As former Sheffield coach Bryan Gould's Sheffield story is ending, new Wolverines football coach Dave Fitch's is just beginning.
However, the two will have one last opportunity to team up when they coach the Pennsylvania squad in the Don Raabe Charities Classic Big 30 football game Saturday at Bradford's Parkway Field.
"Me and Gould have been talking," said Fitch. "We've decided that this is icing on the cake. It's given us the opportunity to stay together all summer. He's helped out with some of our 7-on-7 games and some stuff on the clerical end of the transition. It's been nice to have our staff together for one more ride and we are certainly taking advantage of it."
Times Observer photo by Mitchell Wilston
New Sheffield football coach Dave Fitch, with clipboard, explains a play to members of the Pennsylvania team for the Don Raabe Charities Classic Big 30 football game scheduled for Saturday, August 4, at Bradford’s Parkway Field. Fitch, the new head football coach at Sheffield, will coach the game alongside former Sheffield coach Bryan Gould. The event signals a type of ending of one era and the beginning of another in the history of Sheffield football.
Gould also sees the opportunity as one last hurrah, but for him, it's a story that has come full-circle.
"It's bittersweet. I'm going back to my hometown and alma mater and that's special. But a team like this year, we just turned the corner in Sheffield athletics and now I'm leaving," said Gould.
But the story isn't over until Saturday when Gould and Fitch lead the Keystone State against the New York rivals to the north.
"It's a great, great opportunity. When the Big 30 committee asked me to coach, I wasn't anticipating leaving Sheffield and as things go on and I found out I was leaving, it made it even more special to me.
"This senior class, I'm very close to," explained Gould. "They were my first team I coached at Sheffield. They were in eighth grade when I coached junior high."
Flash forward a few years and the senior class is sending five players - the most in Sheffield history - to the Big 30 game.
Nick Bonavita, George Fitch, Jeb Greto, Ike Nearing and Kalil Slaughter will be representing the Wolverines and Gould says they are the best kids for it.
"It's a great class," he said. "Even my first year in Sheffield I thought to myself, this is a special group of kids."
Fitch agrees that the opportunity and the timing couldn't be better.
"If you look at last year at Sheffield and what a magical year it was, from football and basketball making the playoffs to our state track run with Kalil and the 4x100 relay team, it's just been a great year. And then to add, 'you guys are going to coach one of your largest groups of seniors ever in their last game', the story just keeps on being written," said Fitch.
Although getting a new head coach is a big change for any football team, Sheffield will enjoy continuity during the transition.
"The kids will still have some remnants of the old regime," said Fitch.
And as far as doing things differently, well, on defense not much will change. Fitch was the team's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
"The defense will stay pretty much the same as last year with the terminology and everything. But offensively, we will change some things up based on what this group of kids can bring to the table. Other than that, it's going to be a smooth transition," said Fitch.
As far as coaching the Big 30 game, Fitch says the experience of coaching the kids you play against during the regular season is an interesting one, but one that has yielded positive results.
"My brother-in-law, Johnny Martin, coached this game and he said 'you spend a lot of time coaching against these kids, not hating them, but you're angry with them every week (of the regular season) and now they're on your team' and it's nice to see the kids you coached against as your players. It's been fun. The camaraderie is great and they've been bonding together just like they need to," said Fitch.
Gould elaborated on the mix match of schools that make up the team.
"You have two and a half weeks to get prepared for a game. Defensively, they catch on quicker, but on offense you take 15 different schools with 15 different terminologies and playbooks and try to get them all on the same page," he said.
That being said, with the amount of talent on the roster, the team should have no problem.
"We have a lot of weapons there and I look across the ball and it's like, geez, there's no way to go around them. This guy's tough, and this guy's tough - they're all tough" said Gould.
After last year's playoff run, Fitch is eager to coach Sheffield's seniors again.
"Last year's group of seniors were special. They were able to start a tradition and to be able to coach them one last time is a pleasure and we're going to have fun with it," he said.
Sheffield's Big 30 players will be joined by representatives from Warren (Bobby Atkins, Chris Danielson and Nathan Zigler), from Eisenhower (Clay Coffaro, Logan Head and Jordan Hefferman) and from Youngsville (Sawyer Dininny).
With just three full practices left before the Big 30 game on Saturday, Gould's time in Sheffield is running out.
The traditions of success that have been started in the last few years are just beginning and Fitch is eager to take the reigns and carry on that tradition.