MOUNT VERNON — The Fredericktown community suffered a monumental loss this week, one that will echo for quite a while. Head football coach Luke Beal announced that, after 10 years, he has accepted the head coaching position for Division I Brunswick High School. His hiring will be officially voted on by the Brunswick board of education on March 15.
Beal, who also teaches social studies at Fredericktown, has a 56-51 record, including a 43-14 mark over the last five years. That stint also includes three playoff appearances (2006, 2007 and 2009) and two regional final runner-up finishes.
Brunswick is no stranger to success. Retiring coach Rich Nowak led the Blue Devils for 18 seasons, qualifying them for the playoffs 11 times. Last season, Brunswick finished 7-4, qualifying for the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
“It really wasn’t a situation where I was looking for another job,” said Beal. “If I was ever going to leave Fredericktown, it was going to have to be a special opportunity, and Brunswick is a situation like that. It is a big Division I school. Their schedule is as good as any Division I school in the state; they are playing the best schools in the Cleveland area. It is an opportunity that isn’t offered to a small-school coach very often. It was a situation that was really unique for me, and it was something I couldn’t afford to pass up.
“Obviously, I was very happy in Fredericktown. The one gratifying thing is that the program is in very good shape. Whoever comes in there, the kids know how to work and know how to win. They are built to continue on.”
The news came as a shock to his players, who were told on Monday morning.
“Fredericktown has been a real important part of my life for the last 10 years, and the kids have always done what I asked them to do,” said Beal. “It was tough to talk to the kids about this. … They were pretty quiet. They were disappointed and some of them were upset, which is normal. I knew that they would be upset with me, but I hope eventually, they’ll understand. This is an opportunity for me and my family that is pretty special.”
Not everyone was surprised by the news, however. Fredericktown athletic director Kirk Manns was more surprised by the timing than the fact that Beal was tabbed for this position.
“I’m not really shocked because this is the price of success,” said Manns. “He has built a great program in the time that he has been here, and whenever you have success, other people are going to take notice of that and take interest in that.
“Our success speaks for itself. Success is success at any level, and when you are dealing with young athletes, it doesn’t matter what division you are. What matters is if you can motivate them, if you can improve their skill level and if you can continue to move forward.”
The decision to uproot his family and move to Brunswick was not an easy one for Beal. The Clear Fork graduates ties to the area run deep.
“It has been difficult; there are a lot of mixed emotions,” said Beal. “We live right in Fredericktown, and Fredericktown has been our home for the last 10 years. We’ve got a lot of great friends; I’ve had a great staff. I’m very proud of the things we’ve accomplished and the success we’ve had. It is also a great place to teach. The administration is always supportive, and the students are polite. It is a great atmosphere at a small school, so it is not easy to leave.”
Manns said Beal’s departure will affect more than just the football program.
“This is a big loss because we are not only talking about our football coach of 10 years,” Manns said. “He is also a very good classroom teach; he is a leader in our school; and he is a very well respected community member. It is a loss for our schools, and it is a loss for our community as well.”
Things didn’t always come up roses for Beal at Fredericktown. His first five years were trying on the young coach, but that didn’t quench his enthusiasm, which is what Manns feels is his best trait.
”He has been able to persevere, and I think that’s one of great things about Luke,” Manns said. “It would have been awfully easy to become discouraged early on. The wins and losses in the first half of his tenure here weren’t that great, but he continued to work, to motivate and to get the kids they can believe in what he was teaching and preaching. I think he has left a great mark.”
Beal, who will finish out the school year in Fredericktown, is already looking forward to the work he has ahead of him.
“It will be a big challenge; it is a situation where I would like to get the offseason program in place, but from a distance standpoint, it is really impossible to do that,” Beal said. “I’m trying to get some staff members in place, and try to coordinate a structured lifting program for the spring. I’m going to have to rely on people at Brunswick to be my eyes and ears to make the kids accountable until I can get up there. It is going to be a challenge because I’m the type of person that likes to be hands-on.
“It is a school that has a great tradition in place. They are the type of kids that are used to winning, used to having success.”