JUNIOR HIGH SPORTS
John Hochstetler leaves Central for Monroe Central
June 18, 2012Monroe Central Jr.- Sr. High School
Written by: Thomas St. Meyer The Star Press--The Monroe Central School Board unanimously approved the hire of Hochstetler as its varsity head football coach Wednesday night. He replaces Trent Fine, who resigned last week to take the same position at Huntington North.
"I'm really excited to get fresh start," said Hochstetler, who teaches physical education and tech classes at Central. "The Monroe Central job is a good job. They are a growing school, and their youth league is something to be admired."
Hochstetler coached the Bearcats to three North Central Conference titles and one of the best stretches in program history followed by one of the worst in his 14 years at the helm. The Bearcats compiled a 46-6 record over a four-year stretch from 2002-05. Central managed a 7-6 record in 2006, but in the last five years, the Bearcats won only seven of their 50 games.
Hochstetler departs Central with a 78-72 record in his 14 seasons and an 87-83 mark overall when factoring in his two seasons as the head coach at Bluffton. He inherits a Monroe Central program that posted a 3-7 record in its second full varsity season after a winless inaugural year.
"He's getting a group of kids that love the game of football," Fine said. "It was a very tough decision for me to leave them. Knowing I have a guy coming in that loves the game of football and is a role model for the kids is a great thing."
Central athletic director Mike Schuck said he heard rumblings in recent weeks that Hochstetler was considering a coaching position at another school. Hochstetler told the Central players Wednesday of his decision, but he has yet to submit a letter of resignation to Schuck.
"I imagine he'll turn in an official resignation (today)," Schuck said.
Hochstetler declined to speak specifically on why he resigned, but he said in his heart he will always be a Bearcat and that his decision had nothing to do with the players. Hochstetler said he shed countless tears Wednesday as he came to grips with the fact that he was leaving the Central program.
"I have a really heavy heart," Hochstetler said. "... I love Central."
Word of Hochstetler stepping down spread rampantly at Central, which held its spring sports banquet Wednesday night. Central students expressed their shock and sadness about his leaving on Twitter and Facebook.
"Coach Ho's meant just so much to the school, not just the football program, but his presence being in the school has been awesome," Central sophomore quarterback Billy Walker said. "We've all kind of bonded with him, whether you play football or not. ... You can't replace him."
Hochstetler spoke to a few of his past players in recent days as he wrestled with the decision. The former players took the news just as somberly Wednesday as the current Central students.
"He's really one of the greatest mentors I've had in my life," said 2005 Central graduate Eric Lowe. "It's really a sad day for everybody. He taught me a lot about character, being a man, respect."
Lowe coached the Mitchell Elementary team the past two years in the John Frank Football League. Hochstetler founded the league and held a position on the board.
Hochstetler created the 4-year-old league for fourth through sixth graders after the talent at Central started to dry up and the enrollment at the school plummeted. Schuck said whoever replaces Hochstetler will in all probability be involved in the John Frank league.
"To me, a feeder program is extremely important no matter where you're at," Schuck said.
The Central athletic director said the school will start its search for a replacement immediately. There will be a committee formed to interview potential candidates.
Monroe Central took less than two weeks to find a replacement for Fine. Departing Monroe Central Supt. Shane Robbins used to coach at Blackford and coached against Hochstetler when he was at Bluffton. Robbins considered Hochstetler a home-run hire for the Golden Bears.
"It's a young program and John has 20-plus years of varsity coaching experience," Robbins said. "You've all seen what he's done at Muncie Central. ... He's high energy and I just think he's going to help a youthful program take it to the next level."