April 16, 2014

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H.S. Football: Amherst hires Avon assistant Bill Fishleigh with hopes of turning around program

Bill Fishleigh

Bill Fishleigh

Amherst wants to get back to its winning ways on the football field. A good way to start is to hire a coach who is used to winning.

The Comets announced Bill Fishleigh, one of Avon’s top assistants, as their football coach Thursday. The Eagles have a 47-4 record in the last four years, including three straight trips to the regional finals, and were Division II state runner-up in 2011.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Fishleigh, who taught math at Avon and will become an assistant principal at Amherst in the fall. “It’s a great community, great administration and there are great kids. I’m very fortunate to step into this role, to be offered the job here and am excited to get started.”

The school received 45 applications after it opted not to retain Chad DiFranco on
Dec. 21. Amherst whittled the applicants to six in-person interviews, then three finalists before making the selection.

The Comets went 4-26 overall, 2-18 in the Southwestern Conference, in the last three years.

“We were looking for someone who was an overall leader,” Amherst athletic director Casey Wolf said. “Someone who comes from a very successful program in terms of building and sustaining. We wanted someone who is a great communicator. Bill was the candidate who stood out with everyone we met throughout the entire process.”

Fishleigh has been an assistant under Mike Elder for 10 of the last 11 seasons. He started with Elder at Perry High School in 2003 right after graduating from college. He left to be a student assistant at Case Western before rejoining Perry in 2006 as offensive coordinator. Elder took the Avon job in 2007 and Fishleigh went with him.

Elder inherited an Avon team that went 4-6, but the Eagles have not had a sub-.500 season in his seven years. Avon is 71-13 with five playoff appearances, four trips to the regional finals and the second-place finish.

A candidate who learned how to coach in that kind of environment certainly was attractive to Amherst.

“We need to get to a point of rebuilding the culture here,” Wolf said. “If you go back and look at the history of this place, there have always been successful teams. We need to get back to the culture that created those teams.”

Amherst has fallen on hard times since Kevin Fell left for Elyria in 2011. During Fell’s four-year run the Comets were 27-14 and 18-10 in the Southwestern Conference. They went 23-8, 15-6 in the SWC, in his last three years.

“The first thing you have to do is start with a positive attitude and bring energy and excitement every single day,” Fishleigh said. “I’m going to try and keep these kids motivated and connect with them and get back to those winning ways.

“I think there are a lot of elements you need to have to have a great program and it starts with a great administration and community. We have those things in place. Next you’ve got to have a great coaching staff and develop your players.”

Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.