HAZLE TWP. — Mike Brennan calls the Hazleton Area football program a sleeping giant. Now, the veteran coach gets the opportunity to watch the Cougar program first hand.
The Hazleton Area school board voted unanimously Thursday night, 9-0, to approve Brennan as the sixth football coach.
Brennan replaces Jim Drumheller, who resigned after three seasons as head coach.
“Mike Brennan has an impressive resume,” Hazleton Area athletic director Fred Barletta said. “I think it means a lot that someone who has achieved the level of success that Mike has is that interested in our program. He’s young enough that hopefully he’ll be able to coach here for many years and bring some stability to our program.”
Brennan is no stranger to success.
He’s complied a 113-62 record in his years as head coach of three schools: Nativity (Pottsville), Mount Carmel Area and Blue Mountain. He was 22-21 in his last stint at Blue Mountain where he coached from 2009-12.
His most successful stop was Mount Carmel where he won PIAA Class 2A championships in 2000 and 2002.
“I’m excited,” Brennan said when reached by phone. “It’s a great place and I really believe a sleeping giant. The last staff really put their heart and soul into the Hazleton Area football program. Now, the torch has been passed to me, and with it comes an awesome responsibility. I’m excited for the opportunity to lead the program.
“When you look at Hazleton, it’s a great community and a large area geographically. The school and the community really have a great understanding and passion for their high school sports. I know the town will rally around the program.”
What Brennan inherits is a Cougar program that’s attempting to find some type of identity. In the last three seasons, Hazleton has won just eight games – including a 3-7 mark in 2013.
Hazleton enters 2014 on a three-game losing streak, suffering setbacks to Wyoming Valley West, East Stroudsburg South and Berwick to end last season.
The Cougars do return 1,000-yard back Zach Zukoski and quarterback Ryan Heller, who threw for 760 yards and four scores.
“It’s a challenge, but I’m excited about it,” Brennan said. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we are going to work hard. We are going to assemble the best possible staff to be successful. As coaches, we are going to be fair and consistent. We are going to demand they respect the game of football and demand they respect Hazleton Area football.”
According to Brennan, that doesn’t start in August on the football field.
“The players have to understand that there is so much that goes into building a successful program,” he said. “You continue to build a program on a daily basis. It’s just not on the field on Friday nights. It starts in the weight room, and it extends to the classroom and the community. You don’t just flip an on and off switch on the football field.”
Brennan hopes to meet with his new team in the immediate future.
“Some people say we are a little behind the eight ball because it’s almost the first of March, but I don’t think that’s the case,” the new head coach said. “We still have three solid months before the end of school. I’m excited to meet with the players and develop a plan. We want to get things rolling in the right direction. We want to begin to develop our strength and conditioning plan, and I’m excited to sit with the players, talk football with them and see their football knowledge.”