New head coach Patton Taylor to lead Owego Indians football in 2023 season


(Courtesy of Tioga County Sports Report) — A new era has arrived at Owego where Patton Taylor replaces recently retired and longtime head football coach Steve Virkler.

Although Taylor has been working with several of the athletes over the summer, Saturday marked the first day of mandatory practices and he was pleased with the turnout.

“I thought we had a good first day and we still have some kids coming back from vacation,” he said. “Numbers-wise, we’re right around 67, 68 kids, nine through 12. There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm right now. Couldn’t have asked for a better first day.”

Owego witnessed a strong turnout numbers-wise over the summer as well. “We were getting 40 to 45 kids just about every day for our summer practices,” Taylor said.

The team also posted a 4-1 record at the New York State High School Football Coaches Association 7 vs. 7 Small School Championship, advancing to the Elite 8.

One positive for the new coach is the fact graduation losses weren’t as severe as the previous season. Only eight of the 39 players on last fall’s roster were seniors as compared to 22 seniors on the 35-man roster in 2021.

“We return a lot of strong and explosive athletes,” Taylor said. “It is easy to get overly creative offensively when we have the athletes that we have. So, the difficult part will be keeping things simple enough where we can run plays effectively but also have enough complexity where we can utilize more guys on the field.”

Taylor is a former Tioga player, but don’t look for him to switch things over to a run-heavy offense like the Tigers.

“There will be some new things implemented, but we’re not completely clean-slating it,” he said. “What we’ve been telling the kids, we’re just kind of adding on to what we’ve been doing.

“They’re a smart crew. They’re eager to learn. They’re eager to play, so over the summer we were able to actually put in quite a bit.”

As a first-year head coach, one of the challenges Taylor will face is dealing with off-field issues.

“I’m finding out day to day that there’s a lot of stuff that has to be taken care of,” Taylor said.

Familiarizing himself and the staff with the players should not be a major issue for Taylor.

“I’ve spent two years at the JV level, so I know a lot of these kids as far as building those relationships,” he said. “I feel like we, as a staff, we’re in a good spot.”

Owego will compete in a multi-team scrimmage at Chenango Forks on September 1, then open the season at Newark Valley on September 9.

Taylor played tight end, defensive end and kicker at Tioga, but his career was limited due to concussions. A two-time all-state pick in baseball and a former pitcher at Penn State, he has been the JV baseball coach at Owego the past two seasons, compiling a 22-7 record.