Football notebook: Mike McKeown takes over as coach at Collingswood

Mike McKeown, right, will return to Collingswood, where he attended high school, to be the head coach of the football team. He played both football and basketball at Collingswood.

Someday soon, Mike McKeown will have his shoes firmly planted on the sideline of the Collingswood football field.

For now, the Panthers’ new head coach is up in the air.

“I’m on Cloud Nine,” said McKeown, a Collingswood graduate who was confirmed as the program’s head coach at a Board of Education meeting on Monday night. “This is my dream job.”

McKeown played for Bob Barikian at Collingswood in the mid-1990s. He went on to become a record-setting receiver at La Salle University.

McKeown has spent most of the last 14 seasons as Collingswood’s offensive coordinator. He was a top assistant under former coach Jack McConnell, who resigned after last season.

Collingswood went 37-35 in seven seasons under McConnell. Included in that stretch was a four-year run from 2013-16 when the Panthers went 28-14, made the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs three times, upset top-seeded Camden in 2014 and lost 21-20 to eventual champion Cedar Creek in the first round in 2015.

Racked by injuries, Collingswood was 3-7 last season.

“I’m not going to re-invent the wheel,” McKeown said. “I learned more from Jack McConnell than maybe any coach I’ve ever been around.”

McKeown said the Panthers likely will play the same style on defense but could become a little more wide-open on the other side of the football.

“We’ve got athletes, I’d like to get in space, in position to make some plays,” McKeown said.

Working on one of McConnell’s top initiatives, McKeown was instrumental in the re-creation of Collingswood’s youth program. The new coach believes the program might be on the brink of big thunder in the near future, as players in strong 9th, 8th, and 7th grade classes begin to take the field for the Panthers.

The 40-year-old McKeown works in the insurance industry, so he will serve as an adjunct coach. He is in the process of putting together his staff, with a mix of holdovers and newcomers.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” McKeown said. “It’s such a great opportunity. I love Collingswood, love Collingswood football.”

Robinson talks Rutgers

Shawnee senior wide receiver Daevon Robinson originally committed to North Carolina State, then seriously considered an offer from Baylor.

But the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Robinson, also a basketball standout for the Renegades, decided on staying home and playing for Rutgers. He signed with the Scarlet Knights Dec. 20.

“Just the ability to stay home with family and friends, that was a big part of my decision,” Robinson said. “I see what Rutgers is doing. They are making progress. I want to be part of it.”

Robinson, who plans to major in communication, nearly signed with Baylor, where former Camden player Francis Brown is a top assistant and recruiter and former South Jersey players such as Cherokee’s John Lovett and Cherry Hill West’s Harrison Hand are coming off freshman seasons.

“I was sold on Baylor,” Robinson said. “But I really wanted to stay home. And when I visited Rutgers, I was blown away. It’s the right place for me.”

Hillman to sign with Elon

Camden Catholic senior Marcus Hillman will sign with Elon on Wednesday, the start of the second national signing period, according to Irish coach Nick Strom.

Hillman was a first-team All-South Jersey selection as a linebacker and also was a top running back for the Irish. He also had an offer from Virginia Military Academy.

Elon plays in the Colonial Athletic Association with programs such as James Madison, Delaware, Villanova and Towson.

Last season, Elon was 6-2 in the conference, finishing in third place two games behind two-time FCS national finalist James Madison, and 8-4 overall.

This and that

West Jersey Football League president Bud Kowal, the athletic director at Ewing, said the league plans to release its schedule for 2018-19 next week. The release of the schedule has been delayed as re-alignment in divisions as well as changes to the state playoff format have complicated the process of creating cross-over games. … Lenape senior defensive lineman Aaron Acosta is scheduled to visit Marist this weekend and Lenape senior running back JoJo Kellum is scheduled to visit Assumption. … Camden junior defensive back Don Williams has picked up an offer from Rutgers. … Woodrow Wilson junior wide receiver Stanley King has picked up an offer from Kent State. … Salem senior Zaire Jones, a first-team All-South Jersey selection as a defensive back, is likely to sign with Monroe Junior College in New Rochelle, N.Y,. according to Rams coach Montrey Wright.