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On senior night, Central York gave its seniors a York-Adams League Division I title. York Dispatch

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He didn’t have to close his eyes and click his heels together three times to get there, but there’s still no place like home for Josh Oswalt.

After four seasons leading the Central York High School football program, Oswalt is heading back to his alma mater to become the head coach at Cumberland Valley High. His hiring was officially approved by the CV school board on Monday.

“I am 33 years old (and) I have only been doing this 10 years as a head coach,” Oswalt said. “To be the next (coach) at the prestigious high school of Cumberland Valley, you’re flattered.” 

Oswalt said he was initially surprised when he found out the position had opened up because of his relationship with former CV coach, Michael Whitehead. He didn’t apply right away. Instead he talked with his family, the Central York coaching staff and friends around the CV program. 

Learned a lot: Oswalt said making the decision to put in his CV application was not easy. It was difficult to leave a Central York football program and community that he had worked so hard to build up.

Oswalt previously had applied for the CV gig that Whitehead eventually landed. He said his time at Central taught him the importance of making sure the coaches, players and their families all are working with the same goal in mind. He said that’s made him a better leader than he was the first time he went after the coveted CV position.

“Seven years ago, I was not able to work as well with kids as I am now,” Oswalt said. “We take a full-family approach where we over-communicate. When you’re able to meet the families at that level and build that relationship with them, you’re able to have those difficult conversations that are needed. (They) come so much easier because the families do understand you have the best interest for their young men in mind.” 

A difficult goodbye: One of those difficult conversations Oswalt had to have was with the Panthers’ players, who also knew that the CV job opened up. Oswalt was honest with them and told them he had applied and he would let them know anything he knew about the process. 

He told them he would not be in school on the day he was being interviewed and tried to be considerate of their emotions.

“When I got back in school on Tuesday, the boys were anxious,” Oswalt said. “I just told them, ‘I don’t know anything.’ But when I did find out, they were the first ones I wanted to let know. That was important to me, to tell them.” 

While a lot of people at Central are happy for him, there’s a sadness that accompanies the joy after the 9-2 season the Panthers had in 2019.

“There’s a lot of excitement at Cumberland Valley right now, but with excitement comes heartbreak at Central York,” Oswalt said. “There were a lot of pros that weighed on the Cumberland Valley side and it's not Central York’s fault at all.”

The perfect fit: A major factor in Oswalt’s decision was the proximity of CV to his home in Dillsburg. The 15-minute drive to work, instead of his current 45-minute commute, will allow Oswalt more time with his family.

Another crucial part of taking the position for Oswalt was CV’s willingness to include a teaching position in the offer. 

“I feel that head football coaches, any head coach for that matter, should be in the high school,” Oswalt said. “I spent six years at Carlisle (High) and I was not in the high school one of those six years and I feel that if I was put in the high school, that would have made a world of difference as far as that relationship piece.” 

Like he did during his six seasons at Carlisle and four years at Central, building relationships with his players will be at the heart of Oswalt's approach. He will be tasked with returning the Eagles to the glory they had during his time as a player, when they won two District 3 Class 4-A titles after consecutive losing seasons. 

See you soon: One game that will be of major significance to Oswalt next season will be a road contest at Central, which is loaded with returning talent. It will be an emotional night for Oswalt, whether his players can tell or not.

“It will be extremely difficult,” Oswalt said. “This will be the best class to come through Central York in the history of the high school. If they have the season I think they’re going to have, they’re going to be the winningest class to graduate from (Central). It will weigh differently big time on me, but my players will not recognize that because at the end of the day, it’s never about me.”

Coming full circle: After 10 years as a head coach, Oswalt can’t believe he has done enough to land a job that he holds in such high regard. After thinking he would pursue a business career when he initially got to Shippensburg University, Oswalt is honored to be chosen as the new face of the program he cares for so much.

“I would’ve never thought, 15 years ago, that I would be in the position I am today,” Oswalt said. “To be able to come home and take lead of a program that you cherished and you loved from a little kid to the last days you were in the high school ...  I was a successful player and leader when I was a player and now it’s kind of coming around full circle, to be the guy in charge of the program now.” 

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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