ELYRIA — Kevin Fell figured six years as Elyria High School’s football coach was enough, so he turned in his resignation.
“It was time,” he said. “I think it was time they probably need to hear someone else on the sideline. At the same time, I think that six years at an urban high school is more than enough for most coaches. It’s a time-consuming and difficult job. I think it’s time for someone else to do it.”
The resignation caught athletic director Heather Beck by surprise.
“I had heard rumors,” she said. “He never really let on to me. (Today) I got the word that he was moving on. I was slightly shocked but I wish him well. He did a good job.”
Fell still wants to coach — probably somewhere in the area — but said doesn’t have a job lined up.
Fell’s 37-26 record at Elyria ranks among the best at the school and his three trips to the playoffs are the most of any Division I school in the county. Elyria had made the playoffs only once prior to Fell taking over in 2011.
The Pioneers won seven games in each of Fell’s first four years on the job, then six last season and three this year. Overall, Fell has been a head coach for 37 years. He’s won 291 games and was inducted into the Ohio Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He’ll continue on as a teacher at Elyria High for the time being.
This season was a tough one for the Pioneers. They finished 3-7 but were winning or tied in the final minutes in four of those losses. Elyria held the lead against Medina and Mentor, two teams that eventually won big. Injuries played a factor, too.
But Fell said that didn’t factor into his decision.
“I want to emphasize this,” he said. “We were 3-7 this year but except for our record, we were a good football team. We played with everybody. There wasn’t anybody that we couldn’t play with and if we’d have played just a little better, we could have beat them.
“We played right with Solon — couple mistakes. We had a good chance with Euclid and we played a pretty good first half against Mentor. We were limited a little in our talent level this year but I don’t think it was a reflection of kids not trying or anything of that sort. It was a tough year record-wise, but it was a good year in the fact that we played as hard as we could play.”
Elyria defeated Lorain 32-18 in the second week of the season. While the Titans won their final eight regular-season games and played Friday night for a Division I regional championship, the Pioneers struggled the rest of the way.
Fell brought two-platoon football to Elyria, giving many more players a chance to play. In the Greater Cleveland Conference, every school plays on turf except Elyria and Euclid and the Panthers are getting turf next year. The stadiums around the league are state-of-the-art with the exception being Euclid’s and Ely Stadium, which will be replaced thanks to passage of the levy earlier this month.
“I was glad to see the levy passed,” Fell said. “The time is right. They’ve passed their levy. They’ve got a chance to step forward. They’ve got some kids coming back that are pretty good football players. They’ve got good coaches on the staff. I felt we had a really nice run.”
Beck, who hasn’t had time to really think about a replacement, plans to get some input from Fell. Steve Hamilton, a former Elyria head coach, is one of Fell’s assistants, as is defensive coordinator Jim Slagle, who was a head coach at Lakewood.
“In the next week or so, I’d like to see what his thought process is,” Beck said. “I haven’t heard of anyone on the staff that has expressed an interest (in being a head coach).”
“I really enjoyed my six years at Elyria,” Fell said. “I really enjoyed the coaches that I worked with. I enjoyed the kids. I enjoyed the school system.”
“He was a dedicated, hard-working coach,” Beck said. “He had a successful program. He took us to the playoffs where we hadn’t been since Mark Solis (2005). He was able to get hard work out of the kids. This year, unfortunately, injuries really changed our season and momentum.”
Elyria returns quarterback Donte Beckett, who threw for 1,000 yards and ran for 1,000 yards this season. The Pioneers also return a number of good receivers and will have a good crop of returnees on defense, including leading tackler Qwanda Woodson.
Fell isn’t leaving the cupboard bare.
“I thought the kids played hard for the six years I was there,” he said. “I always thought we had a chance to win every game. Obviously, we did not win every game and this year, I’d kind of like to think it just caught up to us a little bit.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fell’s Elyria file
Year W L PF PA
2016 3 7 261 308
2015 6 5 244 207
2014 7 4 322 225
2013 7 4 322 225
2012 7 3 402 242
2011 7 3 354 185
Totals 37 26
Top coaching records at Elyria
Name (years) Record
Bill Barton ( 1955-77) 152-64-9
Roy Clymer (1932-42) 64-37-6
Kevin Fell (2011-16) 37-26
Terry Doan (1978-83) 32-27-1
Don Richardson (1991-95) 28-22
Dwight Truby (1943-47) 27-16-2
Jeff Riesen (1988-90) 22-8