SHEFFIELD — It’s been a while since Brookside’s had sustained success on the football field.
Scott O’Donnell intends to change that.
The 43-year-old was officially approved as the Cardinals’ head football coach during Monday’s board of education meeting.
“When I came here to talk with Dick (Brookside athletic director Dick Kerschbaum) and walked around the campus I really fell in love with Brookside,” O’Donnell said. “You can feel the support from the superintendent all the way down through the school and the community. It’s going to be a nice challenge and a great opportunity for me.”
O’Donnell is a 1993 graduate of Lake Catholic, where he was a two-time state champion and teammate of former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius. At John Carroll University, O’Donnell was named the 1996 Division III Defensive Lineman of the Year.
For the past five seasons, O’Donnell coached at his alma mater where he compiled a 25-25 record before resigning after last season. He also spent time as an assistant at St. Edward.
Kerschbaum said the school had 32 applicants for the job after Paul Ferguson stepped down in January to spend more time with his family.
“Scott stood out head and shoulders in the interview process,” Kerschbaum said. “He exudes an aura of being successful. When people see a person like that they tend to gravitate toward them and that’s what I hope our kids will do when they get to know Coach O’Donnell.”
At Brookside, O’Donnell is taking over a team that was 2-8 last season and has had only one winning season in the 14-year history of the Patriot Athletic Conference.
“The expectation when you step on the football field is to win and that’s what I want to do here at Brookside in 2019 and beyond,” O’Donnell said.
For O’Donnell, the 2019 season starts today, when he’ll be at the school to meet current players and, he hopes, find new ones.
“Winning comes with building relations and changing the culture,” O’Donnell said. “Then the results will come on the field. You have to make football fun and make it something people want to be a part of. I have to be in the lunchroom and in the hallways to see what kind of talent we have here in the school.”
After coaching at a school that had freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams, O’Donnell will have to adjust to the realities of a Cardinals program that has hovered around 20 players at times over the past two seasons.
“The numbers are a major challenge,” he said. “Everyone has been very up front with me about that. People want to be a part of winning situations and to have winning situations you’ve got to have the young men out there on the field.
“If we put together a good product and hold the players and coaches accountable for success it can be done here.”
With a new coach in place, the Cardinals are hoping the first year of the Lorain County League will mark a new era in Brookside football.
“This hire is a big step for our program,” Kerschbaum said. “O’Donnell is a big addition to our school system.”