BACK ROW LEFT TO RIGHT
Rusty Swarner, Shaun Lewis, Todd Appel, Zack Alkire, Jeff Brode
FRONT ROW LEFT TO RIGHT
Gavin Palumbo, Scott Rice, Rich Shook, John McKenney, Thad Burner

 

VARSITY COACHES
HEAD COACH: Todd Appel

ASSISTANTS:
Jeff Brode
Gavin Palumbo
John McKenney
Shaun Lewis
Rusty Swarner

JV COACHES
Thad Burner
Scott Rice

FRESHMAN COACHES
Zack Alkire
Rich Shook

 
HEAD COACH
Todd Appel

Published: February 09, 2008
Todd Appel named new Fort Hill football coach
Former player, veteran assistant succeeds Lattimer

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Todd Appel had the endorsement of his predecessor a month ago. On Friday, he received the green light from his boss, as Appel, an inclusion math teacher and assistant football coach at Fort Hill High School for the past 15 years, became the 10th head football coach in Fort Hill history, succeeding Barry Lattimer.

Fort Hill Principal Steve Lewis said, “Todd Appel is now the football coach at Fort Hill High School, and he is currently in the process of assembling a great coaching staff.

“It’s hard to replace a coach like Barry Lattimer, but Todd learned under two great coaches and he’ll step up and do a great job.”

Appel has been a member of the Fort Hill football coaching staff since the 1993 season, serving in various capacities under former head coaches Mike Calhoun and Lattimer. He has been the Sentinels’ defensive coordinator, also coaching the offensive line and linebackers.

“He’s a former Fort Hill player,” said Lewis, “and the great thing about it is he’s a line coach,” said Lewis, a former lineman and line coach himself. “In my opinion, he knows what it takes to win: a good offensive line, a good ground game, a good passing game and, of course, a great defense.

“Todd’s been the defensive coordinator the last few years. He has a well-rounded knowledge of Fort Hill football and of the Fort Hill tradition.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Appel said Friday afternoon in his new office. “It’s very humbling ... I’m very humbled. But I’m also ready to get to work.”

Lattimer resigned Jan. 10 after nine years as the Fort Hill head coach and strongly endorsed Appel to be his successor, saying, “If anybody is unafraid of hard work, if there is anybody who has paid his dues, it’s Todd Appel. What Mike Calhoun said about me when he left, I’ll say about Todd: Todd Appel is the backbone of the program. He gets kids ready with the off-season weight program. He’s in charge of it. And he gets them ready to play.”

“That meant a lot to me to read Barry saying those things,” Appel said of the Lattimer endorsement. “For somebody who has the respect that Barry has earned to say something good about me is very meaningful. And, I guess, maybe it was at that point I thought, ‘This is like a dream. It could happen.’ ”

A 1987 graduate of Fort Hill, Appel played for coaches Dick Bittner and Calhoun, being named Times-News All-Area offensive guard and linebacker for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He attended Fairmont State for one year, before graduating from Frostburg State University.

Having played for Calhoun, then having become a member of his former coach’s staff, the ambition for “it” to happen was soon planted in Appel’s heart.

“I wanted (to be the Fort Hill head coach) when I saw what Mike did here,” Appel said. “It encouraged me to love Fort Hill even more, but that’s not the same time I thought I could do the job. I would say that was three years ago when Barry put me in charge of the weight room.

“I thought then I could do it, but like Barry says — and God bless Barry, he did such a great job — it’s completely different sitting in this chair. So I’m going to do everything I can do to keep this tradition alive. I’m going to work my tail off and do what’s best for Fort Hill.”

Appel believes from Calhoun and Lattimer, he has received the best possible training for following in their footsteps.

“Mike Calhoun is so organized, it’s scary at times. In fact,” Appel said, beginning to chuckle, “it’s out of this world scary. He has tremendous organization, and what you see all around here today is what Mike painted, posted and wrote. He is extremely organized and highly motivated. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you today if not for Mike Calhoun.

“As for Barry, he is an extremely loyal Fort Hill person with the best interest of the kids in his heart. We have eight kids playing college football and that is attributed to Barry Lattimer, his discipline, his no-nonsense approach, and his deep loyalty to this school and its students.”

Head coach Appel addressed the Fort Hill football team for the first time Friday morning ... sort of.

“I told them I was the new head coach,” he said, “but we had to get back into the weight room, so I’ll talk to them Monday and they’ll know my expectations. They already do, though.”

One of his coaches at Fort Hill was Principal Lewis, who hired Appel to teach and coach at the school in 1993.

“I remember as a player, he was an offensive guard,” Lewis said. “He was a leader then and has been a leader ever since. That’s why I hired him then. It’s why I’m hiring him now.

“I expect nothing but the best from Todd. Todd will give 100 percent to Fort Hill.”

Appel is well aware of Lewis’ past hiring practices as well as his expectations.

“I thank Steve Lewis for giving me every opportunity I’ve ever had in teaching and in coaching,” he said. “I will always be grateful for that.”

Grateful, too, is Appel for the support he receives from his family.

“I thank my wife Suzanne for sticking with me all these years and supporting me,” he said. “She understands what this means to me. So does my mother Dottie, who raised me from age 10; and my father Paul, who instilled in me what it means to have the Fort Hill spirit.”

Which, as though they haven’t already, the Fort Hill football players will be getting a better picture of beginning Monday.

“We want to be good people first,” Appel said, “and good football players second. We want to be aggressive football players and we’re going to be willing to put ourselves out on the line for Fort Hill High School.

“It will be up to the coaches and me to instill the tradition into our players so they can return it someday the way Barry has, and how I’m going to try to do.”