By Seth Vanderwest

KENT CITY–The age-old debate of youth vs. experience will play out next season as Zach Gropp takes the reins as Kent City’s football coach. 

Gropp, 28, has taught physical education health at Kent City for the past five years. After serving as the team’s defensive coordinator the last 2 years, Gropp has now taken over the top spot.

New Kent City football Coach Zach Gropp.

Gropp, a 2012 graduate of White Pigeon High School, was a standout in several sports, but especially excelled at football, though he never enjoyed much team success.

During his 3 years on varsity, the team had one winning season. Gropp himself accumulated all-conference, all-area, all-state honorable mention and defensive dream team awards.

Interestingly, that White Pigeon football team was coached by Jason Vogel, who is now Kent City’s athletic director and vice principal.

Gropp also competed in basketball, track, and baseball for the Chiefs. He was a two-time regional champion in the 300-meter hurdles and was all-conference and all-area in basketball.

After high school, Gropp played linebacker for Olivet College, while pursuing a degree in education. Gropp joined the football team in the midst of a major rebuild – the Comets had just fired their entire coaching staff after going a combined 0-40 in the four seasons prior to Gropp’s freshman year. 

He helped Olivet make that rebuild successful; the Comets improved from 0-10 his freshman year to 9-1 his senior year. Gropp started at linebacker as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Gropp then spent some time student teaching at Portage Central and landed at Kent City soon after, where he has coached track, baseball, basketball, and football.

We are pleased to have Coach Gropp take over the Kent City football program after serving as an assistant coach for us over the past five years ,” Vogel said. “He is well respected by our student-athletes and has immersed himself in our school and community.”

 “I applied for the position because it has always been my dream to become the head coach of a football team.,” Gropp said. “I grew up in a football family with my dad being a coach and always being around the game.”

He is optimistic for the team’s prospects this fall, but recognizes the impact that last year’s group of seniors had on the program.

We lost a lot of players that played up front that had a big part in our success on the offensive and defensive side of the ball,” he said, “Players like Joe Anderson, Logan McVicker, Eli Lane, Austin Kerwin and James Farrington are going to be hard to replace because of their hard work and dedication to our program. I believe with our incoming juniors, we will have a very competitive team in the fall.”

Hard work and the desire to compete will be traits of the Eagles’ teams under Gropp,

You can expect a team that will work hard, compete at a high level, show discipline, have a family atmosphere and have dedication to our football program,” Gropp said. “Not only on the field, but off the field as well.”

Kent City finished 5-3 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Kent City will compete in the restructured 11-team CSAA Gold. Though the conference is split up into Silver and Gold divisions for football, Kent City will play several schools from both. 

Also on the Eagles’ schedule is Gropp’s alma mater, White Pigeon.