After four seasons as head coach of the Sheffield football team and two more leading the boys track program, Bryan Gould is heading home.
When the Wolverines take to the gridiron for their 2012 season opener, Gould will not be leading the pack.
"I recently resigned my teaching and coaching positions to pursue a teaching spot in my home town of Blairsville," Gould said Wednesday. In addition to his teaching position, Gould has secured an assistant coaching position for the Blairsville football team.
Times Observer file photo
Who says you can't go home again?
"Really, it's a bittersweet time in my life," said Gould. "I'm very excited to return to the place I know as home. However, I absolutely loved my time in Sheffield. "The people and the kids I've been able to work with have touched my life in ways they will never know."
Gould took over the Sheffield football team with two games remaining in the 2008 season. Inheriting an 0-8 team, it took Gould just two weeks to place the Wolverines in the winning column. Over the next three seasons, Gould's teams compiled an overall record of 7-24. So much did the team improve that in 2011, Sheffield qualified for the District 9 Class AA playoffs for the first time in school history.
Gould said that the playoff game with Moniteau - despite ending in a 40-0 defeat - was one of his fondest memories on the football field.
"Walking onto the turf at Clarion University and seeing how excited those kids were to be on that stage and how passionately the parents and fans supported us - even when we fell behind big - was incredible. I feel lucky to have been a part of that."
On the track, Gould's successes were even more plentiful. In just two years guiding the black and orange, Gould coached six different athletes (Kalil Slaughter, Dylan Reynolds, Deonte Clay, Marc Nadal, Eric Allen and Michael Torres) to at least one District 9 Class AA championship. His success carried over to the state level where he coached four seperate state placewinners (Slaughter, Reynolds, Clay and Kwante Johnson).
Included in those were the two PIAA Class AA championships won by the recent graduate Slaughter in the 100 and 200.
"In addition to the football playoff, those track athletes and especially Kalil and all they accomplished will stick with me," said Gould. "Kalil's story is one that's just so unique and so special and I'm proud that I was a part of that."
Slaughter is also proud to have had Gould be a part of his incredible story.
"Coach Gould and Dave Fitch were the ones who really got the ball moving in getting me here," Slaughter said. "He is more than just a football coach or track coach. He is one of those people I can go to if I'm having problems in school or with anything else. It's been great to have been involved with him and I'm going to miss him. The whole town is going to miss him."
While Gould's on-field (or track) accomplishments are impressive, his legacy may be most affected by the way he handled the re-intergration of Sheffield's boys sports co-op with Abraxas.
Getting teenage kids from Sheffield to gel with Abraxas students from cities like Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was a delicate subject and one that called for precisely the right man for the job.
Gould was the perfect choice.
"I've said before it's one of the toughest coaching jobs in America," he said. "Let's face it, we live in a predominately white area and introducing kids from different races or different cultures can be difficult. But for these kids, it wasn't a problem at all.
"The season before the co-op came back, we had 18 kids on the football team. That year that the Abraxas kids came back, everybody accepted and embraced that this was the way things had to be. They knew they had to work together and did so from day one. On both the Sheffield and Abraxas sides, that first group of kids was just great. They bonded right away and developed great chemistry. They really set a precedent that has continued over the past couple of years."
While many of Gould's "memories" will revolve around on-field happenings, it is his handling of the co-op between Sheffield and Abraxas that he is most proud of.
"As far as what I hold a lot of pride in, athletic acheivements don't even come close," he said. "Exposing kids from Sheffield to different races and to kids with different backgrounds and watching them develop bonds and friendships with those guys is one of the greatest things I've ever been a part of.
"On the Abraxas side, giving them the opportunity to truly succeed at something and impacting their lives in a positive way gives me a great deal of pride."
While Gould will miss Sheffield, it's likely the people of Sheffield - and Abraxas - will miss him as well.
And while Gould won't be wearing black and orange on the sidelines in the fall, he wishes Sheffield nothing but the best going forward.
"I hope that I was a part of bringing a winning attitude back to Sheffield sports," he said. "I don't think we had that when I got here. But I think we've turned the corner in recent years. Hopefully that success will continue after I've gone."