Still on his Feet: Dean of the West Valley
SHERIDAN – With a young squad fighting for varsity time, Sheridan head football coach Brice Ingram snaps back to his first year and a promising freshman running back who suffered from sensory overload. The lesson to be learned: development takes time. It cannot be forced.
“You will shell-shock a freshman,” Ingram said. “From eighth grade to here, it’s so much faster.”
Ingram, with his booming voice and gift for gab, finds himself in an increasingly unusual position in the high school football landscape. Since accepting the Spartans football coaching position in 2003, Ingram – himself a Sheridan High School graduate, in 1984 – has been in his position longer than any other coach in the Class 3A West Valley League.
His 12 seasons atop the Spartans best George Crace, the venerable Horizon Christian football coach, who started the Hawks’ program in 2007. Taft is on its second head coach since Jack Wilkinson left after 28 seasons; Perry Herbst will begin his third year this fall.
That’s not to say the WVL has suffered a collective brain drain. Longtime assistant coaches occasionally step up, as Greg White is doing at Dayton this season. Amity installed Joel Magill as offensive coordinator for head coach Justin Amaya; Ingram notes with a grin that he has now survived two of Magill’s comebacks to the Warriors’ sideline.
Sheridan’s close ties extend well beyond the head man. Al Ashcroft, the Spartans’ offensive coordinator, has been a mainstay of Sheridan athletics for over 40 years. Assistant coach Tim Bucknell graduated with Ingram in the Class of 1984. Assistant coach Tim Swift and Ingram have been friends since their elementary school days.
“We’ve known each other for a long time, this staff. I’ve had some coaches come and go, but every coach has brought something to the table.”
Over the past dozen years, the Spartans have not been afraid to make changes to throw opponents off balance. If Sheridan could not outrun its opponent or shove them aside, it would stay a few plays ahead mentally.
“When I first got here, I ran the wing-T (offense),” Ingram said. “Then I went to the (I-formation offense). Then I went to the spread. The kids can run (this offense). It’s a multi-dimensional offense.
“You’ve got to change to what personnel you have. I’ve learned that over the years – you’ve got to adapt. I have not been fortunate enough to have the bodies Mr. Sullivan had during some of his runs.”
Mr. Sullivan is, of course, the late Dewey Sullivan, the legendary head coach at Dayton. Ingram is reverential toward him and his wife, Vera. “They’re great people,” he said.
The way we discuss longtime coaches has changed from the days when Dewey Sullivan patrolled the Pirates’ sideline. Technology, the prevalence of social media and the cross-pollination of football concepts have made it so. Ingram wants to do it his way, and it has led the Spartans to success.
By circumstance and happenstance, Ingram found himself at the top of the seniority totem pole.
“I might be the old man in the mix now, but we’re still learning every day,” he said.
And if Sheridan learns something along with him, so much the better.