KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. — Lance Frazier never thought he’d be a high school football coach, let alone the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania Football Coach of the Year, as awarded by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) back in late October. The one-time Dallas Cowboy defensive back and 12-year CFL veteran hadn’t considered coaching as his next career move after retirement. “[Coaching] wasn’t part of my original game plan,” Frazier explains. “I graduated college with a degree in physical education. During the NFL and CFL off-seasons, I worked in Delaware as a long-term substitute teacher, but my role was mostly discipline and dealing with student behavioral issues. I always wanted to be a mentor to kids, but coaching was an afterthought.”
While working with the special education students at Newark (DE) High School, Frazier was offered a position as a defensive coordinator for the school’s football team, a position he continuously turned down before eventually accepting two years later. He stayed for three years before being recruited by Kennett High School, located just 30 minutes away in Pennsylvania.
“At first, I wasn’t even considering it because of the distance. I thought it was much further away than it is,” admits Frazier. Luckily, he reconsidered. “During the interview, I immediately clicked with (Athletic Director Sean) Harvey and (Principal Dr. Jeremy) Hritz. We shared the same philosophy and outlook for the program. It just felt right. It felt like coming home.”
Coming into the program in 2018, Frazier knew he had a lot of work to do. Kennett football was on the losing end of school history. After an 86-year hiatus, the team returned to competition in 2005, but struggled to string together wins — in part because of a lack of consistency at the helm. Frazier is the team’s sixth head coach in 13 years. His first season was more of the same, posting a 4-7 record, but last year (in only Frazier’s second season), the tide changed. For the first time, the Blue Demons finished on top, earning the team’s first playoff berth in school history. Kennett ultimately lost in the semifinals of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs last year (with an 11-2 record), but the pride and excitement felt by the entire community was palpable.
“Yes, we built a winning team, but more importantly, we built a brotherhood. That’s what I’m most proud of,” Frazier says, humbly.
Fast forward to 2020 … Not wanting to lose the momentum from last year’s victorious season, the team moved to a virtual platform for spring and summer training in order to comply with state-mandated COVID precautions until the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) authorized in-person play earlier this fall.
It was during the second game of the season, back in mid-October, with less than a minute remaining in the game (a game Kennett won, 28-0), when Frazier learned of his award. With seconds on the clock, Frazier’s assistant coach called for a time out. Perplexed, he asked why, but was only told to “speak to (KHS Athletic Director Sean) Harvey.” Fearing that he had mistakenly broken COVID protocol in some way, putting others at risk, he was again met only with a single sentence reply. This time it was, “Go stand in the middle of the field.”
As the announcer spoke, Frazier was just as surprised as the crowd to learn that he was named Pennsylvania High School Football Coach of the Year. “I didn’t even know I was nominated!” the coach reveals. While he appreciates the recognition, Frazier is quick to point out that his success is a product of a collective effort. “The kids, their parents, my coaching staff, the administration, and especially my family — everyone played a role.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic abruptly ended the team’s already truncated, 5-game season this year, but Frazier is thankful for the time they did have. “The physical and mental health benefits of getting even just a few weeks together was immeasurable. This was bigger than football. This was about human connection — and family. At Kennett, we are a family.”
Frazier aims to build on the team’s success and grow the Kennett football program over the long haul. As the only Black head coach in the county and in the entire Ches-Mont League, Frazier preaches a culture of diversity and unity, hoping to attract more diverse students to the program — especially more youths from Kennett’s migrant community, who could benefit from the positive role models and mentorship that his coaching staff provides each player. “I didn’t grow up with a father, but I was lucky enough to have many strong male mentors in football and in life. I hope to be that same kind of father-figure for the kids here.”
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