During the past 18 years, Ryan McCartney has coached football from Arizona to New Hampshire.

The first-year defensive coordinator, an avid student of the game, has found a new home in Seymour.

“I think there’s a lot of things are different (about Seymour),” McCartney said. “The community is behind the football staff. This community loves their kids and program. You don’t find an emphasis on academics and athletes in a lot of places. Here, it’s emphasized. Kids know that the teachers care about them in and outside the classroom.

“The kids themselves, I know they’ve had some difficult years even before coach (Josh) Shattuck got here, attitudes are really good. They’re focused and tired of losing.”

McCartney already has made waves in the Owls’ first two games from the sidelines.

Last season, the Owls’ defense ranked second-worst in the state. They had eight takeaways in 10 games and allowed 49.8 points per game. They allowed 40 or more points in eight games, including a 75-14 loss to Brownstown Central.

Thus far this season, the Owls defense has six turnovers on the defensive side of the ball and has allowed 54 total points.

On Friday, the Owls fell to powerhouse Jeffersonville 35-22 compared to the 50-9 trouncing last season.

“It’s no secret, defensively (Seymour) has struggled in the past,” McCartney said. “(Seymour) had the second-worst defense in Indiana last year. Against Jeffersonville (Friday), we gave up four scores.

“The kids have bought in. They have great attitudes and work ethic. For a collection of guys, to be on the same page and work for each other, it’s hard to find in high school football. There’s a lot of ‘me’ players and ‘me’ coaches out there. We don’t have that on staff and with our kids.”

While he prefers running the 3-4, McCartney has adjusted his defense to better compete against Indiana football teams. And he isn’t afraid to go after opposing offenses.

“My defense has always been aggressive,” McCartney said. “We set out to stop the run and control the pass. I’ve predominantly been a 3-4 guy almost all of my years. But watching film before I came here, I noticed (Seymour) plays a lot of spread (offense) teams.

“If you stick with a 3-4, you’re allowing the offense to create matchup nightmares because your outside linebackers have to cover slot (receivers) in space. I didn’t want that, so I brought a 4-2-5. It’s a combination between the 3-4 and is a coverage scheme that I used in college. What it does is cover up and not show the QB what we’re running every play.”

The Owls have run McCartney’s defense for just three months.

Coming into his role with the Owls, McCartney knew that the program is trying to turn the corner.

“Coach (Josh) Shattuck and I recently had a conversation on the word compete,” McCartney said. “We don’t use that word anymore — we’re out there to win. We’re not trying to compete and keep it close. We’re here to win games. We’re going to go out with a plan, work hard all week and expect to win on Friday nights. No more of this ‘they’re really good and we’re not.’”

McCartney has a strong pedigree for football.

His uncle, Bill McCartney, led the University of Colorado to a college football national championship in 1990 and stepdad, Lloyd Carr, won a national championship in 1997 with the University of Michigan.

McCartney said that he sometimes asks the two college football hall-of-fame coaches for advice.

The Riverview, Michigan, native moved to Arizona in 2004 to teach and coach before heading to New Hampshire in 2012 to fill those same roles.

In his high school days, McCartney played running back and cornerback at Riverview High School before playing at Adrian University for a season at defensive back.

In 2014, McCartney returned to Arizona to coach at Arizona Christian University, prior to coming to Indiana in 2015.

“Besides my one year at college, (my coaching) has all been at the high school level,” McCartney said. “All but two years I’ve either been a head coach or a coordinator. I’ve coached every single position, but predominantly a defensive coordinator. In 1999 I got my first defensive coordinator job and have loved working (that position) ever since.”

When he’s not on the gridiron, McCartney teaches freshman English classes at Seymour High School.

McCartney stresses the importance of academics to his kids.

“There’s a reason why they call it student-athlete and not athlete-student,” McCartney said. “One of the things I set out to do when I got here is to increase football IQ, their understanding of the game. About 99.9 percent of our kids, high school football will be it and they won’t play beyond high school.

“What they’re here for (at Seymour High School) is a quality education so they can go out and become whatever they want, whether it’s college, trade school or work. I would much rather have them be successful people than outstanding football players with no future. Those kids need more than (sports).”

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