You never want to be the person to replace the legend.
You always want to be the person who replaces the person who replaces the legend.
At least that's conventional sports wisdom.
Brad Livingston was a coach with the Central York football team for the better part of four decades, serving as head coach the last 34 years, compiling a record of 211-153-4. So, when he was informed that he would not be brought back for the 2016 season back in December, much to the dismay of much of the Central York community, someone had to become the person to replace the Panther legend.
On Monday night, that person was Josh Oswalt, who was unanimously approved by the Central York school board. And he's relishing the challenge of taking over for Livingston.
"I feel that taking over a program that has been, what I feel is, the top of York County the last how many decades since Brad has been involved, I think it's definitely a great honor to have this ability to be the next guy," Oswalt said. "So, I'm excited for this opportunity and I'm ready to get started now."
Building something out of nothing: Oswalt, 29, spent the last six seasons coaching Carlisle, his first head coaching position. He was hired to lead the Thundering Herd at just 24 years old, only a year removed from graduating from Shippensburg University, where he was a linebacker on the football team and spent one year as a graduate assistant.
Tasked with taking over a Carlisle program that won just six times in the four seasons before his arrival in 2010, Oswalt turned it into a playoff team. In his six years as head coach, he went 18-44, but was 10-12 in his final two seasons, with the the Thundering Herd, going 5-5 in each regular season before losing in the first round of the District 3-AAAA playoffs both years.
He did so using a spread offense over the last two seasons. Junior Eric Harris led the state in passing with 3,635 yards in 2015, and before him, Billy Burger set the school passing record before graduating and playing at Dickinson College. Oswalt said he would like to keep some of that same spread offense in his game plan with the Panthers, but will have to see what type of personnel he's working with during the spring and summer months.
It was a tall order for a first-time head coach to build a program essentially from scratch and turn it into a quality product. But Oswalt believes that experience prepared him to make the jump to the next level and take over a program that has a history of winning, despite coming off a 3-7 year in 2015.
"There were so many things that I had to do and learn to do that I feel like being thrown to the wolves and the sink-or-swim mentality is what enabled me to become the person I am today," Oswalt said. "Six years, I can't imagine anybody at the age of 29 having the experience that I have been given."
Replacing an icon: A 2004 graduate of Cumberland Valley, Oswalt grew up playing for legendary head coach Tim Rimpfel. In York County, Livingston was viewed on much the same level as Rimpfel, he just didn't have the same postseason success. The chance to replace Livingston made the Central York opening that much more enticing to Oswalt, who is not threatened by the lofty expectations that come with replacing a longtime coach.
"Honestly, I think that made it more appealing," he said about succeeding Livingston. "...I've had the privilege of coaching against him and working with him and I like to go back to this story, in 2010, in my first year at Carlisle, one of the first teams we competed against at our summer camp at Lebanon Valley College was Central York High School and I looked over and I saw Brad and his staff and how organized everything was and how well-mannered and behaved his kids were and I thought, 'That's the kind of guy I want to emulate, the type of program I want to emulate, and that's where I want to get Carlisle to.'"
Oswalt spent most of his life in Cumberland County, but, he's had experiences coaching against the York-Adams League. His Thundering Herd teams scrimmaged the Panthers the last four years and in four of his six years, Oswalt and Carlisle faced two Y-A League Division I teams, the same division that he'll coach in with Central York.
In 2010 and 2011, the Thundering Herd faced Red Lion, losing both contests, and then in 2014 and this past season, they faced South Western, winning in 2014, but losing in 2015.
Taking the next step: Taking over the Central job was the next step for Oswalt.
He got his hands dirty and learned the ropes of being a head coach the difficult way, building a program from scratch and turning it into a playoff team despite less than stellar facilities.
Now, he's ready to take over a program that has considerable resources and a large pool of players. He will attempt to take it to unprecedented heights for York County football.
"Being a Cumberland Valley guy, I would say Central York easily rivals the support level that Cumberland Valley gives their athletics," he said. "I said, 'This is the Cumberland Valley of York County and it could be better,' and that's what I plan on, at least, working toward."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com