Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — When Adena’s football team takes the field this fall, the Warriors will look significantly different from last year’s record-setting group.
Gone is a group of seniors that ended their careers with a third straight playoff berth and the program’s first Gold Ball since 2010, and gone is former head coach John Penwell, who resigned after leading the Warriors to a 30-23 mark during his five-year tenure.
But despite the departures, and that’s what has dominated the headlines, there is one returning name that still has the same expectations in place — first-year head coach Brian Grigsby.
“There is no getting around the talent and leadership that was lost after last season. That senior class was special. With that said, we also have a ton of guys who are also finally getting their chance to step up as players and as leaders,” Grigsby said. “Most people do not realize this, but we have players that had limited roles last year that would have started for anyone else. All-league level talent spending much of their time on the sideline as a role player. And now, they have the opportunities to step up and lead our team.”
So does Grigsby. His opportunity to lead the Warriors came this offseason when Penwell made his resignation official.
But despite Grigsby and Adena seeming like the perfect marriage, the two could’ve never met at the altar had it not been for Grigsby’s wife, Lindsay.
She pushed her husband towards the opportunity, even while knowing the decision came with its consequences.
“Being a head coach brings so much joy but also difficulties. To be honest, my wife is actually the one who encouraged me to pray about this opportunity, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for her and our family,” Grigsby said. “She always says that when I commit to something, I don’t know how to be anything but all in. But that also means a huge sacrifice for her. We have four young kids and for me to coach, investing into the lives of forty young men plus my staff and many others, it takes significant time and energy. If it weren’t for her commitment and love for the young people of this community, this wouldn’t even be a possibility for us. She is the greatest blessing to even make coaching a possibility for our family.”
Grigsby’s trek to become the Warriors’ head coach is well-documented.
He graduated and played football at Adena before joining the program’s staff in 2013. He’s spent the past several years as the team’s offensive and defensive coordinator, at different times, and was the head junior high coach in 2018 — when this year’s juniors and seniors were seventh and eighth graders.
“They are incredible young men who have completely bought into some new things we are doing. We have a program with a rich tradition and obviously a lot of recent success. But when our new staff took over, we immediately started talking about how we elevate to an even higher level, a higher standard of excellence. That has been our focus and our guys are really buying into that.”
Part of the new doctrine is two core values that Grigsby and his staff continue to preach each day — excellence and love.
“The expectation of how we do everything has to be with the focus of doing it with excellence. How we practice, how we lift, how we take care of the locker room, how we conduct ourselves in the classroom, or even how we get off the bus. We have to focus on doing it with excellence,” Grigsby said. “And, if our coaches love our players and our players love each other, then literally every other core value or character trait is taken care of. But without love, everything else will be built on a weak foundation.”
Grigsby will make his head coaching debut on Aug. 20 when his Warriors travel to McClain. Adena’s first home date is Sept. 3 when it hosts Portsmouth West.
And, whether it’s fair or not, the Warriors will be playing under high expectations. After all, the program is 25-15 over the past four seasons.
It doesn’t matter who lines up to play. The standards are there.
“[The expectation] is to get better every day. It sounds cliche because it is, but it’s also cliche because it is so critical,” Grigsby said. “We want to win games, yes. But we have to get better every day for that to even be possible. We need to keep improving individual skills, execution of our offense and defense, the efficiency of how we warm up and lift, the upkeep of our facilities, how we treat each other … literally everything. If we do this, we will put out a team full of young men that our school and community can be proud of. That is what we are expecting and that is how we will define our success.”
And as they do define what success is under a new regime, they’ll ultimately be doing so with one of the village’s own sons. Grigsby is well aware of that fact and, with some help from the man upstairs, he’s aiming to make his hometown proud.
“Oftentimes, it feels surreal. I still remember the night after my final game as a Warrior player and sitting in the locker room with coach [Colton] Coy, who is my [offensive coordinator] now,” Grigsby said. “We were best friends then and we literally sat in this same field house after my final game talking about what it would be like someday to lead this program … and here we are. Surreal man. God is good.”