It’s a match made in LaGrange that seems pretty heavenly to the parties involved.
Don Griswold, a Keystone graduate, former Keystone athlete, recent Keystone athletic director and longtime Keystone assistant football coach, was named Keystone’s head football coach Monday.
Griswold replaces his good friend Rob Clarico, who resigned after the season, his 13th guiding the Wildcats.
“It’s humbling and it’s enthralling at the same time,” said Griswold, a 1995 Keystone grad. “I’m very excited. The Keystone community means a lot to me. Just very happy.”
Keystone athletic director Marcus Brailer, who’s been on the job since June, said Griswold was the No. 1 choice all along.
“It was a pretty easy decision when you look at it from top to bottom,” Brailer said. “He’s invested. He’s just totally invested. He’s a Keystone grad and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. He puts in the time and the kids benefit from it.”
Brailer said the job was posted internally to see if anyone was interested but “Don was the clear-cut choice.”
Griswold, most recently the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator, has been an assistant coach for 12 years, nine at Keystone, including the past six. He was a Wildcats assistant while attending Cleveland State, then after a year teaching and coaching wrestling at Avon Lake, he spent three years as a teacher and coach in Arizona. He returned to his hometown six years ago to take the athletic director job.
He not only rejoined family, he started one. He met his wife, Kara, a special ed teacher and cheerleading coach at Keystone, and they have a daughter, Grace.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Griswold said. “For 10 of the last 13 years I coached with Rob Clarico. We’re great friends. His dad (Don) is a mentor of mine. I just want to continue the foundation we’ve set together.”
Keystone was 60-71 in the 13 years under Clarico, but went 8-3 and made the playoffs for the only time in school history in 2014. In 2013, the Wildcats were 7-3 and went 6-1 in the Patriot Athletic Conference to share the Stars Division title with Buckeye and Black River. They were also 8-2 in 2007.
Griswold said he isn’t planning many changes.
“I just want to do a lot of the same things — play great defense, have an offense that forces the other defense to defend the whole field … we’re known for being tough and running the football and giving great effort and we’re going to continue that. Our kids are scrappy and I love that about our kids.”
Griswold and Brailer said they’ve already started to reach out to the youth programs in an effort to build interest in Keystone football at a young age.
“We’re just going to kick it up a notch,” Brailer said. “We have an opportunity to kind of revamp things. Anytime you have a head coaching change like this you have an opportunity to infuse a little bit of energy.”
Griswold said he wants a “full integration of all boys sports. We want to get young boys excited about playing football for Keystone.”
Obviously, winning is the goal, it’s just not the only goal.
“Consistently we want to battle for PAC championships, make playoff runs and set the bar high,” he said. “When Rob Clarico took over 13 years ago we were the doormat of the LCC (Lorain County Conference) and then the PAC. … Championships are the things we shoot for, absolutely.”
While keeping the proper perspective, of course.
“We want to develop winners and champions in life,” he said. “We spend a lot of time in character development. … We have a 20-year prospectus with our young men. We want to prepare them for the long haul. If we do that we should be able to win some football games, too.”