Dave Murello wants to win games, but it’s not an end-all for Ballston Spa’s new varsity football coach.
“A lot of these kids aren’t going to play college football,” said the Scotties’ former special teams coordinator. “When these 17 and 18-year-olds leave, I want them to be able to say ‘I’m a better person because I played football at Ballston Spa.’ ”
Sounds a lot like John Bowen, the coach Murello has taken over for after serving on his varsity staff the last four years.
“John and myself have talked about it a lot. It’s a philosophy we’ve taken. He told me one time that if the first line in his obituary reads, ‘He was a good coach,’ then he did something wrong,” said Murello. “Like John, I want the kids to learn and have good values and good character.
“There are things to do to be a great football player and an even better person, and they’re based on choices, partnerships, how you handle yourself and treat other people.”
Murello pointed toward Schenectady’s Jim Kramer when discussing the positive effect a coach can have on his players.
“I was very impressed with Kramer’s guys at the [Section II] all-star game. The way they held themselves,” Murello said. “Everything was ‘yes sir, no sir.’ They were easy to work with. They were just good kids. I look back and say, ‘wow.’ Coach Kramer has it going in the right direction over there, and I want to have that kind of impact.”
While sending his own messages, Murello will also be doing what he can to get Ballston Spa back on a consistent winning track. The Scotties went 2-7 last season, but put together winning records in each of the six before with several deep playoff runs.
“We lost four games in a total of one minute and 50 seconds,” Murello said of the setbacks against Bethlehem (19-18), Schenectady
(34-27), Guilderland (21-20) and Christian Brothers Academy (12-6). “We were right there. If we do a couple of things a little better, that’s a different record. That was a good character builder, and we’ll use that as we move forward.”
Ballston Spa will attempt to move the football with the option-based flexbone offense that Bowen installed in 2006.
“We’ll stay with the flex. It fits the type of kid we have at Ballston Spa,” Murello said. “We have tough, fast kids. We don’t have big high school linemen, but they can run. We have a lot of good athletes we feel can put defenses in an awkward position.”
Ballston Spa’s defense surrendered over 20 points six times last season, including 42 in a Class AA quarterfinal loss to Shaker and 32 in a crossover loss to Scotia-Glenville that followed.
“Our big thing is to simplify so the kids can understand it, play fast and play at a high level,” said Murello, who played linebacker and defensive end at Shenendehowa and defensive end at Alfred University. “As a coach, you’re always thinking, ‘How much do we give them. What’s too much?’ ”
Defense was Murello’s gig as a student assistant at Alfred in 2003, as an assistant at Hudson Valley Community College in 2004 and as a graduate assistant at McDaniel College in Maryland in 2005 and 2006. He served as Ballston Spa’s freshman coach in 2007 and 2008.
“It’s different now. I’ve got to have a hand in offense, defense, special teams, strength and conditioning. I want to put my fingerprint on everything, but not take everything by the throat,” said the 32-year-old Ballston Spa art teacher. “John did a great job with that. He let his assistants coach, and I’m going to do that same thing.”
Murello is the second member of Shenendehowa’s 1999 graduating class to take on a Section II head coaching position, following Jared Bongo, who has been Gloversville’s top man since 2010. Murello and Bongo helped Shenendehowa go undefeated in the Suburban Council in both 1997 and 1998.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity,” said Murello.
Bowen stepped down in December after guiding his 11 Ballston Spa teams to 60-40 overall record, three league titles and 10 playoff appearances. Bowen accepted the Schuylerville coaching job last month. He resides in Schuylerville, and has three young sons in that school district.