Monday, May 20, 2024

Commentary: Keeping Szymoniak in charge of Onaway football would have been right move

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A few months ago, during basketball season, I was present inside Onaway’s gymnasium.  

While there, I ran into a fellow sports journalist, the Presque Isle Advance’s Pete Jakey. We shared the normal chats about football, baseball, a little sports gambling, and the teams we were covering.  

Then he made a comment about a coach we both cover.  

“Those kids will run through a wall for him,” Jakey said to me.  

I agreed, because I knew those M-68 kids would indeed smash through a wall for that coach.  

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That coach is Onaway’s Eddy Szymoniak, somebody who knows a thing or two about building a competitive and successful program.  

As I scrolled through countless social media posts discussing Szymoniak on Tuesday night, I was disappointed to see what it all related to. Szymoniak, who took on the difficult challenge of replacing a football coach who resigned prior to Onaway’s season opener last fall, won’t be the coach this upcoming season.

Look, I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of Onaway’s schoolboard, some of those who made these decisions, and what those meetings are like, because I don’t know. I just think there was a missed opportunity here.  

An opportunity to go with someone who knows how to work with kids. 

An opportunity to go with someone who motivates and develops kids in that respective sport.  

An opportunity for someone to make those kids better people than they were before he started coaching them.  

An opportunity for someone to make those kids winners both on and off the field.  

In addition, Szymoniak would’ve brought something the football program needs in a big way – continuity.  

While Szymoniak didn’t come into the Onaway job with a wealth of football coaching experience, he was surrounded by a staff that helped him along the way. And perhaps no coach I know adjusts on the fly better than Szymoniak, who didn’t fear taking on that task.  

If anything, the lack of continuity hurts the Onaway football players, who I’m sure are frustrated that they must start all over again. Of course, I also feel for many in the Onaway community who are just as frustrated that the program can’t seem to gain stability.  

Heck, maybe things will improve during the next coaching era, but I know so many of these athletes would love to continue playing for someone who cares about them and their potential to succeed just as much as anybody else.  

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“If you know Eddy, Eddy’s football practices are exactly how Eddy is as a person – it’s go, go, go, go and everybody’s fired up,” Onaway senior linebacker Justin Kramer-St. Germain told me days before last season’s opener, which began in Week 2 because the Cardinals had to forfeit Week 1 because of coaching uncertainty. “Anybody that knows Coach Eddy, they know he’s 100 miles an hour no matter what. 

“It’s truthfully because he loves us as players and as people, in general.” 

You want proof that kids will run through a wall for Szymoniak? It’s right there in the pudding from one of the best Onaway football players in recent years.  

I don’t know what will happen with Onaway football going forward, and for the sake of the program, I hope they do well. But going with Szymoniak would’ve been a no-brainer if you asked me.  

When Onaway finished up its football campaign last October, it came on a rainy Thursday night at home. The Cardinals were victorious over a solid Cedarville team that sealed a winning season.

It would’ve been fun to see what Szymoniak could’ve done in year two, but I guess we’ll never know now.  

Contact sports editor Jared Greenleaf at jgreenleaf@gannett.com. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter @sportsCDT 

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