Zehnder steps down
Newark football coach heading to Middletown
In an unexpected turn of events, Barry Zehnder resigned last week from his teaching, coaching and athletic director positions at Newark High School and accepted similar positions at Middletown High.
“Coach Zehnder did a great job for us as he worked to carry on the proud tradition of our football team,” Newark Principal Aaron Selekman said. “We wish him well as he transitions to his new role in another district.”
Zehnder, who played at Newark and also served as an assistant coach there early in his career, said the decision wasn’t an easy one.
“My decision to move on was based on a combination of reasons – some are personal, some are professional and some influenced the decision more than others,” Zehnder explained. “This was a very hard decision. The last several weeks have been filled with a lot of conversations and a lot of soul-searching. It is always tough to leave something you are so involved in, especially when my family and I have been connected to Newark High since the 1960s.”
Zehnder’s record after three seasons was 7-23, but beginning from the day he was hired to replace longtime coach Butch Simpson, he emphasized that his goals as the head coach went far beyond wins and losses.
“I am equally proud of each of the off-field accomplishments,” said Zehnder, who also served as athletic director from August 2017 until his resignation. “Each task and idea had its own value. Academically, I felt the kids accepted our message and worked hard to be successful in the classroom, proven by the increased eligibility numbers and GPAs. In the building, I think our players started to become leaders in the hallways and were trying to once again become the face of Newark High.
He added that structural and cosmetic repairs to The Hive, the weight room and the concession stand instilled more pride and benefited the entire athletic department. Starting the Childhood Cancer Game raised several thousands of dollars and showed the players the value of helping others.
“None of these [accomplishments] would have been possible without the efforts of the players and the coaching staff,” he added. “And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the hard work Mike Brogan puts into the Newark football program and its success.”
Zehnder’s new role at Middletown includes teaching physical education and coaching football as an assistant under Zach Blum on the staff of one of the state’s most storied and successful programs.
“I had a great experience during my first coaching stint at Middletown,” Zehnder reflected of his tenure as a Middletown assistant from 2012-15. “I made some really good friends on the staff and I am looking forward to reconnecting with them.”
One of those friends is Blum, whom Zehnder met and quickly developed a close relationship with during his first stint with the Cavaliers.
“Coach Blum and I share a lot of the same personal and coaching philosophies,” Zehnder said. “I am certainly looking forward to working closely with a good friend.”
When Zehnder served as the defensive backs coach at Middletown under thenhead coach Mark DelPercio, Blum was the defensive coordinator.
“We are fortunate to have great coaches in place, but when the opportunity to reunite with Coach Zehnder came up, we jumped at it,” Blum said. “His football credentials speak for themselves. Barry has coached multiple position groups on both offense and defense, been a coordinator of all three phases of the game, and has improved each program he has coached.”
Blum said he also looks forward to being able to draw from Zehnder’s head coaching experience.
“As excited as we are from a football standpoint, we are more excited to add a coach with shared values, philosophies and motivations, who we know will have a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes,” he said.
When talking about the change in scenery, Zehnder pointed out a few things that are similar between his old and new school.
“Just like Newark, Middletown is very proud of their [football] tradition,” Zehnder remarked. “A lot has changed down in the MOT community. The district has tripled in size and the look of the town has changed, and through it all, they have kept their historical football program important.”
With the search for a new football coach and athletic director underway, Zehnder had one final message to the Newark community.
“I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ to the Newark community,” he said. “Three years ago, one of my goals was to reconnect the program with the community, and by doing so, revive the connection between the entire school and the community. I can’t say enough about the willingness of the alumni and local business owners to help support the upgrades in facilities we have made, supporting the Alumni Golf Outing we started, and spreading the word that we were trying to do things the right way. I hope the community and alumni know that I gave everything I had to the overall success of this program during my tenure as head coach.”
The annual Yellowjacket Invitational wrestling tournament features 21 high school teams including Newark, Christiana, Glasgow, Caravel and St. Mark’s. The event takes place today and Saturday at Newark High School. Admission for today’s 3 p.m. start is $6 for adults and $3 for students/kids. Saturday’s matches begin at 8 a.m. with admission fees of $8 and $4. A two-day pass is $12 and $6.
Barry Zehnder has stepped down as head football coach at Newark High.