Chardon High School – located in Chardon, Ohio – plays in division three and is ranked the #23 football team in Ohio (according to MaxPreps). The Hilltoppers owned an impressive winning streak from 2020 to 2022 of 31 games, including two back-to-back state titles. The streak ended this season in week four. This week, I had the honor of talking with Chardon’s head coach Mitch Hewitt, and got to ask him how he started, how he came to Chardon, and how his powerhouse of a team is doing.
Growing up, coaches were the mentors of his life. “It was one of those deals that when I looked around, when I looked at the people that impacted my life… they were predominantly coaches. I didn’t have the greatest upbringing, the greatest homelife. My coaches were stable forces in my life.” It seems that because of them, Hewitt is the successful coach that he is today.
Because of his coaches being mentors, Hewitt has seen a lot of coaching. And not just coaching, but great coaching from men like Urban Meyer in college. “I’ve seen great coaching. I’ve seen marginal coaching, I’ve seen awful coaching, but I’ve seen a lot of really good coaches. I’ve taken the best of all I’ve seen from all of those people and blend it in.”
With every team, there are values that need to be highlighted, addressed, or put into the players. With high schools, there is always an emphasis on putting values into the players to help them with their careers. Chardon is no different. “Accountability, trust, hard work, never-quit mentality… These are all things that are necessary. Not just for successful football, but for life. I think we’re experiencing a society that sometimes does the opposite [of those values], where they are entitled and don’t work very hard for things. I think the beauty of football is that there are no shortcuts. If you don’t adhere to all those standards, you’re not going to reach your goals.”
In addition to values, team-building is as important as ever. “We have a long extensive offseason. We have these activities that I think bring and bond people together. We run this local ski hill into a seven-mile canoe race, we do [a] Navy SEAL beach run every year, we have weekly gatherings in coaches houses… We’ll do coaches skits, we’ll do a team camp, and the seniors are over at my house every Thursday night during the season. A lot of little things. I think it’s important that players see you outside of a whistle and a field, that they see you in your home element with your wife and your kids and your dogs… to see a different side of you, which I think is important in relationship development.”
As stated before, the Hilltoppers had an impressive win streak of 31 come to an end in week four of this season. Despite that, Coach Hewitt does not seem to be too worried about his team this year. “We’re in a good position, as far as state playoffs go. But we’re young up front, on the offensive side of the ball. When you win back-to-back state titles, that’s usually a byproduct of some really talented senior classes. We graduated 35 seniors off of those senior classes. This year we have twelve seniors, and seven of them [are starters]. So we’re young, and our kids are learning on the fly. When you win back-to-back state titles, [less teams] want to play you. So we’ve played a really tough schedule to this point, and we have got to get better if we want to win another one.”
When talking about leaders, Coach Hewitt has some experience learning and looking for key traits in his guys. “It’s what you do in the dark that comes out of the light. It’s doing the right things when no one is watching incessantly. So that’s easier said than done when you’re in high school athletes, but that’s ultimately what we are trying to promote. One individual can sink a ship, and everyone’s got to pull their own weight, pull in the right direction, do the right thing when nobody’s watching, and ultimately have a team-first mindset. It’s easier to be selfish in this day and age.”
Because nobody is perfect, Chardon’s team has their fair share of challenges to overcome. Most notably, one challenge to overcome is the weight that the streak had on the team. “The streak to win… 31 games is a remarkable statistic. It’s hard to win 31 games in a row. I think early on [in our season], it was a burden for a lot of our players. Because it wasn’t as if [these players] were the ones who earned it, but they got stuck trying to live up to it. Sometimes that’s a daunting task, so in many ways you never want to lose any game. But in some ways, it was nice to reset, not have to go with that pressure that those kids were facing.” How was this addressed by the coaches? “We are very direct. We don’t hide, we don’t sugarcoat, we say what’s on our mind. Every week, we give scouting reports on where the team is, where we’re at. We are very accountable, I would say… I think the kids are great BS readers, and they know when adults are BS-ing them. We are very clear about that.”
When asked about who has done well so far and who he thinks will continue to drive the team, Coach Hewitt mentioned a few names: Alex Henry, Cooper Feldger, and Heath Fetchik. Henry is the team’s starting QB, and has only one loss on his record. Feldger and Fetchik are two big pieces of the defense that will only continue to get better this season.
If you want to hear more about Coach Hewitt and Chardon’s team, click here to watch a video about them.