CENTENARY, Ohio — Mission accomplished.
When Mike Eddy was hired as the head football coach at Gallia Academy High School in 2009, he inherited a history-rich program that hadn’t enjoyed a winning season in two years while going 9-11 overall during that span.
At the time, the goal for Eddy — who served as the defensive coordinator at Parkersburg High School before joining the Blue Devils — was to get GAHS back to where it once was, a proud program with 16 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championships and nine playoff appearances in its history before his arrival.
Four years, three winning seasons, one home playoff win and an outright SEOAL title later, Eddy has simply done what he was hired to do — turn Gallia Academy football back into a perennial power.
Eddy’s tenure with the Blue Devils has officially ended, however, as the fourth-year mentor turned in his resignation Monday night during a regularly-scheduled school board meeting. Eddy is returning to the Parkersburg area to be closer to his family forever.
Eddy noted that the primary factor in his decision came down to the only thing that could make him go away from Gallipolis — his family.
“This community welcomed my family in with open arms when I was hired in 2009, and I’ve been very humbled and honored to be part of what has happened here at Gallia Academy during these four years,” Eddy said. “We’ve met and worked with some truly tremendous people. This experience is something that has touched and shaped my life and my family.
“For the record, we were not looking to leave. We’ve had some situations pop up within our family recently, and this decision is solely about being closer to the people who have always been there for us.”
The Blue Devils were coming off 4-6 and 5-5 seasons when Eddy took over the reins from Matt Bokovitz, the first non-winning campaigns for GAHS since the fall of 1998. The primary focus of Eddy at that time was to get the players more-involved in an offseason program dedicated to strength and conditioning.
Gallia Academy went just 2-8 during Eddy’s first season, which included six straight losses to open the 2009 campaign. It would also be the only year that GAHS finished with a losing mark under Eddy.
The Blue Devils followed with three straight winning seasons and three consecutive chances at qualifying for the playoffs headed into Week 10, though the 2010 and 2011 campaigns came up just short after respectively finishing ninth and 13th in the Division III, Region 12 bracket. GAHS went 7-3 and 6-4 in those two seasons and also finished as the SEOAL runner-up in each campaign.
The breakthrough season came this past fall, as the Blue Devils finished the regular season with an 8-2 overall mark while going unbeaten in the SEOAL — earning the program’s first league title since 2004 and first outright SEOAL championship since 2003.
Gallia Academy secured a four-seed for the playoffs, allowing the Blue and White to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2006. It also served as the first home playoff contest for GAHS since the 2005 campaign.
Gallia Academy claimed a 37-35 victory over Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas in that opening-round contest at Memorial Field, which allowed the Blue Devils to claim their sixth postseason victory in school history.
GAHS fell to Thurgood Marshall 68-9 one week later in the regional semifinals, but by then, Eddy and the Blue Devils knew that the rebuilding process had come full circle.
In reflecting on the journey, one thing is certain as Eddy steps away — the program is in much better shape than when he inherited it.
“This is a program that has a tremendous amount of pride and tradition. We didn’t have to do a lot in terms of getting it back to where it once was,” Eddy said. “We pushed a few buttons, turned a few knobs and made some slight adjustments, and the kids really fell in love with what we were selling. They committed to it, and that is really what led to a lot of our success.
“From a personal stand point, I’m really proud of the program and where it is. I feel honored to have coached the kids that I’ve had at Gallia Academy. I feel that we, including my assistants, have done a real justice for a quality program and community during our time.”
Eddy is also leaving Gallipolis as a teacher, as he accepted a position within the Parkersburg South School District that will start in about three weeks. Coincidentally, PSHS is currently searching for a new football coach — and Eddy acknowledged that he has applied for the position.
So, as Eddy possibly begins a new coaching chapter at a new venue closer to home — Gallia Academy also has to begin the same search in the upcoming weeks.
The last three coaching hires at GAHS have led to at least a league title, a playoff berth and a postseason victory for each frontman.
Eddy says that has more to do with the kids and less to do with coaching, but also offers a humble piece of advice to his predecessor — whoever that might be.
“It’s an extremely supportive community, and the kids are both hard-working and committed. They have the intangibles and they are willing to work hard for success,” Eddy said. “Whoever is the next man in, please keep those things in mind. Gallipolis really gets behind its football team.”
The Blue Devils compiled a 24-18 overall record during Eddy’s four seasons at the helm.