When he was a senior at Tallmadge High School more than 20 years ago, Mike Hay had lofty goals of leading the Blue Devils to a league title and perhaps a playoff berth.
Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well.
Tallmadge dropped its final two games of the 1997 season to finish 6-4. As a result, the Blue Devils did not win the Suburban League championship and were not invited to participate in postseason play.
“We lost to Joe Vassalotti’s Norton team in Week 9 that year,” Hay said. “They had a really good team. Joe never let me forget that.”
Vassalotti had plenty of chances to remind Hay of his missed opportunity.
The two men spent 13 years on the same staff when Vassalotti became Tallmadge’s coach in 2002.
Now, Hay has a chance to build his own legacy for a team that has seen its fair share of success in the last two decades. That’s because the 39-year-old accepted the position of football coach at Tallmadge High School on Tuesday.
Hay, who has been a member of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff since 2001, will become the team’s head coach pending approval from the Tallmadge Board of Education.
Hay replaces Alan Vanderink, who resigned earlier this month to become the football coach at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent.
“I’m very excited,” Hay said. “It’s always a goal to want to coach at your alma mater. Alan did a wonderful job in developing the character and developing them into young men. I just want to pick up the ball and run with it.”
Since he returned to Tallmadge, Hay has worked with Vassalotti, Vanderink and former coaches Jeff Moore and Scott Pollock.
“Mike Hay has been a loyal, committed assistant coach,” Tallmadge Athletic Director Don Seeker said. “He possesses the same quality characteristics of the head coaches that have preceded him. We are very excited for Mike to lead our football program.”
Hay, who was a finalist for the head coaching job three years ago, also has been a part of the Tallmadge track and field team’s coaching staff for the last 15 years.
As an assistant coach with the football team, Hay has mainly been the freshman squad’s head coach. He also has spent time wearing a headset on Friday nights to discuss coverages and offensive strategy in the press box.
Hay wants his alma mater to make Friday night football in November a regular occurrence. After reaching the second round of the Division III playoffs in 2017, the Blue Devils finished 5-5 and did not advance to the postseason.
“A goal would be to turn this program into what it was and that’s consistently competing for a league championship,” Hay said. “If you do that, you have a chance to reach the playoffs.”
Like his predecessor, Hay said he hopes to make an impact on his players that pays dividends off the field as well.
“I want to develop young men, husbands, fathers and future employees,” Hay said.