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VIDEO: York High head coach Russ Stoner talks after the Bearcats claim a share of the D-I title with a 54-14 win over Central York JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer

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Russ Stoner is going to be giving hugs before and after York High’s District 3 Class 5-A first-round game against Northern York on Friday night.

After the game, he hopes he’ll be hugging his players for winning the Bearcats’ first playoff game since 2008.

Before the game, though, Stoner, along with a handful of other York High coaches, will be hugging a mentor — a man Stoner said was instrumental in his development as a football coach. Former Central York head coach Brad Livingston is the defensive coordinator at Northern. Stoner and others on his staff coached under Livingston during his long stint as Central's head coach.

“There is a lot of mutual respect there,” Stoner said. “We will all hug before and after the game and shed a tear. … He was a huge influence for me and a father figure for me. He is the guy who I took a lot of things away from him.”

Livingston was the Panthers’ head coach from 1982-2015, and Stoner was his defensive coordinator from 1996-2010.

“We worked together for about 16 years,” Livingston said. “We were together for quite a while and became really good friends. Now he’s doing quite well at York High. I’m happy for him, and I’m one of his biggest fans. He’s one of my very best friends in the whole world, and I love him to death.”

Other York County connections: Stoner’s current staff has five people who either coached under Livingston at Central, played for him or both. Tony Deseberg, Will Clark, Justin Sowers, Vince Jamison and Matt Baker, who played quarterback at Central and played at Temple, are all on Stoner’s staff.

“We all love him,” Stoner said. “He was at my wedding. He was there when my kids were born. He was there when my mom passed away. Those are the things that matter.”

“I’m happy they’re still in the game and they’re having fun doing it,” Livingston said. “Following the success of that program for a couple of years now, it brings a smile to my face to see that they’re all together.”

Northern also has other York-Adams League connections. The Polar Bears’ head coach, Bill Miller, is a former Dover head coach, and the team’s offensive line coach, Marty Green, is also a former Eagles head coach.

“I’m fortunate enough to be on Bill Miller’s staff at Northern,” Livingston. “Bill and I had known each other from when he was at Dover and we coached against each other. When he became the head coach at Northern a few years ago, he asked me if I would be interested in coming over.”

Friday won’t be the first time Stoner and Livingston will coach against each other. Stoner left Central in 2010 to become the head coach at Spring Grove.

Five years later, Livingston was fired after 30-plus years as head coach. Still to this day, Stoner is unhappy with his former school’s decision.

“If you fire brad Livingston, you have an issue. The way they handled it was horrible,” Stoner said. “I never remember him making a bad decision for a kid. He was remarkable.”

Preparing for Friday's game: In preparation to try to stop standout running back Dayjure Stewart and York High’s high-powered offense, Livingston chose a classic football cliché.

“It’s one of those old clichés: We won’t shut them down. We have to control them as much as we can,” Livingston said.

Stoner said while the No. 11-seeded Polar Bears (6-4) are a young team, with more than half the roster being sophomores, that doesn’t mean Northern can’t walk into Small Field and give the No. 6-seeded Bearcats a game.

“They’re fundamentally sound,” Stoner said. “They’re young but they’re a tough football team.”

Livingston said he’s proud of Stoner’s success at York High. The Bearcats have gone 9-1 in each of the last two seasons after going 1-9 in 2016.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s having the success that he is,” Livingston said. “I think he’s exceptionally talented. I think he has a tremendous ability to build relationships with the people around him. He builds relationships with all the kids and connects with them on a personal level.”

Stoner said he learned that trait from Livingston.

“It’s not the X’s and O’s I got from Brad,” Stoner said. “It’s about being the right person and doing what’s right for kids. If you don’t know kids and you can’t get kids to play for you, you can’t be a coach. He taught me how to love kids.”

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jmeyer@yorkdispatch.com

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