D.J. Dota last coached in Trumbull County in 2010 as Warren G. Harding's football coach.
Despite mentoring the Raiders to the postseason, the Warren City Schools Board of Education didn't see it fit to renew Dota's contract for 2011 with a 4-1 vote - ending Dota's reign with a 23-17-1 record and 8-3 in his final season.
Less than two months later, Dota, who started at Harding in 2007, was back to coaching. This time, at West Branch.
The Warriors coach and 1990 Liberty High School graduate hasn't seen West Branch come to Trumbull County the past couple of seasons.
That changes Friday when the Warriors come to Bo Rein Stadium to face the Niles Red Dragons, coached by Brian Shaner. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"I really never thought about that right now," said Dota, who still lives in the Mahoning Valley. "You feel a little more comfortable because you know your surroundings. You know where you're going. I could actually drive to the place I'm going to. Going out to West Branch, it's a great place, but a lot of places I've never been on a bus.
"It has the comfort feeling. I know the people. I know coach Shaner and a lot of guys on his staff. It's a pretty cool experience, playing against a team with guys that are on the staff that I've really known for a long time."
This won't be the first time Dota and Shaner have been on opposite sides. The two have met when Shaner coached East and Dota was at Harding. Dota's Raiders were 3-1 against Shaner's Panthers.
"We've faced each other numerous times between Youngstown City Schools and Warren Harding," Shaner said. "I don't know the exact record between us, but I know it's going to be a great football game on Friday. He knows everything we do and I'm pretty familiar with him. It's going to be great to meet him at the 50 during pregame, joke around about what's going to happen during the game. I always wish him the best. If there's a game he's going to lose, I hope it's this week."
Shaner, whose team is 1-1, said don't be fooled by the 0-2 Warriors. They will be well prepared for Friday's game at Bo Rein.
"I think he's very thorough," he said. "He prepares very well, week in and week out. I don't think there's a coach out there that's going to outprepare him.
"He is a great defensive mind. He always surrounds himself with great coaches. I think that's the No. 1 key of being a good head coach is having great assistants around."
Dota was an assistant to Thom McDaniels, who was WGH's coach from 2000-06 - including a Division I state final appearance in 2002.
"I was very fortunate to work for Thom," Dota said. "I couldn't say enough. I work really close with him. Our offices were right together. We we're together every single day. I got the feeling whether it was recruiting, dealing with problems in the school, football.
"I had a really great experience working for Thom those years in Warren. It was a lot of good football I learned. There were a lot of great people. You have to move on to other things. There's great people where I'm at. You start all over again. I guess that's OK. You never like it to change, but that's life. It changes all the time."
Friday, it's time for Dota to come back to Trumbull County.
"He knows there are people from Warren that are going to come watch, just because it's D.J. A lot of people in Warren respect D.J. He's a great coach," Shaner said. "When he shows up and gets off that bus, it's going to be nothing about Warren, nothing about the surrounding area. It's going to be all about his football team. I would expect nothing less from him. His heart and soul is with West Branch. There's not going to be any rah, rah, I'm going back to Trumbull County. It's going to be it's us versus Niles."