Fort Frye’s Dan Liedtke a finalist for OVAC Coach of the Year
And then there were five.
That is all that remains in the quest to be named the 2020 OVAC Coach of the Year, which will be presented Thursday as part of the virtual OVAC Banquet of Champions.
The Coach of the Year Award, which has been given annually since 1969, recognizes the fall and winter seasons from the 2019-20 school year and the spring of 2019.
The finalists for the award are Oak Glen football coach Ted Arneault Jr., Fort Frye girls basketball coach Dan Liedtke, Toronto baseball coach Brian Perkins, Oak Glen volleyball coach Morgan Poling and Meadowbrook boys basketball coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda.
Here’s a capsule look, in alphabetical order, at the finalists:
TED ARNEAULT Jr. – This Oak Glen football coach took over the reins of the program in 2016. Four seasons later, the Golden Bears turned in one of the finest and most memorable seasons in the school’s history.
Oak Glen finished 10-0 for the first time in school history and advanced to the Class AA state semifinals before falling to Bridgeport.
The Golden Bears began to turn heads when they hit the mid-way point of the season at 5-0. It was the first time they’d ever posted such a mark. Thus, each win thereafter was a milestone.
In the playoffs, Oak Glen cruised past Wyoming East (55-13) and then fought off Poca for a 25-20 victory.
After back-to-back 2-8 campaigns, the Golden Bears posted a 5-5 season in 2018 and totally broke through last season, winning the OVAC Class 4A title for the first time since 1965.
DAN LIEDTKE – This veteran Fort Frye girls basketball mentor was left to wonder what might have been.
After the Cadets won their second regional title to earn a trip to the Division IV ‘Final Four’ the coronavirus pandemic struck, leading to the postponement and eventual cancellation of the OHSAA’s girls basketball state tournament. Actually, the Cadets were in Columbus and preparing for their semifinal game against Minster when the decision was made to suspend the event.
Prior to that, however, Fort Frye proved itself time and time again. Rolling to a 26-2 record, the Cadets claimed the OVAC Class 3A title by subduing then undefeated Union Local. They won the district championship with a hard-earned win over Monroe Central.
The Cadets will enter the 2020-21 campaign riding a 17-game winning streak.
Liedtke has led the Cadets’ girls program to six OVAC title and is now a four-time finalist for the OVAC’s Coach of the Year award.
BRIAN PERKINS – Though this Toronto Red Knight baseball coach didn’t get to coach a game this season because of the coronavirus, he had plenty of memories from 2019 to continue to savor.
Perkins has been the Red Knights’ skipper for 16 seasons and amassed a 329-86-1 record. That 329th victory will be no one ever soon forgets because it came on Ohio prep baseball’s biggest stage – the Division IV state championship game.
For the second time in school history, Toronto claimed the state baseball title thanks to a 3-1 win over Hillsdale at Akron’s Canal Park.
En route to the brass ring, the Red Knights took down Strasburg for their fourth straight district title, Newark Catholic for the regional crown, which was their first since 2017. In the state semifinals, Toronto upended Antwerp, 8-0.
Before beginning the post-season run, Toronto won its ninth OVAC title with a 4-0 win over Wheeling Central. The title is the sixth under Perkins.
MORGAN POLING – Just six years removed from high school, this Oak Glen coach led the Golden Bears back to the top of the West Virginia Class AA volleyball mountain in 2019.
Capping a brilliant 38-0 campaign, Oak Glen rallied from two sets down to take down Shady Spring and win the state championship in Poling’s first season at the helm.
The Golden Bears hoisted the top trophy thanks to 15-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, 15-5 win.
Poling led the Golden Bears to their 11th OVAC title with a dominating sweep of cross-river rival East Liverpool.
LOU “Scooter” TOLZDA – This veteran basketball coach had his Meadowbrook Colts playing as well as anyone and on their way to the Division II regional tournament when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Suddenly, Tolzda and the Colts, who were just minutes from departing for Athens, found themselves sitting at 23-3 overall and riding a 15-game winning streak entering a ‘Sweet 16’ game with Logan Elm.
Tolzda, who was a finalist for this award in 2018 after guiding the Colts to the ‘Final Four,’ watched his team cruise past Tri-Valley for the district title.
The Colts, who are departing the OVAC to become members of the Muskingum Valley League, claimed their fifth consecutive OVAC title and fourth under Tolzda’s watch with a win over East Liverpool.