When the Boone Grove football program was born in 2009, an enthusiastic group of men, most with little or no background in the sport, was chosen to comprise the coaching staff.
Good intentions aside, it wasn't the ideal template for success, though a Class 2A school starting from scratch didn't necessarily have a lot of options.
Four years later, the Wolves have established themselves in only their third season of varsity football. Despite graduating its foundation class and most of its skill position players, the Wolves are a surprising 6-1, and much of that same group still remains on the sideline.
"Experience is good, but it's not the only thing," head coach Tony Tinkel said. "It doesn't always equate to wins and losses. To start with, these guys all love the game of football. They promote playing good, hard football. It takes a special group to come together and be able to make it work."
Tinkel was named to his position in 2011, before the Wolves played their first full varsity season. His resume included stints as an assistant at Eastbrook and Castle. Tinkel had been a head coach in softball and volleyball.
"There's a lot I had to learn," he said.
Mike Poynter was the only other coach on the staff who had worked Friday nights. Scott Wiggins coached at the freshman level at Merrillville and Valparaiso. Some had played in high school, some hadn't. Glenn Adler and Carl Kilburg started Boone Grove-Winfield Pop Warner in 2005, cutting their coaching teeth at that level, along with Bryan Hill.
"They've put in the time to learn how to do different things, reading books, going to clinics here and there," Tinkel said. "When I took over, I liked the guys I had. They all had a year under their belts, so I just decided to leave them in their spots and we continued on."
Poynter, an assistant at Highland for over a decade before moving to Boone Grove, runs the defense. Hill coordinates the offense, settling over time into the role, which evolved from equipment manager in 2009.
"It's not rocket science," Hill said. "It's more about learning how to study film and put a game plan together. I'm a junkie with every sport. I pick up all kinds of things just watching games. I'm a pretty creative guy. Mike coaches defense but he's really an offensive guy. He's helped me tremendously. Jerry (Paul) played quarterback (at Morton). I bounce things off them and see what they think. We all work well together."
In Hill's first year, he'd tell line coach Carl Kilburg what he wanted to run and Kilburg would handle the blocking end of it. Hill now coaches from the press box, where he is able to see the whole field.
"I'm really lucky," Tinkel said. "They each have at least one other person helping them. They know what's going on. Our philosophies match up pretty well. I can just go out there and stand in the middle of the field and watch."
Tinkel is the only coach in the high school. Poynter teaches at the middle school. None of the other coaches are teachers. Again, it's not ideal -- coaches want to have as much of a presence in the building as possible -- but they've made it work.
"It's a unique situation," Tinkel said. "We're fortunate they have jobs that allow them to adjust their schedules."
When Hill's son Dean graduated, some thought Bryan would stop coaching. It was never a question.
"Everyone coaching here is all about Boone Grove," he said. "Everybody wants to be here as long as they'll let us."