WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Lakota West football coach Tom Bolden has no doubt the Firebirds will win this season.
It’s just a matter of whether they're ready for the spotlight and prepared to embrace the mentality of a coach who once led a conference opponent to three regional titles.
“I will guarantee you this,” Bolden said last week. “Anyone who lines up against you better dig in because we are getting after it, plain and simple.”
Bolden is the new face to high school football in West Chester. His well-known coaching style hasn’t veered. His Colerain teams were known for playing physical, fast and certainly with some swagger.
That mentality has reached Butler County. There is no shortage of talent at West.
“That’s what got me super confident about this year,” said senior running back David Afari, a Miami University commit. “He makes sure we work hard in the weight room and makes sure we go 100 percent and everything.”
Bolden,who led Colerain to a Division I state runner-up finish in 2018, led Colerain to nine consecutive playoff appearances and 11 postseason trips in 12 years.
His move to Lakota West (4-6, 3-5 GMC in 2018) certainly makes things interesting in the ultra-competitive Greater Miami Conference.
“Everybody is real excited for this season,” said Lakota West senior linebacker Daved Jones, who is verbally committed to the University of Cincinnati.
“I got a whole bunch of people messaging me talking about they are ready for tickets and they want to know when the pre-sale comes up and stuff like that. Everybody wants to support the team.”
Colerain has won 19 consecutive GMC titles, but Fairfield, Princeton and West are also certainly among the very talented GMC squads this preseason.
Lakota West opens the season at La Salle Aug. 30 followed by hosting Centerville Sept. 6 and then the GMC schedule.
“I like since January how we’ve been training,” Bolden said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. I think the kids have really bought in on how we are doing things. Their focus and the energy that they are bringing every day have been real special. You look at some of the kids physically how they have changed themselves. I think that puts us in a good position to have a pretty special year.”
Offensively, the Firebirds are considering two quarterback candidates including junior Caleb Rao and senior Daniel Caudill, a Moeller transfer.
Bolden, who is 142-21 during his head coaching career, likes the offensive line including sophomore Tegra Tshabola, who had seven tackles on the defensive line as a 6-foot-6, 300-pound freshman.
There are plenty of options at wide receiver, including sophomore Alex Afari (6-2, 185), David’s brother, who can also play safety or cornerback.
David Afari and sophomore Aden Miller will lead the backfield. Miller will play running back or linebacker.
“He is a special talent,” Bolden said. “He needs to be on the field.”
The Firebirds’ defense is expected to carry the team early this season, Bolden said. Jones (UC commit) and senior linebacker Isaac Kolosik are among the leaders. Kolosik had a team-leading 66 tackles in 2018.
Junior defensive linemen Aneesh Vyas and Andre Proffitt along with senior defensive lineman Jake Kiefer are among others to watch. The entire secondary also returns.
“We should expect a lot of won games,” Jones said. “We’re winning a lot. Coach Bolden — he came in, and he’s really making us work hard, and he’s making us do whatever we got to do. Obviously he knows how to win, so he is just bringing that culture over here to West.”