Matthew Kidwell was perfectly happy serving as the New Albany High School football team’s defensive coordinator, but he acknowledged he’d be lying if he said he never wanted to be a head coach.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to be since I was a kid,” Kidwell said.
The perfect chance presented itself when Pat Samanich resigned April 30 to become the school’s new dean of students, and luckily for Kidwell, administration felt the same way.
Kidwell, who has coached in the program since 2004, was named the Eagles’ new head coach May 9.
“There couldn’t be a better situation for me,” Kidwell said. “I know the parents, the school and the culture. I live a mile from the school. For me, it was a no-brainer to go for this job. We have a great tradition here and I’m excited to carry it on and add my own personal stamp. I want to keep as much continuity as possible. I think that’s tremendously important.”
Samanich was 39-20 overall and 24-7 in the OCC-Capital Division in five seasons with the Eagles, including three Division II regional runner-up finishes and league championships each of the past two years.
New Albany went 8-5 overall and 4-1 in the league last season, losing to Massillon Washington 24-6 in the Region 7 final.
“We have a number of guys on the coaching staff who could be head coaches here or anywhere else right now,” athletics director Richie Wildenhaus said. “(Kidwell) is obviously a dynamic coach. He embodies everything great about our football program. He’s done more than just be successful on the field. He’s a great guy off the field who people gravitate to and he’s the candidate who made the most sense.
“I felt very strongly about staying in our program to get our next head coach because I am that confident in the culture that has been built. I’m excited to see what he can do to put his stamp on the program and take us to the next level.”
Kidwell, a 1992 graduate of Gahanna who played college football at Muskingum and was the Muskies’ starting quarterback for three years, coached at Bexley and Hilliard Darby before coming to New Albany in 2004. He was an assistant head coach during Mark Mueller’s tenure from 2005-12 and shifted to defensive coordinator when Samanich took over in 2013.
Kidwell is an intervention specialist at the high school and also works with the special education program.
“One of the first things he told us is, ‘You thought you went hard last year. You’re going to go even harder (this fall),’” lineman Will King said. “I love playing for (Kidwell). He always challenges us and pushes us to be our best. There might be a few minor tweaks; we might have a faster tempo, but I’m glad he is still going to be here. We’re going to play just as hard for him as we did for (Samanich).”
Kidwell, known to most in and around the program — and even his own family — as “Bubba,” said he will continue to call defensive plays. The entire coaching staff will remain, including offensive coordinator Brian Finn, special teams coach Scott Elwer and Tim Kidwell, the coach’s father, who helps oversee the offensive line.
New Albany begins next season Aug. 24 at Westerville South.