Replacing a legendary football coach, that’s tough enough.
But Jason Morrell believes he has an even more difficult task in following in the footsteps of Clyde Folsom, a man he regards as a “father figure.”
Morrell, West Deptford High School’s athletic director, was confirmed as the school’s new football coach during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.
Morrell, a star athlete for West Deptford during a playing career that ended in 2000, will replace Folsom, who resigned in December after 27 seasons in charge of the Eagles’ program.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches ever and certainly the best ever at West Deptford,” Morrell said of Folsom. “So many people recognize what he did as a football coach, the wins, the championships.
“But he was more than that. He came to define this town. He gave us an identity.”
Morrell said the “best thing” about his new position is that he will continue to work closely with Folsom, a health and physical education teacher as well as the school’s assistant athletic director.
“He sits in the chair right next to me,” Morrell said. “He’s a father figure to me. We’re incredibly close.”
Morrell said Folsom would assume some administrative duties in the fall to allow the new coach to focus more on his football team.
Morrell said Folsom also will remain close with the program, through involvement with the Eagles’ strength and conditioning and in helping the new staff in its transition to a new era.
“He’ll help in preparation and he’ll be a great source for me, for all of us,” Morrell said.
Folsom went 227-60-2 in 27 seasons at West Deptford. He inherited a moribund program – the Eagles were 19-74-2 in the 11 seasons before his arrival in 1991 – and turned the team into a perennial South Jersey Group 2 championship contender.
In Folsom’s final 16 seasons, West Deptford went an astounding 168-19 with 13 appearances in the South Jersey Group 2 finals and seven sectional championships. West Deptford was 10-2 in 2017, losing to rival Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 finals.
Morrell said he hopes to maintain the standards set by his former coach.
“Hopefully, we’re not going to be a whole lot different,” Morrell said. “I was born and bred and raised here. I want us to play with the same toughness, the same enthusiasm, the same commitment, the same attention to detail.
“That’s in my makeup. That’s in my DNA. Clyde’s wife Nancy, she jokes around, ‘I want to know where he was when you were born,’ because she says we’re so alike.”
Morrell knows it’s unusual in 2018 for an athletic director to serve as the head coach of a major program. He said the experience and expertise of the coaches for West Deptford’s other fall sports will allow him to focus on football during those months.
“I’m so lucky that we have those coaches in our fall sports,” Morrell said. “They are low-maintenance coaches.”
Morrell, who played four years as an offensive lineman at Lehigh University, said he always relished challenges during his playing days and in his career in education.
He knows he’s facing a unique task in becoming the first head coach other than Folsom to step on the sideline for the Eagles since 1990.
“It’s a little overwhelming at times,” Morrell said. “It’s such an incredible challenge in so many ways . . . But the best thing for me is, I still have him with me.”