CHILLICOTHE — After veteran football coach Ron Hinton announced his retirement in January, Chillicothe was left with a significant void to fill on its sidelines.
Replacing Hinton, who served as a head coach for a combined 41 years between three stints at Piketon, Amanda-Clearcreek and Chillicothe, is no easy task. There’s a reason his 344 career wins rank fifth in OHSAA history.
However, with Hinton happy in retirement, the opportunity to take over a storied program presented itself to multiple suitors.
Doug Pryor Jr. was one of those opportunists and, Wednesday evening, the Cavaliers announced Pryor Jr. as their next head football coach.
“I followed Chillicothe very closely once coach Hinton took over in 2010. I saw how he turned Chillicothe into a perennial playoff team. Once he retired, I knew that I wanted the job,” Pryor Jr. said. “I saw how well-coached and athletic the team was, and I could see why Chillicothe was having so much success. The facilities at Chillicothe are second to none, in my opinion. The administration, coaches and board members that I have had the pleasure of meeting, have all been extremely supportive. As soon as the committee offered me the position, I accepted immediately. I knew this was a great community to live and work in, and being a husband and father, that was a huge factor for my family and I.”
Pryor Jr.’s football background is an extensive one.
After playing at Westerville North, and helping the Warriors earn a playoff berth in 1999, Pryor Jr. played collegiately at Denison University, where he was a senior co-captain and a two-time all-conference offensive tackle.
Pryor Jr’s coaching career started with two years of middle school football before he joined coach Chad Williams’ staff at Westerville North. After two years at his alma mater, he was hired as a full-time teacher and assistant football coach at Marion Harding High School.
“In Marion, I worked for Heath Hinton [Ron Hinton’s nephew], a great man who immediately took me under his wing, so to speak, when I came to Marion,” Pryor Jr. said. “We are still great friends a decade later, and little did I know at the time, that this connection to the Hinton family would lead to me eventually start to follow Chillicothe football very closely.”
After a four-year stint at Marion Harding, Pryor Jr. was offered a position to work at his college alma mater under Denison coach Jack Hatem — a two-time All-Ohio coach from his tenures at Fisher Catholic and New Albany.
Near that time, he applied for a teaching job at Heath High School, where he spent last football season.
“Ironically, I had already applied to teach at Heath High School, and when I secured the teaching position, it all worked out. Moving to Heath, Ohio was the best thing that has ever happened to me because during this time is when I met my wonderful wife, Cristina,” Pryor Jr. said. “In 2018, I decided that I wanted to spend more time around the house with my family. We were blessed with our first daughter in 2017 and will welcome another daughter this April. With that being said, I started coaching at Heath this past fall. This was a great move on many levels, because I was able to work with the kids that I had taught or that I currently teach being that we are a smaller school. I also received a refresher course on how to handle the pressures of being a head coach from [Heath head coach] Tim Ward.”
Now, Pryor Jr. will have the chance to take those lessons learned into his first head coaching gig with the Cavaliers … a team that has made a state playoff appearance in four of the past six seasons.
“There is a winning culture here. More importantly, last year’s team had a 3.71 team GPA,” he said. “I look to uphold that high academic culture and work to keep building on that. In our field house, there is a whole wall dedicated to the many Chillicothe graduates that have played at the next level. I plan on working to build quality young people that either go to college, the military or into a nice job after high school. That is why I became an educator. I want to continue to help young people become productive citizens in society. “
As for on the field expectations, Chillicothe’s schedule will be as tough as it always is. With non-conference dates slated against Teays Valley, Columbus Mifflin, Watkins Memorial, Centennial and Logan, the Cavaliers have their work more than cut out for them.
Pryor Jr. already has Aug. 30 circled; the day he’ll make his head coaching debut at Teays Valley.
“I expect us to finish out this school year strong, academically. I also expect us to train hard for the rest of the offseason, in order to compete as hard as we can when we head to Teays Valley in Week 1,” he said. “That’s a very tough opening game. Teays Valley is a great program. But if we train hard the rest of the spring and summer, we’ll be ready to play a great game.”