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Football: Paradise tabs Koch as AD – Panthers’ OC to be Gage’s replacement

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, May 19, 2018
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Handing It Off

HANDING IT OFF – Paradise’s Joe Koch (left) takes a handoff from then-head coach Ronnie Gage during a practice last season. Koch was hired Thursday to replace Gage as athletic director and head coach. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Paradise ISD trustees unanimously approved Joe Koch as its next athletic director and head football coach Thursday night.

Koch was the Panthers’ offensive coordinator the last two seasons under former head coach and AD Ronnie Gage, who retired last week.

“We’re extremely excited for [Koch] to continue what Coach Gage started,” said Paradise ISD Superintendent Paul Uttley.

Koch takes over for Gage, who had spent 42 years coaching high school football. The 65-year-old won two state titles at Lewisville in 1993 and 1996 and is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.

In two seasons at Paradise, Gage went 7-13. In the three years before he arrived, the Panthers went 4-26. Gage brought Koch in from Wisconsin in 2016.

“I’m very grateful to Coach Gage for everything he’s done for me,” Koch said. “He’s been more than a mentor. He’s been a good friend. I’m hoping to build on what Coach Gage has started here. He’s laid a good foundation. I’m excited to be a part of this community.”

Originally from Milwaukee, Koch compiled a 157-69 record with four teams as a head coach in Wisconsin. He helped Greenfield win its first conference title since 1978.

At Oak Creek, Koch went 116-38 and finished as the state runner-up twice.

“I feel very honored and blessed to be the AD and coach at Paradise,” Koch said. “It’s a dream come true. I love it there. I think it’s just a fantastic community.”

Paradise went 3-7 last season and nearly clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008. The Panthers won a key district game over Ponder in mid-October, but lost their final two games to Bowie and Boyd, missing out on the postseason.

Koch believes the Panthers’ athletic program is trending upward. The girls basketball, baseball and softball teams all made the postseason this year.

The boys and girls track teams finished fourth in District 8-3A and had one athlete, junior Maddie Mitschke, advance to state in the 300 hurdles.

“It’s a good time to be a part of Paradise,” Koch said. “We are ready to take that next step. We’ve been right there knocking on the door, in the playoffs – now we’re at that point where we need to start making some runs.”

Koch said his first order of business as AD will be re-stocking his coaching staff. Several Paradise coaches are departing, including defensive coordinator Brad Griffin, and their linebackers and defensive backs coach. Koch will also have to find his own replacement as offensive coordinator.

“We’re losing some really good coaches,” Koch said. “I have to replace five coaches in just football alone. That’s a tall order. All my time and energy the last 24 hours has been consumed on going over the applications. ”

Paradise opens the season Aug. 31 at S&S Consolidated. S&S is coached by Gage’s son, James. Koch’s son, Tommy, is also on the Rams’ staff.

The Panthers will compete in the newly re-aligned District 4-3A Division I with Boyd, Bowie, Brock, Pilot Point, Ponder and Whitesboro in 2018.

“I’m very optimistic, and so is Coach Gage,” said Koch of the upcoming season. “We have great leadership coming up, and that’s huge. We had a fantastic offseason and a really good spring.”

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