As the old saying goes, it's tough to replace a legend.
But it might be a little bit easier for Mike Blochowski to succeed one as the next football coach at St. Francis de Sales.
That's because the Knights' new coach has had nearly two decades to watch Dick Cromwell's work up close as an assistant, and he expects to retain much of the rest of the coaching staff to help him.
"No one's going to replace Dick Cromwell," Blochowski said. "He is a legend. I've been working with him for 17 years, so I've had a chance to learn a lot from that man.
"He's a great friend and, obviously, a mentor to me. He's not going anywhere. He's still going to be here, and he'll be around the practice field watching us."
Cromwell, 62, the City League's all-time winningest football coach, stepped down as the Knights' coach last month after 26 total seasons and 208 victories in two separate stints with the program.
His teams collected 11 City championships and made 13 state playoff appearances, including a Division I state championship in 1984, a D-II state title in 2001, and a D-II state runner-up finish in 1982.
Including his time at St. Francis (1979-1984 and 1990-2009), and other head coaching runs at Olmsted Falls and Findlay, Cromwell posted a 251-119-2 career record over 34 seasons. He went out in style last fall, guiding the Knights, who were picked to place fifth in the CL, to an 11-2 record and a run to the D-II regional finals.
"Dick and I have a couple of things in common," Blochowski said. "We both love the game of football, and we both love St. Francis. That's not going to change. I was fortunate enough with our staff, which has been together a long time, that I've got a commitment from many of those guys.
"So, I really don't see the Knight football business changing a whole lot. We're going to continue on with what Dick has built, we're going to continue on with the tradition, and we're going to get after it next season."
Blochowski, 45, is a 1983 graduate of Maumee High School and was the Panthers' most valuable player in football as a senior. He earned his bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. He will continue to teach computer science and business at St. Francis, where he is also an assistant baseball coach.
"We are pleased to have Mike Blochowski as our head football coach," St. Francis athletic director Carl Janke said. "Mike brings a lot of enthusiasm and experience to the position. He is the best fit for our school community - both academically and athletically."
Blochowski is just the sixth head football coach in the program's 54-year history.
"You might see a few new wrinkles offensively," Blochowski said, "because nobody else has called a varsity play since Dick Cromwell's been here. And, we still want to play great defense."
Pat Gucciardo has tendered his resignation as Start's football coach after eight seasons and a 39-45 record.
"As of today, I am resigning my position as head football coach at Start High School due to personal reasons," Gucciardo said in a statement. "I am very proud of all that we have accomplished during our time here. I would like to thank the Start administration and athletic department for the opportunity to coach over the past eight seasons, and I always appreciated their constant support of our football program.
"Our fans, students, cheerleaders, and marching band have always been among the city's best. I would like to thank league commissioner Ed Scrutchins and the City League front office for supporting all that we were trying to accomplish. Finally, I would like to thank all the media in northwest Ohio for all you have done for our program and high school sports in general."
Gucciardo continued by stating he will miss the competition and the constant drive to improve, as well as the relationships with players, parents, and staff members.
"These have been great years for me, and I have many wonderful memories that I will cherish," he said. "I truly loved coaching at Start, and I wish the Spartans and the rest of the Toledo City League the very best."
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