Brad Burchfield has built Hartley into a perennial power, winning three state titles, but he believes he serves a higher purpose.

It's approaching 90 degrees on a late afternoon in mid-July, but Brad Burchfield wouldn't think of wearing anything but a long-sleeved shirt even though he's been on the football field for most of the last eight hours.

White, with one uppercase word -- tradition -- in the red and blue school colors of Hartley High School on its front, today's shirt is one of several similarly styled versions.

Tomorrow maybe he'll wear the blue one that features the outline of Ohio and a cross in the middle or the blue one with the phrase "historical resiliency" printed on it.

The coach of central Ohio's most successful program since he arrived there in 2008 knows exactly who he is and doesn't care much for change these days.

"Every coach has a look," Burchfield says. "I wear the same thing every day because it's just more comfortable."

In case anyone forgets that he's led the Hawks to back-to-back Division IV state titles and three over the last seven seasons, he also wears a whistle with the words "state champion" inscribed on it.

With a mix of hip hop, rap and classic rock playing in the background, the Hawks break down into stations at various spots on the field for the final hour of practice.

Burchfield leads a blocking drill, occasionally barking out phrases like "You've got to go harder," and often motioning with his hands to help describe the proper technique.

"Ready, set, hit," Burchfield says over and over again, with the last word coming in a higher-pitched voice as if he were a starting gun going off.

He knows how important teaching repetition is on a day like this considering middle school coaches from several east-side Catholic schools are among those in attendance.

They represent the lifeblood of his program, and the Hartley coaching staff already has spent much of the day with these men since this also was the first of a three-day morning youth camp.

Burchfield pulls the guest coaches aside whenever possible, an investment he expects to pay dividends down the road.

"In the late '80s and early '90s, Hartley wasn't doing as good as it is now," Burchfield says. "Now it's the crown jewel. It's the best."

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Burchfield fell in love with the "tradition and pageantry" of football in the early 1990s.

Every weekend in the fall is like a holiday in the Burchfield household, filled with college football on Saturdays and NFL games all day Sunday once the work of high school football is done.

"It all leads up to Friday during the week, so to be in the fire at least for that one little part is pretty cool," Burchfield says.

Burchfield's appetite for football is so strong that he owns copies of nearly every state championship game in every division from the last 20 years, and even has state title games on video from Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas.

He fine-tuned his craft as an assistant at Canal Winchester from 1998-2002, setting him up for his first head-coaching job at Centerburg. He held that job from 2003-07 and put together one of his under-the-radar greatest seasons, leading the Trojans to a Division V state semifinal in his third year there.

Centerburg had never even been to the postseason before Burchfield led it to a playoff win in 2003.

There might not be a Brad Burchfield the coach, though, without the influence of his father, Bob Burchfield.

Bob started the girls soccer program at Reynoldsburg in the late 1980s and "loved coaching," his son said.

Brad was off at college when Bob, dealing with spinal stenosis, delayed surgery in spring 1994 so he could complete the season as the Raiders' junior varsity softball coach.

One day that spring, however, Bob passed out, hit his head and jammed his neck.

He's now in a wheelchair.

"That brought our family incredibly close together," Brad says.

Sports have been a common theme throughout the years in his family, perhaps never more so than in the past two decades.

Hockey has become a later-in-life passion for Burchfield since he met Christy Markovich when they were students at Marietta College in 1994.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Markovich spread her love of the Penguins to the man she would marry in 2000. Since that time they've attended "every significant thing with the (Columbus) Blue Jackets ever."

Their twin 12-year-olds, Ben and Brooke, have the sports bug, too.

While Ben plays football and hockey, his father found himself back at Hartley on one of his team's off days in late July because his daughter was participating in a youth volleyball camp there.

Burchfield was a parishioner at St. Pius X growing up and lived close to the same east-side neighborhoods where he now spreads the gospel of Hartley football at the youth level.

One of many examples of this is Marquette Dixon, who rushed for 37 touchdowns and helped the Hawks beat Steubenville 24-21 in last year's state title game.

He grew up on the same street as his coach.

"This is our home," Burchfield says. "I've seen my community change. It wasn't perfect in the '80s and '90s, either, and it won't be perfect 20 years from now, but it's really, really good."

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During the final half hour of summer practice, Burchfield and his players walk inside the high school for what he calls "team building."

The chapel at Hartley stays dark as the players file in, with coaches filling in the back rows.

There's a heavy echo in the room, forcing those in attendance to concentrate fully on what is said or they'll miss it.

The topic of the day: "A champion's responsibility."

"How hard are you willing to play?" Burchfield asks.

Burchfield insists that he "wasn't real good, wasn't real fast" as a player.

He certainly was determined.

One of his first mentors was Bob Stuart, his coach at Reynoldsburg before graduating in 1993.

The 42-year-old Burchfield still remembers the awe he felt playing for the former coach of Archie Griffin at Eastmoor and a former assistant under Earle Bruce at Ohio State in the late 1980s.

"Honest to God, I thought coach Stuart was Bear Bryant," Burchfield says.

He gained a new measure of toughness under coach Gene Epley, whom he played for at Marietta. The Pioneers won only 45 games in 12 seasons under Epley but were 8-1 during one of Burchfield's seasons there.

Burchfield was one of only about a dozen to stick it out all four years from his college class. He turned that credibility into a student-teaching job and his first coaching position as an assistant in 1997 at Marietta High School.

"When you play Division III (college) football, you want to quit every single day," Burchfield says.

The fact that he didn't places him in good company among central Ohio coaches.

Burchfield's three state championships are more than any current coach from the area, although St. Charles' Bob Jacoby and Hilliard Davidson's Brian White both have won two state titles and share the Division III college pedigree.

Jacoby went to Otterbein and would coach DeSales to the 1997 and '98 Division III titles while White played at Capital and coached Davidson to Division I titles in 2006 and '09.

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For years, Burchfield has jogged in the mornings with Chris Sawyer, who lives close by and is Hartley's baseball coach as well as the football team's offensive coordinator.

Sawyer played for 2006 Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer and former Coldwater coach John Reed in the late 1980s when Reed was coaching at Lebanon and then assisted at Steubenville under longtime coach Reno Saccochia before meeting Burchfield when the two were assistants at Canal Winchester.

Needless to say, coaching is a popular topic between the two close friends.

"I've never really wanted to do anything else," Burchfield says.

Now 43, Sawyer appreciates that Burchfield "lets his coaches coach."

Winning may be at the forefront of what they're trying to accomplish, but relationships are at the heart.

"If you're just into it to win, you're kind of missing out," Sawyer says. "We're all in it together."

Burchfield understands the rest of the world's obsession with winning even if he doesn't necessarily share the same view.

A few years ago while he was sitting on the end of the bench at a grade-school basketball game, Burchfield was asked by a referee how many state championships he had won.

"We won in 2010 and have come close a couple times," Burchfield remembers saying.

The referee holds up four fingers.

"What's that mean?" Burchfield says.

"You should have had four," the referee responded.

"Are you serious?" Burchfield says. "You know we practice every day and we try as hard as we can, right?"

Sure, he's had some disappointments along the way, like with the 2012 team that featured future Notre Dame recruit Jacob Matuska at tight end and future Toledo standout Ja'Wuan Woodley at running back and linebacker.

That season, the Hawks won their first 13 games before running into one of the most explosive teams of all time. Clarksville Clinton-Massie pulled away for a 45-21 victory on the way to its first of back-to-back Division IV state titles.

There's also the 2011 Division IV, Region 14 final against Kenton, which featured Ohio's Mr. Football that season, future Missouri and Eastern Kentucky quarterback Maty Mauk.

The Hawks were undefeated heading into that game, too, but lost 30-28 when a two-point conversion pass by Jared Brandewie went off the fingertips of Matuska during the final two minutes.

Hartley will compete in Division III for the first time this fall but was in Division V as recently as 2013 and '14.

In 2013, the Hawks lost their only two games to Coldwater, including a 24-7 decision in the state final.

"That 2012 team with Matuska and Woodley that got beat by Clinton-Massie, many other coaches would have won the state championship with that team," Burchfield says. "Clinton-Massie was a great team, the highest-scoring team ever, but we were up 14-0 on them. Kenton was loaded. That was a great game and a great team. The year we lost to Coldwater in the state championship game, I certainly know other people could have coached that team and won the state championship and beaten Coldwater in that game."

What Burchfield always has tried to steer clear from are regrets.

Fake punts are almost a typical part of Hartley's scheme, and games like the one against Kenton featured numerous onside kicks.

That type of play-calling epitomizes the confidence Burchfield attempts to exude through his players.

"I don't want to go back and say I wish we'd have done this or that," Burchfield says.

Throughout the Hartley locker room are slogans such as "swing first" because, as Burchfield puts it, "You want to be going for it."

"If my coach isn't confident, why would I be confident?" says senior Alexander Blackmon, one of just four returning starters for the Hawks this season. "Your coach gives off a good energy and you pick that energy up and it shows on the field. He has his moments when he gets upset with us, but he's usually pretty calm and doesn't freak out, and that helps us out a lot."

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With players funneling to the parking lot after a summer practice, Burchfield points out that his vehicle is in the closest spot next to the locker room.

It hasn't always been that way.

"We joke because they would always want me to park in the teachers lot," Burchfield says. "They ended up putting 'reserved' on (the space), which is the funniest part."

Being so entrenched in his school never has felt better.

His children go to St. Catharine School, which is about two miles from Hartley and is one of the major feeder schools for his program's recent dominance.

Turning down an increasing number of people who want a piece of his success has become part of the territory.

When a slew of coaching jobs came open during this past offseason, Burchfield was approached more than once.

That prompted a not-so-serious request for advice from his dad, asking him what he would think if his son ever left the job that has become such a part of his family's life.

"Well, I'd be sad," Bob told his son. "I'd have to miss a lot of your games."

"Why?" Brad asked.

"I'd still be going to the Hartley games," Bob answered, eliciting a laugh from his son.

As someone who teaches some literature classes but spends most of his time outside of coaching working in both the admissions and athletics departments at Hartley, Burchfield often gets asked by families outside of the diocese about the possibility of transferring in.

"No, thank you" is usually the response.

"If a young man is not in for the holistic package of the school, it isn't going to work," Burchfield says.

What might seem like a limitation to some actually is the same reason he loves the school.

He's built a relationship with Dick Geyer, who coached the Hawks to the Division IV state championship in 1986 and led the program until Burchfield took over.

Geyer helps review game tape during the season and has a special seat at home games, similarly to the way Burchfield hopes it will be for him one day when his coaching tenure ends.

Being able to follow his conscience, run a program the way he sees fit and having the type of success he's enjoyed has almost felt too good to be true sometimes.

"I can't imagine ever wanting to leave," Burchfield says.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek