In Play with Tom Markowski


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Coaches find new homes, success

By: Tom Markowski, September 7, 2014, 12:00 am

Grandville – Eric Steigel and Derek McLaughlin coached two of the more competitive programs in the Downriver League the last four-to-five seasons, and now they’re gone.

 Steigel took over at Taylor Truman in 2010 after Truman finished 1-8 the season before. Three years later Truman tied for the league title and won a state playoff game for only the second time in school history. Truman made the playoffs last season marking the first time it had made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

McLaughlin was an assistant coach at Southgate Anderson for two years under Coach John Rama then took over as head coach in 2009. Southgate made the playoffs in each of McLaughlin’s first three seasons and the Titans won a total of three playoff games.

Following last season each re-evaluated their situation and the opportunities presented to them. Steigel opted to take over the program at Grandville High in west Michigan. McLaughlin stayed closer to home and accepted the head coaching position at Riverview.

Grandville and Riverview are both 2-0 this season and perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. Grandville last made the playoffs in 2006, the same season it recorded its last winning record. Grandville was 0-9 in 2011 and won six games total the last two seasons. Steigel switched offenses from the spread to the T-formation, the offense he implemented at Truman, and he said it’s the right fit.

“Our personnel dictates what we should be good at,” Steigel said. “We teach toughness. It’s a transition. I liken Grandville to Temperance Bedford. Both are good wrestling schools with similar dynamics. Bedford is close to Toledo, a pretty big city, and Grandville is close to Grand Rapids. When Jeff Wood took over at Bedford and though he runs a different offense (triple option) it’s a running offense.”

Steigel said he’s proud of what he accomplished at Truman. The T-formation is a tough sell to most high school athletes. It’s not flashy. And often it isn’t pretty but when run with precision it not only can be one of the more successful offenses, it’s an offense that can demoralize the opposition because of its physicality.

Going from Truman to Grandville is also a step up in competition and, thus, puts more pressure on Steigel to continue to field a competitive team. Grandville competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red Division, recently labeled by State Champs as the state’s No. 2 division behind the Catholic League Central Division. The Red Division boasts one of the state’s top programs, Rockford, plus other quality programs such as Hudsonville, Holland West Ottawa, East Kentwood and Grand Haven.

“(Our schedule) is exciting,” Steigel said. “We host Muskegon this week then we play East Kentwood, East Grand Rapids and Rockford. And we finish with Hudsonville. I’ve never seen anything like this at Truman. You don’t have time to breath.”

When Jeff Stergalas stepped down as head coach at Riverview after last season, he knew, as athletic director, the person he wanted to replace him. That was McLaughlin.

McLaughlin comes from a coaching family. His father coached 25 years at Berrien Springs. Stergalas wanted his successor to boast such a background.

But it wasn’t that simple. McLaughlin had built relationships at Southgate. He had gained a measure of respect and a comfort zone had been established.

“It was very tough to leave,” he said. “I’m not always comfortable with change. I learned so much at Southgate. But I do like it at Riverview. I have some big shoes to fill.

“Riverview is a neat community. We had a camp this summer and I had a chance to meet Lloyd Carr. I’m learning about Riverview pride. It’s amazing what Riverview football means to the community.
Carr, the former Michigan coach, like Stergalas, is a Riverview graduate.

When Truman plays Southgate this Friday each sideline will have a different look than what we saw the last four seasons.

The coaching carousel continues.