VERMILION — Matt Kobal had only one season to be at the helm of the Vermilion Sailors football team.
He had only one season to stand under the Friday night lights, taking in the sights and sounds of high school football as the head coach.
Kobal, a Vermilion native and 1998 Vermilion High School graduate, died Friday, athletic director Andy Stillman said.
“Matt was a man that loved every kid he came in contact with,” Stillman said. “He tried to help everyone, anyone that needed it, no matter what the cost.”
The news of his death sent shock waves through social media.
Sailors quarterback Seth Hurd tweeted, “Rest easy Kobal. The impact you had on this community will always be known. You will be missed. I love you coach.”
Keystone football coach Don Griswold learned of Kobal’s death late Friday and tweeted — “Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Kobal’s friends, family and students.”
Griswold, along with Kobal and several other football coaches from Lorain County, had just met Wednesday. It was during that meeting that Kobal was elected to serve as president for the Lorain County Football Coaches Association.
“We all respected him; he was a great guy,” Griswold said. “My heart is breaking for the student-athletes. They are devastated.”
The outpouring of sympathy for Kobal extended into friendly-rival territory Friday.
“The Firelands community is with Vermilion tonight,” Firelands coach Ryan O’Rourke tweeted. “Thoughts and prayers to the Kobal family. A huge loss to our football community.”
After graduating from Vermilion High, Kobal went on to play football at the University of Mount Union for three years, winning a national championship in 1998. He graduated from Mount Union in 2002.
Upon graduation, Kobal returned to Vermilion where he served as the freshman offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005. He moved up as the junior varsity offensive coordinator in 2006 through the 2010.
In 2011, Kobal coached the offensive and defensive lines at Firelands High School through 2013.
But, his heart remained with the Sailors. He returned to Vermilion, where he was the offensive coordinator before being named head coach.
“He was a loving family man and he gave all he had for his town and his alma mater, the Vermilion Sailors,” Stillman said. “He will be dearly missed by so many.”
In a Facebook post, the Vermilion School District noted the “entire school community is mourning the loss of Matt Kobal tonight.”
“He was a wonderful teacher, colleague and friend,” the post stated. “Please respect the privacy of Matt’s family during this very difficult time. More information will be shared here when it is appropriate.”
Vermilion High School will be open 9 to 11 a.m. today with crisis counselors available to assist anyone who may need them.
Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MLinebrinkCT.