As Rich Schofield takes over as the third head coach of the varsity football team at St. Ed’s in the past three seasons, he faces the usual and customary challenges every high school coach grapples with. For essential guidance on that, he will certainly be able to tap into his overall experience and, to a larger extent, familiarity with the program.
Nevertheless, there might be one immediate change he would like to see as a traditional spring practice hopefully emerges. That would be virtual coaching zooming out the door about as suddenly as it arrived a season ago.
“I think our biggest obstacle this season is going to be losing the production of nine seniors who were major contributors for us,” Schofield said. “Due to all the uncertainties that come with this virus, we are going to have to make the most of each meeting, workout and practice.
“Last year spring football consisted of Zoom meetings, which makes things tough when you are trying to install a new system. I’m hopeful we’ll have the opportunity to be together in person and work those things out on the field.”
Schofield was the defensive coordinator for head coach Mark Gowin in 2020 when he witnessed firsthand the massive upheaval the virus inflicted on school life in general, and on the football program in particular. The fall varsity season was delayed before Gowin and his staff guided the Pirates to a 4-1 record amidst game cancellations and player quarantines.
It’s no secret that the current promising outlook for spring practice this year could suddenly fall apart. Uncertainty aside, Schofield has been an assistant coach at St. Ed’s for four years under Bill Motta and Gowin, and has collected some useful takeaways from those guys.
“The opportunity to work with Coach Motta and Coach Gowin was huge in my development as a coach and a person,” Schofield told us. “Between the two of them we are talking about 60-plus years of coaching experience at all levels. They had different styles and approaches, but they are passionate guys who demanded our best day in and day out. It has definitely been an honor to spend the time I had with both of them.”
Overall, Schofield has been coaching high school football teams for 12 years. He was on the sidelines at three different schools in Pennsylvania before St. Ed’s. His specialty shifted from offense to defense over those dozen seasons, and now he’s prepared to put his own twist on things.
“As far as installing some new things, I want to make it as familiar as possible for the returnees with terminology and assignments,” Schofield explained. “Defensively, we will build on what we know and go from there. We are going to have to tailor our offense to meet our personnel. There will definitely be some similarities, but we must be creative and take advantage of what we have.”
The new coach will retain two assistants and bring aboard two newcomers. That should incorporate a touch of continuity while adding a little different perspective.
We were more than a little curious about the departure of Gowin after one season, especially when he agreed to take over the gridiron reins at St. Ed’s last year after 34 years of coaching in the Washington, D.C. area.
“That was an interesting year to come out of coaching retirement for sure,” Gowin said. “Between not having spring football, restrictive workouts in the summer, no preseason with classroom and field time, a delayed start to the season, and more rain in the fall than Floridians had seen in a decade, it was challenging to say the least. Even though these were obstacles, our players and coaches were resilient and made it a very enjoyable and successful year.
“COVID played a small role in my retirement after just one year, but the main reason was family. Susan and I have only seen our 6-year-old grandson and 4-year-old granddaughter once in the last year. We want to spend more time in person with our entire family.
“COVID has made all of us older folks look at life a bit differently.
“The other factor was knowing that Rich would be taking over the football program. He is a great guy as well as being a very good coach.”
Pending COVID protocol disruptions, the spring football season is slated to begin in late April. In the meantime, Schofield will tend to his class of third-graders in the lower school.
“The football team here is well respected and I’m excited about our staff,” Schofield said. “I can’t wait to get started.”