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March 8, 2021

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Ada pulls plug on football season

Head coach Christopher resigns

By Cort Reynolds
ADA - On Thursday afternoon, the Ada school district and athletic department made the difficult and unprecedented decision to cancel the rest of its 2020 football season after just three games.

"Safety concerns arising from a limited number of Ada players available for the game have forced this decision for the Ada district," wrote second-year Bulldog athletic director Eric Perkins in a brief press release.

Third-year head coach Shawn Christopher also announced his resignation Thursday, effective immediately.

The shocking decision to end the season appeared to be jointly made and agreed upon by the head coach, athletic director, principal, superintendent and ultimately ratified by the school board Thursday night.

Two players quit the team at an after-school meeting Monday in the wake of a tough 48-46 loss to rival Bluffton three days earlier that dropped Ada to 0-3.

"It kind of snowballed throughout the week (with others quitting), and we didn't feel comfortable continuing to play for the safety of the kids," said Christopher. 

"There was no way we could confidently play five to six more weeks of football," he added, due to such low roster numbers and several players having quit. 

The coach indicated that the main reason given for the two players to stop playing football this year was to focus on preparing for winter sports. 

With low roster numbers hovering around 20 already, two other players also decided to stop playing. 

The team's final official practice was Wednesday. Coach Christopher held a meeting Thursday after class and informed the remaining members of the team that their season was officially over. 

He reported that their collective response was initially one of disbelief, grief and a little anger. 

"I had a room of devastated young men," the coach continued. "I was devastated myself, and also told them that I was done. I could hardly get through my speech without losing it myself. 

"It was probably one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever had to do. Once the players got past the initial shock, they responded well. 

"I have always tried to teach them that how you respond to adversity is what matters most," he added.

After a decade as a Bulldog assistant, Ada native Christopher took over the reins from Bob Olwin after the 2017 campaign. His injury-plagued Bulldog teams went 4-19 over his two-plus seasons at the helm.

"My reasons for resigning are three-fold," he said. 

"Number one is I have a third child on the way in the spring, and I want to be able to watch them grow up. I have not been able to see my oldest girl play a game in the fall yet. I need to be a better dad for my kids, and a better husband for my wife.

"The second reason is my health - I have gained 70 pounds since I took over. My health has suffered the last three years.

"Third, I care about this program and it means enough to me to step aside. I can see it needs a new shot in the arm to regain excitement around the school and the community. That's what I truly believe in my heart," he added. 

Like most towns in Ohio, Ada is a football town, and having the Wilson factory that makes all the NFL and college game balls here only adds to the pride in the sport throughout the small community.

When asked if former Ada standout/ex-NFL QB and 2019 offensive coordinator Zac Dysert might be the person best suited to re-create excitement and rebuild the program, Christopher answered, "I have no idea."

Christopher said the risk involved with playing during the Covid-19 pandemic was not a factor in calling off the season. He felt that the only way it was an underlying factor is that it changed the 2020 schedule dramatically.

Instead of playing five of its first six games at home against some beatable teams like Waynesfield, USV and others, Ada had to start out on the road vs. two of the three defending league tri-champions under the completely revamped slate - then face three-time defending NWC champion Spencerville in round one of the league tournament.

"We might have been sitting at 3-2 or 4-1 halfway through the season with the original schedule," Christopher offered. "If that happens we probably are not having this conversation or situation."

There is some thought that by cancelling the rest of the season Ada might be setting a precursor to moving from the NWC to the NWCC or BVC, or even to a completely new conference. However, there is no evidence for that. 

When USV cancelled its football season in week two years ago it was the final impetus for the Rams to get out of the NWC. But the Ram grid program had often struggled to have enough roster numbers to field a full team.

Ada lost its 2020 opener at rival Allen East 41-6, then fell to Columbus Grove 52-18 in week two. In their home opener last week, the Bulldogs dropped a 48-46 heartbreaker to Bluffton.

Defending NWC tri-champion Spencerville will now automatically advance to the second round of the first-ever, three-week NWC tournament with a bye. The Bearcats (3-0) were set to play Ada in the first round.

Spencerville will now play the Allen East (2-1) vs. Paulding (1-2) winner in the NWC semifinals Sept. 25.

The Bulldog gridders were 2-8 (1-6 NWC) each of the past two seasons. In both years they defeated only USV and Delphos Jefferson. 

From 2006-17 under Mike Fell and then Bob Olwin, the Bulldogs made the playoffs 11 times. In that time the program produced several top quarterbacks and receivers, advancing to the state semifinals once and regional finals thrice.

But dwindling numbers, key 2020 transfers and numerous injuries the past two seasons sent the program into a spiral. A porous defense allowed over 60 points a game last year in league play, including three games of 70 points.