MOUNT VERNON — At the start of each new season, every high school coach has high hopes for his or her respective team. Very few, however, are able to realize those high hopes as the season takes its toll.
Two football coaches were able to see their teams through, providing a steady influence through both the easy and difficult times. For their efforts, Highland’s Chad Carpenter and Fredericktown’s Luke Beal were selected as the News’ Area Football Coaches of the Year.
Carpenter had things a little rougher than Beal, whose team defeated Carpenter’s in the season opener. Then, after a Week 3 loss to North Union left his team at 1-2, Carpenter wasn’t sure what to expect. After getting a last-second field goal to beat Northmor the following week, something changed. His team closed by winning their last seven games, and qualifying for the Division IV Playoffs.
“We started out kind of rocky,” said Carpenter. “I don’t know if it was the fact that we were playing bad or we had played two really good teams. They were just better than us at the particular time. After the North Union game, we really didn’t know how our team was going to respond. We just went into the Northmor week and worked them hard. It was a hard-fought game down to the end, but we won. It just seemed like from that point on, there was a spark there. You could just tell by looking in the kids’ eyes there was a different atmosphere. It wasn’t anything in particular that we did; it was just a spark we needed to get things going. They just had to believe in themselves and believe that they were a good team as well.
“I’m really proud of them. We have really good kids and they worked really, really hard. Their attitudes were great all year. It was just one of those things. They never quit and they battled all year.”
Beal’s job wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Yes, he had a lot of talent back, but win after win, week after week, the pressure mounted. The undefeated 10-0 regular season and Mid-Buckeye Conference title weren’t easy things to achieve. His team, however, battled through and came up with the plays they needed to achieve their goals.
“We had high expectations when the season started; we knew we had some talent back,” said Beal. “I don’t think our kids would have been satisfied with anything less than a league championship. It is always so tough to go undefeated, so to be able to do that is a testament to not only the talent this team has, but also the mental toughness. When you get toward the end of the season and that 10-0 goal starts to become a possibility, it is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one because the kids start to put pressure on themselves to get the 10-0 season. I think our kids handled it really well. They were able to stay focused there toward the end of the season.
“We had some really tough games toward the end. We finished with the Loudonville game, and it came down to a last-second finish. That was really a testament to the character of the team and also to the leadership, not just from our seniors, but from our upperclassmen as a whole. They did a great job of keeping guys focused and making sure we really concentrated on the goals we set for ourselves. It was great to be able to go 10-0 and win the league championship, and then we were able to win some playoff games. This team would have been disappointed with anything less. They worked very hard in the offseason and this was always their goal. We’re very proud of them for being able to follow through.”