Logansport has once again mined some Pioneer gold in regards to hiring coaching talent.
After hiring Pat Skaggs and Mike Johnson within the last six years, Logansport once again went to the Pioneer well by hiring defensive coordinator David Gregorich.
Gregorich comes to Logansport with impressive credentials, having coordinated Pioneer defenses the last five seasons, during which time the Panthers made the IHSAA State Finals four times and won two state championships.
Gregorich, a 2007 PHS grad, guided a Pioneer defense last year that was one of the most dominating in state history. The Panthers utilized four- and five-man fronts and showed 4-3, 5-2 and 4-2-5 looks. They often showed different looks and ran a variety of coverages and blitzes.
Of course it helped they had a veteran group and one of the most talented teams in the history of Class A football in the state of Indiana. Reigning Mr. Football Jack Kiser is now playing at Notre Dame. Conner Walker and Danny Gregorich, Gregorich’s younger brother, were named Indiana North All-Stars.
“Those guys just didn’t show up,” Gregorich said. “They came through a program that was established by coach Johnson out there, and they learned the basics, they learned those things and they gathered those things. Yeah, they were great athletes, they had great work ethic, but those guys still started somewhere. They were in a great program, they had great coaching all the way from their beginning days in third grade through to their senior year. Whether it was youth league staff, junior high coaches, it was a great program established by coach Johnson. Everybody bought into it, everybody trusted that, he handed it over to Adam [Berry] and we kept clicking. Those guys are special and we had a lot of fun playing.
“There’s not a Jack Kiser on the field here, but we’re going to coach them the same. When you get to that level, coaching almost becomes overrated, right, so I’m not going to take any special credit for those talented guys. They’re All-Stars, they did that on their own. You’ve got to have a special work ethic and a special love for the game to be getting that honor. To have a Mr. Football and two All-Stars on that team, I think the rings speak for themselves. But it was 11 guys, 30 to 40 guys on that football team. On defense we always knew that I’m the defensive coordinator, but on the weekends you’ve got to have every coach is involved, everybody knows it, then we carry that on to those drills. It’s not just the 11 starting guys on defense, it’s not the starting 11 varsity guys that make a defense successful. The freshman guys running the scout team, the JV guys getting reps, it takes everyone, from the smallest freshman to the most experienced senior, from every coach, whether it’s their first year and they’re learning or you’re a Hall of Famer like coach Johnson. Everybody has got to be involved and everybody’s got to be on the same page.”
Gregorich himself was a star player in his playing days for the Panthers. When he was in high school, Pioneer was a top five team in Class A, Lewis Cass was a top five team in Class 2A and Logansport was a top five team in Class 4A.
Maybe those type of days can return, but the Berries are still a work in progress in Johnson’s fourth year at the helm. He didn’t have a winning season at Pioneer until his sixth season.
The Berries have gone 2-8, 5-5 and 4-6 in Johnson’s first three seasons at LHS. A 22-15 loss in the final minute at McCutcheon in Week 5 ended up costing the Berries a second-straight five-win season.
The addition of Gregorich gives the program another boost in terms of coaching pedigree.
“It was a great hire for us,” Johnson said. “When I left Pioneer and came here, we wanted to bring him, but of course his younger brother was there so there was no chance he was going to leave Pioneer to come here. But once Danny graduated, he made the jump and we couldn’t be happier.”
Gregorich was hired as the defensive coordinator at Pioneer prior to the 2014 season. He was a varsity assistant from 2010-13 prior to that and a junior high head coach in 2008 and 2009.
“I can remember walking into the meeting room at Pioneer and he was a young coach and we had to find a defensive coordinator and I said, ‘You’re the defensive coordinator,’ and I think that was a week before practice started,” Johnson said. “And he’s turned out to be a pretty good one. We’re excited to have him here. It allows me to focus on some other things.”
Gregorich’s younger brother Nick has transferred from Pioneer to Logansport and will play football for the Berries this year as a junior. He did not play football in high school at Pioneer.
“He’s about 250 pounds. He’s probably going to be an offensive lineman and definitely a defensive lineman for us,” Johnson said.
Gregorich joins Johnson in building the Logansport football program.
“What a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s really a blessing that I get the opportunity and that’s important to me and it’s an honor that they want me here. I’m up to the challenge. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to continue to learn. Coach Johnson has done a great job of building a foundation here.
“I’m excited about it. He’s put together a good coaching staff and you see the coaches getting better every day, coaching and teaching better. It’s starting to click.”
The Logansport coaching staff also includes Matt Gaumer as the offensive and defensive line coach, Mike White as the wide receivers and defensive backs coach, Jason Cripe as the tight end and linebackers coach and Dan Robinson as the quarterbacks coach. Jim Russell and Nick Price coach the freshman team.
Gregorich said leaving Pioneer was not easy for him.
“Coach Johnson offered me an opportunity to come over here and I did it. It took a lot of thinking and maybe was the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my professional career was to make that switch," he said. "I wouldn’t say scared is the word but I knew it’d be different. There’s common terminology. He brought the same system over here and uses the same words that he coached me in high school. We’ve gone to several coaching clinics and meetings across the country. Even when he was at Logan and I was still at Pioneer, I was tagging along with him. So we’re speaking the same language, so that’s important. I didn’t have to learn anything new.
“Then the opportunity to have the freedom and he’s letting me coach. That’s an honor to me that my mentor and one of the smartest minds in football and he’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame, so that speaks for itself, that he trusts me to call the defense in the NCC year one. I haven’t had to take them out there and line them up against Jeff or Harrison or the talent that we’re going to see, but I’m going to embrace it. I’ve been telling the kids that we’ve got to have the philosophy and we’ve got to understand it from the beginning all the basic things and we’re not moving on until we’ve got those things. Coaching that way, it’s intensity, but I love football and I’m getting that message across to the kids that we want to be successful. We’re going to see a lot of talent, we might not be the biggest or fastest or have the most depth out there in terms of the schedule we play, but we’re going to prepare for success either way. We’re going to take what we know and continue to get better and teach those to the kids and expect them to play fast and be in the right positions and then take our defensive philosophy and drill it and drill it and drill it and hopefully we get some success with it.
“I know I’m going to continue to learn and grow throughout the season and it’s not going to be easy, it’s never been easy, coaching offense or defense or anything. But coaching defense is definitely not a one-man job. We’ve got some good coaches here and we all have to be involved in it, whether it’s breaking down film or preparing with the scouting report. But everybody has bought in. It’s a great opportunity, I love it. We don’t have anything to gripe about. We could sit here all day and talk about all the obstacles we’ve got to overcome, but we don’t, we’re playing football. We’re practicing football, we’re going to take what we’ve got, the guys that are out here right now, the guys who show up to practice, the guys who want to put on the Red and Black wings and wear Logansport on their chest, we’re going to coach them and we’re going to have pride in it. It’s just a blessed opportunity.
“I’m always going to be a Panther. I’ll never lose that. I’m going to keep a great relationship with coach Berry and those guys out there. It’s great. We’ve got good unity in Cass County. Those guys are still my friends and we still talk on a daily basis and we still talk football. I’m always going to be a Panther but I’m a Logansport Berry for here in the future coming and that’s what I’m going to be all about. I’m going to take the kids in the Red and Black and I’m going to tell them what I know. I’m going to love them and we’re going to teach them football and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
Berry said Matt Vianco has been promoted as Pioneer’s new defensive coordinator.
“He’s ployed in our system under coach Johnson. He’s been our defensive backs coach and a guy who broke down a lot of our film and was very involved with our defense,” Berry said. “Dave was a great defensive coordinator for us, but we’re pretty excited about what coach Vianco will be able to do.”
Berry added that former Pioneer player Josh Lytle will move up from the junior high program to be a varsity assistant and that former Pioneer player Aron Holcomb and former Logansport player Josh Hardy will be the junior high head coaches. Both Berry and Gregorich started their coaching careers as Pioneer Junior High head coaches.