When it comes to McCaskey’s storied football program, it’s been a revolving door of sorts in the head-coaching department lately.
Since Scott Feldman departed after the 2008 season — with a pair of Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One championships and four District Three playoff trips on his ledger — the School District of Lancaster has ripped through three coaches in the last 10 years.
David Given stepped in for Feldman in 2009, but he was only in Lancaster for one season. Then Rob Monzon took the reins for six years, and he was the last coach to guide McCaskey to the D3 playoffs, in 2012. Former Garden Spot skipper Eric Spencer spent the last three years on the Tornado’s sideline, but he resigned his post last November.
That’s a lot of different voices and a lot of different schemes and ideologies in a relatively short period of time, from the varsity team, all the way down the feeder pipeline. Tack on six straight losing seasons, and it’s been kind of a drag in Tornado Alley as of late.
But is that about to change?
Say hello to Sam London, McCaskey’s new skipper. He was hired back in February away from Lincoln University, where he served as a running backs coach and the program’s recruiting coordinator.
London’s story is a fascinating one. He’s a 2003 Coatesville grad. He played football for the Red Raiders, and speaks fondly about his on-field battles against former McCaskey standouts like Perry Patterson, Danny Melendez, Niquan Lee and Brandon Way during his prep days.
“We got tired of losing to those guys,” London said, chuckling.
A neck injury cost London a shot to play at West Virginia-Wesleyan. But he ended up at Millersville — hence the local tie-in — and he played for the Marauders and earned college degrees from Southern New Hampshire University and California (Pa.) before embarking on a decorated military career in the Air Force.
London served in Iraq, and he received the Air Force Achievement Award and Iraqi Campaign Medal for his service. While stationed in California, he began his coaching career as an assistant at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento.
When London and his wife, Stephanie, started a family, they moved back to Pennsylvania, where he had coaching stints at Cheyney University and Lincoln before landing at McCaskey.
And here he is. This will be London’s first head-coaching gig. And he’s jumped in headfirst, bringing a wealth of football knowledge, plus a sprinkle of his military background, to the Tornado’s program.
If there is a local program that could use a shot of adrenaline, plus a little tough love from a motivational guy who was in the trenches, it is McCaskey. And with all of the turnover in the program over the last 10 years, London would love to plant some roots and stick around for a while.
“Very, very impactful person,” McCaskey rising senior two-way lineman Thyago Alvarez said. “He’s definitely brought a lot more discipline, and that’s been a challenge. Slowly but steadily, we’re all buying into what he wants to do. We trust him. He knows what it takes to build a winning program having come from the college level. He’s also a character builder. He’s turning us into men.”
Alvarez said team activities have had a college feel under London. One of London’s goals is to have every senior on the roster be accepted at a college. That comes from his recruiting coordinator background. In fact, he’s already had his rising seniors register with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
“As soon as he stepped in the building back in February,” Alvarez said, “he told us that he’s here because he wants to be here. He wants to coach us. And he has bigger goals than just football.”
Life lessons. College prep. Holding teammates accountable. Being good citizens. And yes, improving on the gridiron.
“They are starting to realize who they are, and what kind of talent they have,” London said. “If we can start to line some things up, we’re going to be competitive. If you ask the other coaches around the league, I think they’ll all tell you that McCaskey always has the talent.”
In London, folks in the Tornado’s program are hoping they’ve found the coach who will guide McCaskey back to prominence. Back to its winning ways. Back to victory lane. Back to the playoffs. And, perhaps most importantly, be a positive influence, life-changer and role model for the young men playing under him.
“He’s trying to build back that pride factor,” Alvarez said. “He wants us to have pride in everything we do. When we break huddles, we break to 'McCaskey Pride!'. He wants us to let people know that we’re from McCaskey, and this is what we do.”