Jim Lyall will begin the second season at Siena Heights University after compiling an 8-1 record in the Saints' inaugural season. He has more than 37 years of collegiate coaching experience, including the last 21 as a head coach.
Lyall was the head coach of NCAA Division III Adrian from 1990-2009, compiling a record of 98-91-1, including a 55-25 stretch during his final eight seasons. In 1997, his Bulldogs won a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship.
Lyall has coached nearly 60 all-conference performers, five academic All-Americans and three NCAA Division III All-Americans. Four of his former players have moved on to play football at the professional level.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native was a defensive lineman for four seasons (1970-73) at the University of Michigan. He played for legendary coach Bo Schembechler. During that time, the Wolverines won three Big Ten Conference titles and had a record of 31-1-1 – their only loss coming in a 13-12 Rose Bowl defeat to Stanford on New Year’s Day, 1972. As a senior, Lyall was awarded the “Champion of the Year” award by the Michigan coaching staff.
Lyall also worked for 15 years as a special education teacher in adapted physical education and was named the 1989 “Teacher of the Year” by the Lenawee County Intermediate School District. He was also awarded the “Volunteer of the Year” award by the Lenawee County Special Olympics and has served as the director of the Special Olympics in Lenawee and Monroe counties.
Lyall and his wife, Laurie, have two grown sons, Michael and Patrick.
They Said It:
“In a relationship that stretches back several decades, I have known Coach Lyall as a quality man with integrity and values. He is a coach that enjoys football and the relationships created through the game. Jim is a great part of the Michigan athletic family and I would enjoy my sons being coached by him.” – Les Miles (Former Michigan teammate and Louisiana State Head Coach)
“While at Michigan, Jim Lyall was a player who never missed a meeting, never missed a practice and spent little or no time in the training room. Jim was a coach’s dream because his motto was the same as mine... ‘The Team, The Team, The Team!’ ” – Bo Schembechler (Former Michigan Head Coach)
Defensive Coordinator/Linebacker Coach
Matt Kohn is in his second season for the Saints serving as the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. He has previously coached on the offensive side of the ball at his alma mater, University of Indianapolis working as the assistant offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The four year letter winner and 2 time MVP holds several career records at the University of Indianapolis including pass attempts (1,110), pass completions (652), passing touchdowns (55), passing yards (8,514), and total offense yards (8,921). Kohn still holds the GLIAC game record for most completions (39), and total offense (652) and the Division II national record for passing yards (645). In 2003, he was a Harlan Hill nominee, a national award given to the outstanding athlete in Division II football.
Following his collegiate career, Kohn entered the Arena Football League and played three seasons for the Nashville Kats, Kansas City Brigade and the Orlando Predators. After his playing career, he served as an account executive for Aerotek, Inc. in Indianapolis.
Kohn was a four year starter in baseball at Adrian High School and a three year letter winner in football and basketball. He was selected by the Detroit Free Press as their Dream Team Quarterback and was all-state in basketball. He holds a double major in management and marketing and currently resides in Adrian with his dog Smokie.
Tight End Coach/Special Teams
Jim Hamilton will serve his second season as the tight ends coach for the Siena Heights football team after having coached in the same capacity for the last three years at Adrian.
Prior to that, Hamilton coached at Madison High School for 25 years, including 20 as head coach. He was named MHSFCA Regional Coach of the Year in 1993 and later coached future NCAA Division III all-time leading tackler, Tavarski Wallace.
Hamilton currently works as a Physical Education and Health Teacher and serves as the Assistant Athletic Director at Madison High School. His wife, Kate, and their three children – Samantha, Alex and Sydney – reside in Adrian.
Dr. Michael Dawson
Dr. Michael Dawson is in his second season as a defensive assistant for Siena Heights after having spent many successful years running his own practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Adrian. He also served as the Adrian Maples football team doctor for 25 years.
Dawson is no stranger to the game of football, having excelled as a player in high school and college. As a fullback and linebacker, he was an All-State/All-Conference/All-Area star in Illinois during his senior year in high school.
Dawson was recruited by Tennessee, Dartmouth, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Washington and Vanderbilt. He chose to play at Vanderbilt where he was a two-way star and played under then-assistant coach Buddy Ryan.
As a student-athlete, Dawson was able to shine on the field and in the classroom. After earning his degree at Vanderbilt, he went on to Michigan to get his Medical Degree.
Everyone who knows Dr. Dawson knows he is a fierce competitor and will look to share his techniques, values, and knowledge to the student-athletes at Siena Heights.
Dawson lives in Adrian with his step-son, Jay Nicols.
Phil Lawrence is in his second year as a defensive assistant coach for the Siena Heights football team. He spent the previous 16 years as an assistant for Adrian’s football and baseball teams.
Lawrence has served as a head football coach for Hudson High School (11 years) and as an assistant for Adrian (16 years) while serving in multiple roles as a baseball coach for 28 years.
During his stint as the coach at Hudson, Lawrence guided his teams to three league championships and two state playoff appearances. He was named Lenawee County Football Coach of the Year three times and was once an MHSFCA Regional Coach of the Year one time.
Lawrence has a master’s degree in Athletic Administration and teaches in the Hudson Area School District. He is also a Vietnam Veteran, having served 3 1/2 years in the U.S. Navy as a Medical Corpsman.
Phil and his wife Rebecca reside in Onsted and have two children (Jason and Beth) and two grandchildren (Isabelle and Johnathan).
Defensive Back Coach
Nate Biringer is in his second season as defensive backs coach for the Siena Heights Saints.
Biringer played collegiately at Adrian College from 1999-2002. He was selected as the team’s Defensive Back MVP following his junior year in 2001 and was elected as a captain by teammates prior to his senior year in 2002. Biringer also served as a graduate assistant with Adrian in 2003.
Nate resides in Adrian with his wife, Dyan, who is an Adjunct Professor in the Mathematics Department at Siena Heights. Nate earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Adrian. He has been employed with Panera Bread since June 2004.
Biringer played his prep football at Saint Clair High School, where he also excelled at baseball. He has also worked as an assistant baseball coach at Onsted High School for the past three seasons.
Robert Thornbladh is in his second season as a defensive assistant for Siena Heights.
Coach Thornbladh attended Fork Union Military Academy immediately after high school to play football in 2005. He started all 15 games with playing time at inside linebacker and fullback.
Following prep school, Thornbladh was recruited at fullback as a preferred walk-on at the University of Michigan. For two seasons, he was coached by Lloyd Carr. Thornbladh did not see any game action while at Michigan.
After playing football, Thornbladh stayed involved by coaching at the high school level. For the past four years, he has coached for Ypsilanti Lincoln High School at all levels. He was the Defensive Coordinator for the freshman/junior varsity levels and has coached inside linebackers for the varsity.
Robert, who resides in Ann Arbor, earned a bachelor’s degree in General Studies from the University of Michigan. Thornbladh played his prep football at Ann Arbor Pioneer, where he was an all-state player in football, hockey and lacrosse.
Brad Czerniak is in his second season as an assistant coach for the Siena Heights offense. He is a graduate of Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, where he was a member of the 2006 Division 2 Ohio State Champions.
Czerniak played college football for Coach Jim Lyall at Adrian and earned three varsity letters. He currently attends Siena Heights University and resides in Adrian.
Pete Pharis has joined the Siena Heights football coaching staff as a kicking specialist. He was previously a special teams coach at the high school level for Toledo Saint John's Jesuit from 1987-2011.
In 2011, he was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Pharis is also a registered financial advisor with the National Football League Players' Association.
Pharis earned his bachelor's degree from Muskingum (Ohio) in chemistry and math before earning a master's from Michigan and MBA from Toledo. He lives with his wife, Karen, and has a son, daughter and five grandsons.