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When you talk to LaSalle head coach, Tom Grippa almost instantly his you feel his passion and love for the game, his team and his league, the GCL South. He is forever optimistic and always finds something complimentary to say about his foes. It is that genuine expression of thoughtfulness that makes one root for the man and everything he stands for.
Grippa is one of the deans of high school football in Cincinnati having coached almost 300 games in his career going 179-104 overall. Coaching is his love and everyone that has ever been around him knows just how sincere he is about the job he does.
Perhaps even more telling about Grippa is the quality of the character that the young men who have played for him personify after they have left him. They all just become better people, better adults after they have been under his tutelage. Those players repay him with living their lives as stand up individuals. It is the greatest compliment that they could give to the savvy veteran of the sidelines.
We caught up with the Lancers’ front man and got his thoughts on the upcoming season and more:
TSF: It looks like your defense is going to be one of your strengths. Can you shed some insight on the unit?
Grippa: It will be one of our strengths. We have some returning players that are really outstanding. Defensive end John Schwettmann was a Second-Team All-GCL performer. We had a freshman who played and played very well the last half of the year named Jordan Thompson. Jordan is 6-foot-3, 230 (pounds) right now. We are hoping that he comes back at 250.
Nate Sparks was our starting WIL backer. He takes over Joe Burger’s spot at middle inside linebacker. Both corners are back. Jaleel Hytche is one of the top corner’s in the state of Ohio. He’ll have multiple offers from big time programs.
Dem (DJ) Christon, who also starts is a great athlete. He is one of the strongest kids on our football team. He’s really powerful. Jordan’s brother is another kid who we think will be in there on our defense, his name is, Trey. He couldn’t play this year. He was ineligible and is going to be a senior. He is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and real athletic, so we are real excited about our defense.
TSF: How about you offense?
Grippa: We think our offense will be pretty good, too. We have two linemen that have a chance to be big recruits. Dave Baumer is 6-foot-6, 285 (pounds). He is bigger than Ryan Leahy (now at Cincinnati). The second half of the season our running game improved when Baumer went in there at guard. Danny Keller. who didn’t start is 6-foot-5, 240. He’s got good feet and is a volleyball player to show you what kind of athlete he is. We like him.
It’ll be really good in the backfield with Morgan Wilcox, who is a junior and senior Jason Bell. We have a current freshman we really like, Kevin Ferguson. He’s a special back. Those three guys will be in the mix to play and it will be real competitive.
I think we have the best wide receiver in Cincinnati in Derek Kief. Derek will be a blue chip player. He’ll be a DeVier Posey kind of recruit. We have a tight end Brandon Walsh, who is 6-foot-3. Erik Toelke is a possession-type kid and we have another tall receiver in Izaah Fuller, who is 6-foot-4. We have the potential to throw some big players out there with speed.
Our quarterback situation will be competitive. The senior will be Brad Burkhart, who was a two-year starter on defense. Brad is the best athlete and I’ve already told him that you are number one going in. If he does what he should do then he will be the starting quarterback. I really like my sophomore quarterback (going to be a junior), Jake Meyer. Jake has a great arm. He’s kind of a cross between Drew Kummer and Brendan Jones. He just has to grow up. He is just a kid. He is not a little guy (6-foot-2) back there and has a cannon for an arm. He gives us that pocket game that we love to throw at people.
TSF: Your thoughts on the GCL South in 2012?
Grippa: I think the GCL South is going to be really strong again. Moeller should be the favorite. Their senior class as freshmen dominated the GCL. I do think St. Xavier will be a real strong team. Elder will be like us. They will have some good players. It is a matter of how far their program guys come. If those guys develop they will be right there in the mix.
TSF: For you what are the biggest changes you have seen as a head coach over the years?
Grippa: In the GCL, there is a lot more balance. I don’t think there is a dominant team like there was when I first got into the league when Moeller was the king. In my 17 years, Moeller won 10, I won five (at Elder & LaSalle) and St. X won two. There is just more balance. LaSalle won the title (two years ago) and then Moeller last season. Elder will come back. They have a great program. Nobody is a better head coach than, Doug Ramsey. There are four outstanding coaches in the GCL. I think that is part of why we are so balanced. You know, you just keep grinding away.
Check out the complete interview with coach Grippa as he goes into depth about his schedule and gives his candid opinions on the playoff system:
--Up Close: Tom Grippa, head coach, LaSalle
Greg is a co-founder of TSF and is now entering his ninth season as a Featured Analyst for the website. The Xavier University grad also serves as the Content Manager for the website and is widely considered one of the top high school football experts in the region. If you are interested in covering your team, please CONTACT US.