WELLINGTON — Replacing a football coach like Matt Stoll, who spent the past 24 years turning Wellington into a respected program, wasn’t easy.
But after a lengthy search, Wellington school officials believe they have found the right man for the job in Sean Arno.
Arno, who spent the past nine years as the head coach at Alexander High School in Athens County, was approved Tuesday night by the school board as the Dukes’ new coach.
“The first thing that attracted me to this position was that Wellington is a football school and a football community,” said Arno, who resigned from Alexander in November for family reasons. “Also, my wife’s family is from this area and we still have a lot of friends from here. We were here 10 years ago, and I looked at a few positions that were open around here when we decided to come back to this area. But to me, Wellington seemed to be the right fit.
“My sons (Tristan and Nick) are almost at high school age, and I wanted to find a school for them that they would have success in, both in the classroom and on the playing fields. Wellington is very similar in size to Alexander — in fact, they’re probably equal — and that was appealing to me.”
When Arno took over Alexander nine years ago, the football program needed to be rebuilt, having only had two winning seasons between 1976 and 2008. Arno went 40-52, taking the Spartans to their first two playoff appearances in 2009 and ’10 and guided them to three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in school history.
However, the Spartans slumped to 1-9 last season.
Unlike at Alexander, Arno doesn’t have to completely rebuild, as a tradition is already in place. However, the Dukes did go 2-8 last season and 4-6 in 2012 after going 7-3 and qualifying for the postseason in 2011.
“Matt Stoll was a fantastic coach for the past 24 years and I want to build off of what he established here,” Arno said. “I’m extremely excited about that. The attraction to Wellington is based off that tradition, and I’m extremely excited about that.
“The only real similarities between Wellington and Alexander is in district size. That also appealed to me. But, like our success there, it’s going to take a lot of hard work for these kids to get back to that level of play here at Wellington.”
Arno doesn’t have set offensive and defensive philosophies, feeling his personnel should dictate how they play.
“At Alexander, I’ve run spread one year when we had a great quarterback and then switched to an I-formation the next when we had a great tailback,” Arno said. “I’ve run Wing-T, you name it. It doesn’t make sense to run a spread if you don’t have anyone who can catch the football and run an I-formation when you have a strong quarterback.
“Our personnel will dictate what we do offensively. I also want us to be flexible defensively so that we’re able to adapt to whatever our opponents run.”
Arno will meet his players for the first time today at 8 a.m. when he’ll outline his vision for the program, starting with the weight room in the offseason.
“First and foremost, the team’s going to be a team in every sense of the word,” Arno said. “I want our skill players to understand that they are successful because of the line and our line to understand that their success results in positive plays. Discipline will also be very important. We don’t need 15-yard penalties because of dumb mistakes. However, we will be aggressive and fundamentally strong.
“We will respect whoever we play, but they’ll also have to respect us because we’re going to come out and hit you. We’ll give it everything we can, win or lose, every Friday night, and that’s going to be our mission statement.
“That also means in the classroom, at home, off the field, at your job — you will give everything you can. I pride myself in accountability in the classroom and teaching life lessons. Those are the things you’ll see from Wellington while I’m the coach.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.