PHOENIXVILLE - The challenge of working at a school with a rich sports tradition as well as larger numbers has lured Evan Breisblatt to assume the head coaching job of the Phoenixville football team.
Breisblatt, who spent the previous three seasons as the head coach at Pequea Valley High School in Lancaster County, has also previously served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at several Chester County schools.
The Coatesville resident will also be a special education teacher in the Phoenixville Area School District.
Breisblatt was expected to be approved at the Feb. 20 meeting of the Phoenixville Area School Board. He replaces Bill Furlong, who resigned after guiding the Phantoms for the past 11 years.
Breisblatt directed a Pequea Valley team to 4-6, 3-7 and 3-7 records the last three years for a 10-20 mark. However, the Braves, a Class AA team in District 3, did show marked improvement while competing in the rough Lancaster-Lebanon League as a tiny school in Kinzers, Pa., which is located 15 miles west of Coatesville in rural Lancaster County.
“A lot of factors went into it,” Breisblatt said in a telephone interview Feb. 17. “First, Phoenixville has a rich tradition in football and all sports. It is a town that thrives on all of its sports teams.
“I grew up in West Chester and Unionville. District 1 means a lot to me and my coaching career will be back home. Chester County lured me. I am a Chester County guy, and this is where I want to be.”
Pequea Valley is a Class AA school with approximately 630 kids. Phoenixville is a Class AAA school with between 1,050-1,100 kids.
“It’s exciting to me,” said Breisblatt. “It is difficult to field a football team with 25 guys. You need to get 25 percent of the boys. If we get 25 percent back in Phoenixville, we will be in good shape.”
Phoenixville finished with a 4-5 record in the tough Pioneer Athletic Conference last year (4-9 overall) and fell to PAC-10 champion Pottsgrove in the opening round of the District 1-AAA playoffs. The Phantoms reached the district playoffs six times in nine years under Furlong, and last year they did so while playing with thin numbers and an extremely young team that was beset with injuries and other factors that led to a losing season.
“We have to start luring in some athletes who haven’t played football to stick around,” said Breisblatt. “We have to make it as fun as possible.”
The Phantoms played as many as six or seven sophomores in regular roles last fall, and that playing experience at the varsity level should benefit the squad in 2014 and 2015.
“I was watching film, and there were six or seven sophomores on the team coming back so the cupboard is not bare, certainly not,” said Breisblatt.
At the same time, Breisblatt knows the Phantoms will have their work cut out against PAC-10 foes like Pottsgrove with coach Rick Pennypacker, Spring-Ford with coach Chad Brubaker and Perkiomen Valley with coach Scott Reed.
Breisblatt plans to utilize a no-huddle offense. The Phantoms will run the ball out of a spread formation that current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made popular during his years at the University of Oregon. How much Phoenixville passes will depend on the quarterback situation, he said. He was able to field a balanced attack during his stay at Pequea Valley.
Defensively, he would also like to run a blend of pressure and a combination of coverages with his linebackers and secondary personnel.
“We will attack people, but we will also mix it up,” said Breisblatt. “We will have a mixture of coverages and try to create chaos and confusion.”
Breisblatt played quarterback and linebacker at Unionville High School and then was a linebacker at West Chester University. He found his niche on defense as a coordinator at Coatesville in 2008, when the Ches-Mont League Red Raiders were ranked number one in the area. He also served as defensive coordinator at Kennett. He spent time as an assistant at Coatesville and Unionville and then back at Coatesville before landing the position at Pequea Valley.
“I follow it all with the Ches-Mont and PAC-10,” he said. “I am very familiar with the teamzs. It’s an extremely tough league. But Phoenixville has done well and we will try to do the same job and maybe take it toward a nine- or 10-win team that makes the playoffs.
“Phoenixville has had a lot of success. They won a lot of games under coach Furlong, and I will try to get it to the next level, if I can.”
As far as assistant coaches, Breisblatt is bringing with him John Snyder from Pequea Valley to serve as offensive coordinator.
Former Phantom and West Chester University star Travis Ford-Bey will remain on the Phoenixville staff as will former volunteer Joe Davis. Anthony Stavenski will remain with the program at the middle school level.
Breisblatt also named Davis Chubb to be his offensive and defensive line coach, and certified trainer Neil Herman to fill another staff slot. He is in the process of rounding out the rest of his staff.
Breisblatt and his wife have four children.
Breisblatt is the latest name added to a long list of Phoenixville head football coaches. Since the early 1970s, the Phantoms have had at the helm the late Paul Tomko, Marty Moore, Andy Toto, Bill Shirk, Hank Coyne, Dan Algeo, Larry Cinciripino and Furlong.
Follow Barry Sankey on Twitter at BarryBSankey1.