More than 40 Gloucester High School football players and parents showed up at Tuesday’s meeting of the Gloucester County School Board to express their preference for candidates other than the board’s choice to fill the head varsity football coaching vacancy at GHS.
Former GHS head coach Sonny Merchant resigned last October after parents complained that he was verbally abusive toward his players. Assistant coach Ken Hardcastle was appointed to fill the midseason vacancy. During its Feb. 29 meeting, the board appointed Brandon Kelley of Roanoke as the head varsity coach, effective in July.
Kelley, a 2007 graduate of Bridgewater College, has not held a head coaching position at the varsity level but did turn around a 5-35 Patrick Henry High School junior varsity team. The team improved to a 17-2-1 record in two years under Kelley, according to his resume.
Most of the parents and students at Tuesday’s meeting said they favored former GHS jayvee coach Ryan Wenner for the head coaching position. Under this leadership, the junior Dukes also experienced a turnaround, going 6-3 and 7-2 in recent seasons.
The parents said they were told that Wenner’s candidacy was marred by his lack of a teaching certificate, and that some involved in the process felt he was not mature enough for the job. One parent suggested Wenner could have been provisionally certified, and another said the players could help Wenner mature.