North East hires Schleich as head football coach
Schleich brought on after one year at Red Lion Christian
North East Athletic Director Gary Brown announced Wednesday the hiring of Chris Schleich as the school’s new head football coach.
Schleich takes over the Indians one year after he helped resurrect the Red Lion Christian Academy football program.
Red Lion, located in Bear, Del., hired Schleich in 2014 after a decision to bring back varsity football. He coached as the team competed against a JV schedule that year and led the Lions through its first varsity season in three years last fall. It wasn’t easy. “Most game nights, we had approximately 17 kids in uniform. It was hard, you knew going in that you probably weren’t going to win a lot of evenings because you’re really outmatched. I only had two kids over 200 pounds on the whole team – my offensive line averaged about 165 pounds and probably 80 percent of the team had never even worn football equipment. But, we won two games,” Schleich said. “I was proud that we didn’t forfeit a game. We survived the full inaugural year back. I think I left that program on solid footing … It was a really tough challenge, but I was just really proud of the fact that they’re back. Sometimes football isn’t about what’s on the scoreboard.”
Despite a 2-8 record, Schleich had the Gatorade dumped on his head at the end of the final game.
He takes over a North East program that went 0-10 a season ago. Schleich got a first-hand look at the Indians in the preseason.
“We scrimmaged North East last year and I just felt like it’s a program with massive potential for growth,” he said. “I felt like it kind of needed somebody to bring the right type of culture, maybe a breath of fresh air and maybe some new energy to rally the community behind the program. I saw how many kids were involved in the program early last year, and knowing that their Pee Wee program could be a solid feeder, it was just a no-brainer to hop in.”
Schleich won’t be tasked with resurrecting a program at North East, but he is rebuilding it. That starts with a new mindset.
“I asked the kids when I first met them, ‘What’s the deal with North East football?’” Schleich said. “The kids and the parents gave me the same answer: ‘We’re kind of a joke.’ I looked at them and the first thing I said, point blank, was: ‘That culture changes today.’”
He previously spent a dozen years as a high school coach in Ohio.
“I followed the blueprints of some very successful coaches that I’ve learned from out there,” Schleich said. “Northeast Ohio football is good football. There’s a lot of good coaches that I was fortunate enough to learn from and see the way that they build a program, not just a football team. That’s the vision I bring in.”
His experience in the Midwest is part of what impressed North East athletic director Gary Brown during the interview process.
“We really focused a lot on his experience that he had in Ohio. He coached some pretty good football schools and as an offensive coordinator, he was very successful,” Brown said. “We felt like he understood what needed to be done.”
Schleich will replace long-time Cecil County football coach Bill Russell, who stepped down following six seasons at the helm.
Russell, who began and ended his career at North East, but also spent several seasons in between at Elkton, departed with a 150-122 career mark over 23 seasons in Cecil County. He led the Golden Elks to the 2000 state champion- ship.
Both Schleich and Brown expressed respect for Russell’s career. But unlike his predecessor, Schleich will also teach at the high school.
“We got really positive comments about his teaching. From everything we understand, he’s very good in the classroom,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a benefit having a head coach in the building.”
Schleich acknowledged that the task ahead won’t be an easy one, but asks for the support of the entire community.
“Cheer for the team and think positively. Give this process time because you don’t build these things overnight,” he said. “We’re going to go through some roadblocks, but I really believe that we can solidify ourselves as a toplevel program in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig