to give them stability. There has been a revolving door of the coaching staff since I’ve been gone. I need to provide stability for the kids, and from there, we need to develop a work ethic and get back to the typical brand of football that Danville has played for the last 97 years.”
Rebuilding the Danville program to its former glory won’t be easy, but Honabarger, who holds his Principal and Superintendent’s licenses, feels he already has a leg up on anyone else who would be coming in.
“Familiarity is going to be a tremendous help,” Honabarger said. “I know the district, I know the community and I know the expectations for the football program. I also know some of their kids and families, obviously; I coached some of their older brothers. I think I am in front of the eight ball instead of behind it. If I was coming in and not knowing anything, it would be much more difficult.”
While Honabarger hasn’t talked with his players yet, he has already begun assessing the situation and state of the program. In the coming days, he plans to meet with team and get his coaching staff ironed out.
“I plan on meeting with the team on Tuesday, but from talking to people and I’ve got a couple of games on film that I’ve watched, I think there is a good, young nucleus there that we can work with,” said Honabarger. “The key at Danville has always been work ethic. You’ve got to beat people in the offseason because of the size of the school, obviously. You’ve got to outwork them in the offseason with the powerlifting and the speed, agility and strength training.
“We’ll put a staff together. I haven’t done anything with it yet; it is something we’ll get into in the next two weeks,” said Honabarger.