By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
During its rise over the last decade, Woodridge football has had problems getting past one team: Chagrin Falls.
The Tigers ended the Bulldogs' first playoff run in 2009 in the Division IV regional finals and beat them again in the first round in 2012.
What's more, Woodridge is set to travel to Chagrin Falls for its Week 3 game this fall on Sept. 12.
Luckily for Woodridge, its new head coach knows the Tigers well.
Jeff Decker, the defensive coordinator at Chagrin Falls, accepted the Bulldogs' top job on Tuesday, according to Woodridge athletic director Nick Mayer.
"I'm thrilled to death," Decker said. "I have a lot of respect for the Woodridge community. We've played them a couple times and they've always been close games. It looks to have some of the best fans in the state of Ohio in football."
Decker takes over the Bulldogs after Eric Ervin announced March 12 that he would not return as head coach.
Decker's hiring is expected to be confirmed at the May 13 Board of Education meeting.
Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis said he will recommend Decker for an open teaching position at the high school at the May 13 board meeting as well.
"We are elated to have Jeff as part of our staff," Davis said. "I hope the board accepts my recommendation."
Mayer said Decker was selected from a field of 51 applicants for the head coaching job.
"Jeff has certainly been a part of a winning program over at Chagrin Falls," Mayer said. "We realized very quickly how much he cares about kids and how much he cares about education. We believe that educators make the best coaches. Jeff fits into that mold."
In addition to his coaching duties, Decker currently serves as a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School.
According to the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools treasurer's office, Decker earned $75,262 as a math teacher at Chagrin Falls for the 2013-14 school year. He earned $5,763 as the Tigers' defensive coordinator.
A native of Deshler, Ohio, Decker earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati and a Master's degree in engineering from the University of Virginia. After working at Worthington Industries, he decided to take up teaching and earned a Master's degree in education from The Ohio State University.
Decker has coached at Chagrin Falls for eight seasons, serving as defensive coordinator for the last six years.
During that time, the Tigers have reached the state playoffs every year, including finishing as Division IV state runner-up in 2009 and 2010.
This will be Decker's first head coaching job, but he feels he is well prepared, having worked with Tigers coach Mark Iammarino.
"Mark is so amazing," Decker said. "He gave me the leeway to do what I wanted on defense, so he could concentrate on the offense. I've been really fortunate to be part of that team."
Decker ran a 4-3, cover-4 defense at Chagrin, but he noted his formations and schemes will be worked out in the future with the Bulldogs.
Last fall, both Woodridge and Chagrin Falls went 8-2 in the regular season and reached the Division IV playoffs. Woodridge lost 28-0 to Benedictine in the first round of the playoffs, while Chagrin defeated Cleveland Central Catholic 26-20 before losing 52-35 to Benedictine in the regional semifinals.
Mayer said he is confident Decker can continue to improve the program.
"We're really excited," Mayer said. "We went into this looking to find the best candidate to lead our young men. He's going to keep up the success that Eric (Ervin) has built."
Decker met the Woodridge team on Thursday and said he hoped to have his coaching staff in place "within a week or so."