Lewis tabbed to lead Jasper football programJanuary 28, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
The Jasper football program has gained recognition all across the state for its historic tradition.
In fact, it’s one of the reasons that led new head coach Tony Lewis back to Southern Indiana.
“When you come to a program like Jasper, what kind of oozes from it is the tradition — they’ve had a lot of great teams, a lot of great players and a great community and school support,” said Lewis, who was named just the fifth head coach in Jasper football history on Monday evening at the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Board meeting. “Obviously, following coach (Jerry) Brewer and coach (Tony) Ahrens is a tough task to follow but I’m looking forward to that opportunity and I feel privileged to be a part of the program.”
For the first time since 2003, Jasper had to search for a new head football coach after Ahrens announced his retirement last December.
And while Jasper was Ahrens’ first head coaching job when he took the position, this time the Cats looked to a coach with a plethora of experience at a variety of programs.
Lewis has a total of 17 years of head coaching experience and he’s compiled a 131-66 overall record.
He’s most notably known in the state of Indiana for the work he did down South at Evansville Reitz. While with the Panthers from 2008-2012, he compiled a 53-11 record and led them to the 2009 IHSAA Class 4A state championship title with a 23-9 victory over Lowell. Reitz finished that season with an undefeated 15-0 record. He also won three SIAC titles, three sectional titles, two regional title and one semistate title.
His first head coaching job came at Wheelersburg (Ohio) in 2002. After leaving Reitz in 2012, Lewis coached at Henderson County (Ky.), Crystal River (Fla.) and most recently at Richmond, near Lewis’s alma mater of South Putnam High School.
Leaving the Red Devils wasn’t an easy decision for Lewis.
“It’s been a great place for us, they’ve been very supportive,” Lewis said. “It’s tough to leave the kids that I’ve built relationships with but we just felt this (Jasper job) was a great opportunity and something we wanted to look into.
Getting involved with coaching was something that Lewis pictured himself doing from a young age and he had several mentors throughout his youth football days that helped lead him to this point.
“Going back to when I was in peewee football, one of my earliest coaches Tim Bruce was a great mentor to me and a great coach. He taught football and how to play it the right away so it helped being around him,” Lewis said. “Then when I was in high school, coaches (Bob) Gaddis and Mark Wildman were guys I looked up to.”
Lewis has received several coaching accolades throughout his career including the Griddy’s 2010 Coach of the Year and has also been a featured speaker at several coaching clinics including the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic and the Glazier Football Clinics.
He has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in secondary education from Indiana University and a Master’s of Science degree in education from the University of Southern Indiana. He will also be teaching strength and conditioning.
Jasper athletic director Brian Lewis knows that Brewer and Ahrens’ legacies will long impact the Jasper football program but he’s excited to see how Tony Lewis can make the program his own.
“The big thing is you can’t replace Jerry Brewer, you can’t replace Tony Ahrens and Tony Lewis knows that,” Brian Lewis said. “Tony’s going to come in, he’s going to be himself and he’s going to put his stamp on this program. Jasper football is always going to be Jasper football – he’s just the one leading the ship right now.”
Jasper finished with a 6-5 record in 2018 and the Cats will return several key pieces from last year’s squad including quarterback Nathan Rillo and running backs Lance Dawkins and Elliott Hopf.
Lewis is anxious to get to work and see the program in action.
“I think the entire athletic program is a great program and the entire school academically is a great school,” Lewis said. “When you put those things together along with good parents and good kids, you’ve got a chance to be successful.”
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