Scott Pethtel didn’t expect to be in this position.
When he came to Brookstone two seasons ago, he planned on spending the rest of his career as an assistant coach, helping to teach his players the fundamentals and develop them over the course of their high school careers.
When former coach Brad Dehem left Brookstone for a job at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian in February, however, Pethtel was convinced it was another good opportunity to be a head coach.
But three months after being announced as the new head coach, not much has changed for the 40-year veteran coach. Sure, he has to adjust to the administrative duties that come with leading a football program. But when it comes to his approach and relationship with the team, not a whole lot has changed.
Take last week, for example. The team had just finished a summer workout on the practice field at the school and was in the weight room for a weightlifting competition among the players. As individuals worked at each station, an energetic Pethtel was in their face, clapping and urging them to get more out of themselves than they thought they could.
It’s a hands-on approach he is hoping can change Brookstone’s fortunes after suffering its first losing season in a decade last year.
For 35 years, Pethtel worked at the college level. While coaching really wasn’t all that different, he said the biggest change upon returning to high schools two seasons ago was to take note of where players were in their development.
High school football players are simply newer to the game, and to expect them to understand different schemes right from the start wasn’t realistic.
“I can’t even really expect them to know how to get in a stance,” Pethtel said. “We have to start from stage one. It’s just a different level. It’s not that I don’t expect as much out of them. I do. It’s just that it’s a different level in terms of where they are in their knowledge of the game. I have to stop myself from going scheme crazy, and go technique crazy.”
It’s a lesson he learned firsthand a year ago when he took over the defensive coordinator position for the Cougars. Admittedly, he said he focused too much on the schemes. Players would get to the right spots, but couldn’t finish the plays because their technique wasn’t as sound as it should have been. The result was a defense that allowed more than 30 points in seven of 10 games and more than 40 in three.
So, in his first year at the helm for Brookstone, technique will be the focus.
“We’re very young,” Pethtel said. “We’ve got a group of veteran seniors, but beyond that, we’re really young. We’ve got a lot of freshmen who haven’t played a lot of football. So we’ve got to get those guys developed to a point where they know what’s going on and we can use them on Friday nights if need be. All that comes from being a little more technique-sound.”
Much remains to be seen about the Cougars immediate future. With a young team, question marks are scattered across the roster.
But Pethtel is confident in his first year that he can help return Brookstone to its former contender status.
“We’re having fun,” he said. “I love these guys, and they’re working hard. We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there.”