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Wil Rider knew he wanted to be a head coach of a football team, but he didn’t know where that would be. 

In previous seasons, Rider interviewed for open jobs at other schools, but the programs went in different directions. Rider continued to gain more experience and build relationships while he waited for the right opportunity to present itself. 

“It’s just trusting what I know,” said the 2001 South Western graduate, who played for longtime Mustangs boss Don Seidenstricker in high school. “Each situation is going to be different and everybody is looking for their own fit.”

Got the gig: That chance finally opened up when Brandon Bishop resigned as Hanover High head coach after the season. Rider said the gig was always on his radar and he finally found the right fit for him. 

Rider was recently named Hanover’s new head coach. The school’s athletic director, Adam Mowrer, said Rider was picked because of his relationships with the players and administration. He said that put Rider a step above the other candidates. 

The Nighthawks’ new leader has spent the past five seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator and previously worked as an assistant coach at Spring Grove High under current York High coach Russ Stoner. 

It took time, but Rider found the position he was looking for. Rider said that landing a head coaching position at a place where people have gotten to know him over the past five years meant a lot to him. He's happy to continue building bonds with his players.

“The nice thing with Hanover is that having spent the past five years in the program. I know the kids, I know the issues with the program, I know the good things with the program, I’m inundated with it,” Rider said. “It’s rewarding when the work you put in over the past couple years gets noticed. I’m certainly thankful for that.”

Building up numbers: One of the issues Rider mentioned is the decreased number of players on the Hanover roster in recent seasons. Before last season, Bishop explained that the team’s coaches and players were struggling to entice the school’s other athletes to join the team.

Rider had a plan for trying to recruit players to join the team, but it has been put on hold for now because the school is closed. Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down Hanover, Mowrer was pleased with the progress the team had made.

“I’m excited to see the growth that our team takes from last year to this upcoming season,” Mowrer said. “Before our schools closed, they had been learning some new plays and philosophies of this coaching staff, (the team had) been in the weight room three times per week getting some gym time and numbers seem to be growing.” 

False start: While Rider previously served as the Nighthawks’ defensive coordinator, he originally was an offensive-minded coach. The plan for the offseason was to adjust the team’s playbook to incorporate some plays under center, but that too has been delayed without access to the players. 

Rider added that between his experience with the program and Bishop’s offensive scheme, he isn’t concerned about losing time to prepare at this point. If needed, the team will run an offense largely similar to last season’s. He's excited to see the development of the younger players, especially freshman starters from last season.

After a 1-9 record in 2019, there are challenges for the Nighthawks, a Class 3-A program which finished next to last in Y-A Division III last season. Still, Rider is optimistic he's the right fit for the job. As recently as 2015, Hanover went 9-1 in the regular season, followed by a pair of 5-5 seasons and a 3-7 mark in 2018.

“We’re excited for what could be,” Rider said. “We have a lot of work to do, but at least in the early stages, it looks like we’re moving in the right direction.” 

Rider becomes the fourth new York-Adams League coach hired in the offseason, joining John Livelsberger at Bermudian Springs, Brett Smyers at Biglerville and Gerry Yonchiuk at Central York. 

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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