Expect a lot of energy. Expect a new attitude. Expect a gradual learning curve. Todd Fairlie, a 2002 Maple Newtown graduate and former Widener football player, is experiencing his first head-coaching job, at , after being an assistant coach for the Churchmen the last two years.
It helps Fairlie to know what’s ahead in the tough Inter-Academic League, with two-time defending champion Haverford School and Malvern Prep up on the schedule late in the season. It’s the one major advantage Fairlie has, as he learns about his team and his team learns about him and his coaching staff.
“I think I want my players to give back what I put into it; effort won’t ever be the reason why we lose,” Fairlie said. “I know what’s in this league, and I realize my job is to help us win football games. I told my players effort is the one thing I think about when building a program. The kids have so far been buying in. I was on staff for two years here already, and we’ve strived to create a new energy around the program. I like the work ethic."
In addition to new energy, Fairlie said a new strategy will also be incorporated into the Churchmen's new look.
“We’ll be a little different than how we’ve looked in the past. We won’t try and pound it as much. We’ll be a little more open offensively, and going up against Malvern Prep and Haverford School, we’re going to be a little light," said Fairlie. "We’ll run stunts and stuff to give teams different looks and take advantage of our athleticism.”
And then there's Fairlie’s coaching strategies. The beauty of a new coach is that opposing coaches haven’t exactly nailed down the way Fairlie coaches. He could throw an unexpected wrinkle or two into a game plan that opposing coaches haven’t seen or expected.
Another major plus is the return of seniors Joe Flannery (6-foot-5, 215, TE/LB) and Shane Malenfant (6-foot-1, 195, LB/OL), and juniors Jack Florio (6-2, 270, OL/DL), Adam Strouss (6-foot-2, 190, QB/DB) and Ian Strain (6-foot-1, 170, WR/DB).
Having Strouss back another year is a major bonus for the Churchmen. He knows Fairlie’s coaching style and knows what his coach likes.
“I think we can do some things this year,” said Fairlie, whose team will be young and energetic after losing 10 seniors to graduation that started at 15 different positions.
But despite the handful of seniors lost, Fairlie is optimistic with the new, young team.
“We’re young and have only a handful of seniors coming out. It’s important for us to stay healthy. That will be the big thing. If we can stay healthy, we can be in the mix," said Fairlie. "Someone said that it takes a full year for the players to get used to a new program. These kids are adapting to the new ways now. We’re a coaching staff that’s learning about the kids, as the kids learn about us. We need to show we care and we’re invested in the program. They see that and they’ll invest.”
Episcopal Academy Fact Box
Coach: Todd Fairlie (1st Season)
Last year: 2-7
Key players: Joe Flannery (Sr. 6-foot-5, 215, TE/LB), Shane Malenfant (Sr. 6-foot-1,195, LB/OL), Jack Florio (Jr. 6-foot-2, 270, OL/DL), Adam Strouss (Jr. 6-foot-2,190, QB/DB), Ian Strain (Jr. 6-foot-1, 170, WR/DB).
Games to watch: At Interboro 9/9; at Penn Charter 10/14; Malvern Prep 10/28; and Haverford School 11/12.
Episcopal Academy Schedule
Sept. 2 Prep Charter 7:00 pm
Sept. 9 at Interboro 7:30 pm
Sept. 16 Hun School (NJ) 7:00 pm
Sept. 24 Hill School 7:30 pm
Oct. 6 at Wissahickon 7:00 pm
Oct. 14 at Penn Charter 3:00 pm
Oct. 21 at Chestnut Hill Academy 3:00 pm
Oct. 28 Malvern Prep 7:00 pm
Nov. 5 at Germantown Academy 2:30 pm
Nov. 12 Haverford School 2:30 pm