Central York moves forward under new coach Oswalt

Patrick Strohecker
  • Josh Oswalt is entering his first season as the Central York football coach.
  • Oswalt went 18-44 in six years as coach at Carlisle, making the playoffs the last two seasons.
  • Oswalt is replacing Brad Livingston, who recorded 211 wins in 34 years as Central York head coach.

Josh Oswalt now has an excuse to get out of doing work on his new house.

Central High School football coach Josh Oswalt enters his first year as head coach of the Panthers, replacing longtime head coach Brad Livingston. Bill Kalina photo

For the past several weeks, turning his family's new house into their home has been Oswalt's main priority. Beginning next week, however, Oswalt can turn his full attention to something else — his first preseason as the Central York High School football coach.

When Oswalt was hired at the end of March to succeed Brad Livingston, it seemed like an unenviable task. After all, Oswalt was taking over for a longtime and successful coach who had been dismissed in a controversial decision by the school board for reasons that have never been made public.

The 30 year old doesn't look at it like that, however. Instead, it's a job that he feels more than ready to take on, despite only having six years of head coaching experience. Actually, he's champing at the bit to get his first season underway.

"I know who Brad Livingston is," Oswalt said during Monday's York-Adams League Football Media Day. "I know what he’s been able to establish and I actually get to walk through the things that he’s put together and actually be in his place. To kind of put that pressure on myself, the only thing I can do is work super hard, do the things that I do and just lead this program. No outside pressure, just on myself.”

Contrasting histories: To say that the Central school board and administration went in a different direction when moving on from Livingston hardly does the coaching decision justice.

On one hand, you have a man in Livingston who was the face of the Panthers' football program for 34 years, racking up 211 career wins and building Central into one of the premier programs in the York-Adams League.

In Oswalt, however, you have a guy who was hired right out of college at the age of 24 by Carlisle, a program that, until his arrival, saw many more down years than up years in recent history. On paper, Oswalt's six-year record of 18-44 with the Thundering Herd is hardly noteworthy. What is noteworthy, however, is that he did significantly improve a program that won just six times in the four years prior to his arrival in 2010.

Josh Oswalt named Central York head football coach

Oswalt was handed the keys to a rundown vehicle with few necessary parts and tried to make it run at Carlisle. To his credit, he somehow did, eventually turning the Thundering Herd from perennial losers into a playoff-bound team in each of his final two years at the helm. That experience has made Oswalt wise beyond his years and ready to move to one of the largest schools in the Y-A League.

"All the things outside of coaching, outside of X’s and O’s that I had to do at Carlisle, set me up for what I’m doing here," he said. "...Taking over a program here that is nowhere near where Carlisle was, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air. You got a weight room that’s more than serviceable that you can get your kids in there to get them bigger, faster stronger. You got a stadium that’s beautiful and you got a locker-room facility that's second to none."

New voice: While Oswalt doesn't plan on changing too much of what Livingston created, he's already added his own style to practices. He's implemented more conditioning to offseason workouts, hoping to get players in shape leading into the preseason so there's no wasted time trying to accomplish that when game-planning becomes more essential. He's also letting players be more vocal and emotional.

"(Livingston) was more like a 'be-quiet-and-work' type of guy and I always liked that," senior center and defensive tackle Todd Horner said. "But, coach Oswalt lets us show our emotions and it gets the practices more fired up."

This will be the 24th consecutive year that Oswalt will go into August preparing for a football season. It started at the Pop Warner level and then carried into his high school career at Cumberland Valley High School, then his college days at Shippensburg University and lastly with Carlisle.

This year, however, it's something new. Next week, he'll be doing it for a tradition-rich program with up-to-date facilities. It's something that he's prepared himself for since he decided to get into coaching. He's doing it under a shadow cast by a York County coaching legend, but he's hoping to break out and establish his own legacy.

"Next week, it’s the anticipation of practices and everything else and it’s just that feeling that you can’t describe unless you’ve gone through it," Oswalt said. "I always said, 'if I ever lose this feeling, it’s time to step down.' It’s beyond butterflies at this point. I’m super excited to get started."

Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com