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FOOTBALL: Jason Byers takes over coaching duties at Anchor Bay

Huddles don’t just take place on the 35-yard line and precede a third and five situation.

There was another huddle of sorts at Anchor Bay High School Friday afternoon.

More than 50 student-athletes gathered in the school auditorium to meet their new football coach.

Introductions were necessary, said coach Jason Byers, chuckling.

“The kids at Anchor Bay do not know anything about me,” he said.

They learned a few things very quickly.

“I told them I have very high expectations for the program,” said Byers. “Anchor Bay went 2-7 last year, and has had just one winning season in the last seven, and we were moved up from the MAC Blue to MAC White for the coming season.

“Do you know what, I am fine with that, too? Our goal is to become a MAC Red school. We have the resources, the location, and the administrative support to succeed. Also, to be the only high school in the district is huge advantage. There has always been a good turnout of players at Anchor Bay. It is just a matter of everything coming together,” said Byers.

Another sort of introduction is necessary. Jason Byers is probably the most successful coach most of the Anchor Bay players have never met.

He’s won at every level where he has been a head coach; at a Class D school (Center Line St. Clement), a Class C school (New Haven) and a Class B school (Fitzgerald).

Most recently, he spent five years on the sidelines at Fitzgerald. Two years after inheriting a winless team, the Spartans went 5-4. The following season, they were 11-1. They won the MAC Silver Division championship again two years later.

However, after that 2010 season, Byers stepped down.

“I resigned from coaching at Fitzgerald a year ago. I wanted to step away and reassess my career and spend more time with my family. When I made that decision, I made a promise to my wife that if I were going to get involved with another program; it had to be something I thought was special. The opportunity at Anchor Bay is too good to pass up,” he said.

Prior to Byers’ stint at Fitzgerald, he coached at New Haven where he accumulated a 19-11 record in three seasons and took the Rockets to the playoffs twice. Byers coached at St. Clement for a season and that team finished 10-1. He has also been on the staffs at Dakota and Ford.

Byers is a Ford graduate. He earned a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma where he played for two season. He transferred to Youngstown State where he also played football. His coach there was Jim Tressel.

“I know a lot of people in Michigan might not like Jim Tressel, but he was a wonderful coach. He created a real family atmosphere in the program. He really cared about his players. My experiences at Youngstown State were the best of my college years.”

Byers knows that coaching football is all about creating a collage of experiences. It’s taking the athletic kid with potential and helping him realize that potential. It’s taking the kid who will never run a play at the next level, and maximize his high school experience. It is embracing the running back with lightning speed and doing likewise with the undersized offensive lineman who is so far down on the depth chart he needs a scuba tank or two to breathe.

“For me, coaching has always been about helping the kids,” said Byers. “Butch Wagner went out of his way to help me at Ford when I was in high school. I feel that my obligation as a coach is to help the players better themselves whether that means going on to play in college or becoming better people in society,” said Byers.

“Football is a tremendous tool for that. I have been very fortunate to coaching under a guy like Mike Giannone at Dakota. Mike is one of the best at building a program in the state and I consider myself a branch from his tree. I am extremely lucky to have coached with Mike in my career.”

Byers also cited Brandon Oliver who was on Terry Copacia’s staff at Ford and is now the offensive coordinator at De La Salle as another very important influence in coaching.

“I am on cloud nine. I am so excited. I could not be more excited and I cannot wait to get to work with the kids,” said Byers.

The Anchor Bay Tars open the 2012 season on Friday, Aug. 24, against L’Anse Creuse. Seven days later, they begin MAC White play with a contest against Warren-Mott. From there, the conference play continues with back-to-back contests against Port Huron and Roseville.

Coach Byers is back on the sidelines. Introductions are no longer necessary.

Last Updated: 1/14/2012 5:07:16 PM EST

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