Friday June 22, 2012

Wahconah football is getting another serving of Soup.

Gary Campbell Jr., who led Wahconah Regional for 10 seasons, is returning to Dalton and will pick up where he left off in 2005. Campbell led Berwick (Pa.) High School, where he replaced Hall of Fame football coach George Curry.

"I just feel like it’s the right thing at the right time for my family and for everyone involved," Campbell said when reached at his Berwick home. "I’m excited about it to say the least.

"I’m excited about what the possibilities can be."

Campbell replaces Steve Stengl, who stepped down after two seasons because of job responsibilities as a quality control supervisor at Interprint in Pittsfield.

"You couldn’t ask for a better person to come back," said Stengl. "I coached under him for years. You learn so much from the guy."

Campbell will return to Wahconah this fall as the football coach, the co-athletic director with Ken Pease and as a teacher in the health and physical education department. Campbell was a health and phys ed teacher at Berwick.

"The opportunity in Massa chusetts, that’s where his family is from," Berwick athletic director Tim Honeywell told the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre. "He needs to do what’s best for his wife and kids. I think everyone can understand that."

Campbell did admit that having gone through spring football practice and with the start of training camp less than two months away, it was not the best time to leave.


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Having Curry step in is a plus, and most of Berwick was supportive of the move.

"It’s not like me going to [rival] Hazelton, or going to a school in Harrisburg, Pitts burgh or Philly," said Camp bell. "This is going back home. People understand that I have a chance to have influence on athletics as a whole in my hometown."

In 10 years at Wahconah, Campbell led his team to six appearances in the Western/Central Massa chu setts Super Bowls. The Warriors won two Super Bowls, beating Southbridge 30-12 in 1998 and Worcester Burncoat 28-6 in 2003. Camp bell was the only Berkshire County football coach to lead a team to three consecutive Super Bowls in the Western/Central era. The War riors lost back-to-back games to Northbridge before beating Burncoat.

Campbell was 85-23-1 in 10 years at Wahconah.

"It’s great to have him back," St. Joseph’s coach Gary Bianchi said. "It’s going to be a great opening weekend."

The Warriors will play the Crusaders in the first weekend of the season. The game is currently scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8.

According to the once and future Wahconah football coach, discussions with Wahconah principal James Conro began in the spring. Campbell said in May, it didn’t look like the puzzle would fit together. After that, Campbell said Conro, superintendent William Cameron and the School Committee worked together to develop a plan.

"We were excited about the plan they were going in academically and I started conversation that ‘Hey, I might be a good fit,’ " Campbell said. "I applied and I was excited about it."

Campbell said he’ll be in Berkshire County next week. The first step is to meet with Wahconah boosters, parents, school officials and the current coaches from the high school to the youth levels. He’s scheduled a meeting with returning and prospective players Monday at 9 a.m. in the high school cafeteria.

As to a coaching staff, Campbell said he isn’t certain who will be working with them. He said he has some ideas but did not want to discuss them yet until he has final yes-or-no decisions on assistants.

In what could be considered a circle of life move, Campbell is being replaced at Berwick by Curry. Curry had stepped down after the 2005 season to take the head coaching job at Wyoming Valley West High School. Campbell had replaced a coach who went 387-83-5, won six Pennsylvania state football titles and three mythical national championships.

Campbell was 46-25 in his tenure from 2006-2011. He is fourth on the school’s all-time win list. At Berwick, Campbell led the Dawgs to four league championship games, won a District 2 championship and won one Eastern Conference title -- a tournament for teams not involved in the state playoffs.

"We’re the favorites in District 2," Campbell said of his Dawgs. "Certainly, I think they’ll do well. I’m proud of what I handed over and the community knows that too."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.