North East hires Sch­le­ich as head foot­ball coach

Sch­le­ich brought on af­ter one year at Red Lion Chris­tian

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

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

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