Having established consistency in its football program for the better part of a decade, Palmer Ridge doesn’t want to stray too far off the road.

After an extensive interview process through a deep candidate pool, the Bears have turned to longtime defensive coordinator Zach Carlton as its next head coach. He has been manning the defense for the last eight seasons and provides a level of consistency and comfort for the program that administration hopes to lead to continued success.

“We had a strong candidate pool,” athletic director Lance McCorkle said. “What stands out about Zach is that he has a proven and effective defensive scheme. He’s also been in the system with the coaching staff that’s been together for quite some time. It was a lot of what we saw when we hired (Mike) Armentrout.”

Armentrout led the team for two seasons before stepping down after the 2022 campaign. He cited personal issues in a letter to parents.

His resignation came on the heels of a loss to Loveland in the Class 4A semifinals. Armentrout finished his two seasons with a 22-3 record.

That’s the kind of on-field production that Carlton hopes doesn’t change as he shifts from his role as DC to head coach.

“On the field, the expectations are going to be the same,” Carlton said. “We’re going to be sound in schemes and technique on offense, defense and special teams. I do want to bring in more leadership and character development stuff into our program and that will start right away.”

The Palmer Ridge job was open to any and all applicants and McCorkle and the administration went into the process with an open mind. The candidates they interviewed had various levels of experience coaching the game.

The deciding factor came when evaluating the direction of the program in recent years and whether or not the Bears were happy with it or wanted to try something new. Ultimately, they decided that things were headed in the right path and if they had the chance to stay on it, it was the option they should take.

“Not only did he have a different perspective on where our program is, he also got to see how we got to where we are,” McCorkle said. “When you start looking at the direction you want to go as a program, is there a need to bring in new blood from the outside and blow things up and start over or are we have with the trajectory we are on? We like the direction we’re going, so why mess with it too much if we can help it?”

This is Carlton’s first head coaching job, but it is something that he personally has been striving toward and he was thrilled that he got the opportunity to coach the program that he has been a vital part of for most of the last decade.

“In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to elevate myself in coaching,” he said. “The next step was moving from defensive coordinator to head coach and I didn’t want to work with any other program.”