- East High School
Making History: CCS High School Football Coaches Receive “Coach of the Year” Honors
January 6, 2023 -- Never in CCS history has there been not one but two high school football programs that simultaneously celebrated record-breaking football seasons.
The magnitude of what has taken place this football season is nothing short of amazing!
East High School head football coach Mike Bell and South High School coach George Yates II were named 2022 Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Football Coach(es) of the Year.
"God has been abundantly good to me. I am thankful for my coaches, players, administrators, donors, wife Kayla, children, and the South community. Hail! South High, Hail!" said Yates.
Bell shared in Yates' humbleness and gratitude to the Columbus community, his coaches, players, the student body at East, and the school administration for believing in and supporting the team.
“The support from our community was incredible. We have one of the largest alum populations in the State of Ohio. Looking out into the stands to witness the love and support from the city, it was unbelievable,” said Bell.
Sharing his favorite quote by English writer John Bunyan, Bell is passionate about selflessly helping those in need.
"You have never really lived until you have done something for some who can never repay you. I try to live by this quote daily," said Bell.
After going 6-4 in 2019, in their third and final season under former coach Wes Edwards, East hired Bell as his successor.
Well into his third season as head coach, Bell and the Tigers ended their historic football season as the City League North co-champions with two playoff wins. Bell can now add OHSAA’s Division IV State of Ohio Coach of the Year to his resume.
“It's an honor. I didn't think I had a chance to win Coach of the Year. I was sure Glenville’s coach would win because he’d won the state championship. I’m honored,” said Bell.
East has had quite the football season. The team celebrated its building's centennial year and its first home playoff win with a 34-14 victory over Vinton County McArthur.
Additionally, East advanced to the regional semifinals of the OHSAA Division IV football playoffs defeating Cambridge High School 40-39 in a double-overtime win.
Bell shared why he believes the Tigers remained focused this football season.
“Our team's success has taught them how to be successful in the classroom. They know academic excellence is a priority. These high standards translate from the classroom to the weight room, to the field, and to everything we do. I’m proud of this group,” said Bell.
Studying the history behind Tiger football, the team improved its record to 7-0 for the first time since 1967, winning their first six games before losing their final three. The last time the Tigers opened a season by winning their first seven games was in 1964 when they finished 9-0.
“10-2 is the first ten-game win season in school history. And we haven't won a championship since 1999. It has been a great season,” said Bell.
Similarly, Yates has had quite a successful season.
The Bulldogs are co-champions for the City League South Division, a title shared with Marion-Franklin and Independence High Schools. The Bulldogs were also OHSAA playoff qualifiers.
In his 5th year as head football coach for the Bulldogs, coach Yates, a South High School alum, was selected as OHSAA Division III State of Ohio Coach of the Year.
“I didn’t expect it, so when you feel like you are in the running for something, it is different. You are prepared for it, and I was not ready. When I saw my name, I almost dropped my phone,” said Yates.
Additionally, three members of the South Bulldogs were recognized for their impressive stats this season. Those Bulldogs are:
- Sophomore Quarterback Damon Griffin Jr. was named First Team All-Ohio.
- Junior Receiver/Defensive Back Da’Shawn (NuNu) Simmons was named Second Team All-Ohio.
- Junior Defensive and Offensive Lineman was named Third Team All-Ohio.
“It was a plus season; it was a historic season. Amazingly, this is our first title win since 1972,” said Yates.
Coach Yates believes this past football season indicates that CCS students can achieve their goals academically and on the playing field.
“I think this season is another feather in the cap of what we are able to do. Whether in good times or bad, our team beat insurmountable odds. This is a sneak peak of who they are and what they will become in the future,” said Yates.
Coach Yates reminisced about the season, sharing that a significant turning point for the team was the loss to Independence.
“The loss to Independence, I wondered how we would build a championship team. I didn’t realize then that we would have the opportunity to play Marion-Franklin and win for the second time in a row, allowing us to share the title and be in the playoffs,” said Yates.
The Tigers overcame adversity as well after suffering a significant loss.
In 2021, former East High School football player Rycheous McKinney lost his life due to gun violence. His teammates and coaches mourned his death but made a point to dedicate this past season to him, honoring his legacy.
“As a coach, you never want to lose a player; it doesn’t matter who they are. Every kid who comes through my program, I love on them. Rycheous, we rallied behind that this year and proclaimed we would do it the Rycheous Way. He meant a lot to all of us,” said Bell.
In the same way, Coach Yates said he is fulfilling his dream of giving back to South and the football program that poured positivity into him as a teen.
“I wanted to come back and be a father to the fatherless. To tell kids I love you, I’m proud of you, and I believe in you. I am incredibly thankful for someone believing in me in the way I believe in my team,” said Yates.
What’s next for the Tigers and the Bulldogs?
“The standard is to win the city north. The standard is to make the playoffs. The standard is to compete for a state championship; every year,” said Bell and Yates collectively.
Overall, much can be said about the 2022-2023 historical football season.
“There are so many memories surrounding our historic season. I know I will take these memories with me into the future. Making athletic history is definitely most memorable,” said Yates.