By DAVE HANNEMAN
HAMLER — Patrick Henry did not have to reach far — historically or geographically — to find its new head football coach, announcing on Monday that former player and assistant Joe Kirkendall had been named to fill the post vacated by Bill Inselmann in December.
Kirkendall has made a name for himself rebuilding football programs.
He took over a 2-8 Arcadia team in 2006 and, after another 2-8 showing, guided the Redskins to a 6-4 record and their first winning season in 15 years.
Kirkendall then moved on to Leipsic, where he inherited a program that was 3-17 the two seasons before he arrived. His first team went 6-4; the next five went 46-12, won two Blanchard Valley Conference championships (2009, 2011) and made five consecutive playoff appearances.
Now Kirkendall will be crossing the Putnam/Henry County line to take the job at Patrick Henry. Actually, it’s more of a homecoming.
“To be honest, I never thought about the Patrick Henry job. Once I left as an assistant, I never thought about coming back,” said Kirkendall, a 1995 Patrick Henry graduate who was later an assistant under Inselmann for five years, including 2005 when the Patriots won the Division V state championship.
“(But) I still live in the district. My kids go to school there. The kids playing now, I see their parents and grandparents in the diner and around town.
“It’s my alma mater and I’ve stayed connected with the program. So when coach Inselmann decided to step down, it just seemed to make sense.”
Unlike his previous two stops, Kirkendall isn’t facing a rebuilding process. He is, though, replacing a man who built Patrick Henry into one of the winningest programs in the state.
Inselmann retired with a 200-64 career record in 23 seasons as the Patriots’ head coach. The 2005 state championship was the crowning jewel for a program that won 10 Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles, made 14 playoff appearances, reached the regional finals eight times and played in four Final Fours.
“Everybody says you don’t want to be the guy who follows the legend, and I understand that 100 percent ,” Kirkendall said,
“Realistically, I’m never going to be as successful as coach Inselmann was. That’s almost impossible. It’s like whoever follows Todd Schulte at Delphos St. John’s, Tim Goodwin at Marion Local ….
“Very few schools have had the measure of success Patrick Henry has had. (At Arcadia and Leipsic) I walked into programs that needed a complete overhaul. In this situation, the foundation is already in place. The work ethic, the dedication in the weight room, the expectations of winning are already there
“It’s different. Now it’s the need to continue going in the same direction. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s a different kind of challenge.”
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