WELLSVILLE - After coaching football at Beaver Local for more than a decade, Rich Wright took a break last year from the sport he loves.
However, one season was long enough.
The veteran coach was unanimously hired, 5-0, on Monday by the Wellsville Board of Education, signing a three-year contract to lead the Tigers' football program.
"What drew me to Wellsville was the tradition of the town and the pride they have," Wright said. "I grew up in East Liverpool. (Wellsville was) 9-1 my senior year and I've always had friends there. I followed them ever since then. I wanted to coach again, and with two kids and a new house in Calcutta, there was only a few places I would've went. This was the perfect fit."
During 14 seasons at Beaver Local, Wright compiled an impressive 83-66 record that included six appearances in the playoffs. Wright, anxious to rejoin the coaching ranks, will now attempt to begin a new legacy at Wellsville.
"I missed coaching a lot," he said. "I put on a few pounds unfortunately and didn't go to a lot of games. I missed the games on Fridays and the process of getting ready for the games. I just missed the opportunity to compete."
Wright replaces Dave Skinner who led the Tigers to a 32-29 record throughout the past six seasons, including the 2011 playoff season - the program's first postseason in a decade. Prior to Skinner, Wellsville had suffered through five straight losing seasons (14-33).
Wright and Skinner were among 15 applicants for the position.
"I'm sure you won't disappoint us," board president Karen Dash said at Monday's meeting. "We've heard good things about you."
Wright joins a Wellsville team that plays in the always competitive lower tier of the Inter-Tri County League with the likes of Western Reserve and McDonald.
"I'm walking into this job with high expectations," Wright said. "It's a little different than the situation I walked into at Beaver Local 15 years ago. They expect a league title and playoffs and so do I.
"The way I look at it, there are four teams that could make the playoffs from the lower tier next year. We open the season with three rivals in Toronto, Southern and Lisbon. Then, it's into league play which is going to be very competitive. I really think the league is going to have an up year."
The opposition won't be the only challenge for Wellsville's newest coach.
Wright is expected to increase the level of participation for a Tigers' squad that suited up only 24 players in grades 9-12 last season.
"I'll be working with smaller numbers than I've had in the past," he said. "That just means I'll have to coach more and be able to make more adjustments. Getting kids out is going to be a challenge. I believe in playing a lot of players. There aren't many guys who can play every snap on both sides of the ball. With varsity games, junior varsity games, freshmen games, we're going to give kids the opportunity to get on the field."
According to Wright, his first priority is putting together a coaching staff and beginning to develop relationships with those involved with the Wellsville football program.
"My goals right away are to put the best staff together that I can," he said. "I want to find some people who know the kids and who can get the kids involved in the program. I want to get them into the weight room to get stronger and build a bond together.
"I'll be working at building relationships with my staff, the community, the administration, the players and the parents. I want me and my staff to have a presence in the town. We're going to get out and see some basketball games and some wrestling matches. We want to get into the school and be a part of the community."
After spending all 14 years of his football coaching career with one school, Wright said he believes Wellsville could be his new long-term home.
"I think putting together a 3-year contract shows the commitment that both sides have," he said. "For them to give me that, it allows me the opportunity to put my stamp on the program. Three years is a good start."
Wright inherits a strong incoming senior class that hasn't always lived up to expectations. The Tigers have finished below .500 in each of the past three seasons.
Marcus Moxley will be Wellsville's biggest returning home run hitter. Moxley will enter his senior season with 2,193 yards and 17 touchdowns combined, rushing and receiving. Brendon Carr, another would-be senior, will begin play with 1,039 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing for his career. Junior-to-be Zack Mellott has 599 yards and three touchdowns combined rushing and receiving already, while kicker Cavan Lemasters, also a senior next season, will enter his final year 61-of-72 on extra points with four field goals.
"I'm going to ask them not to judge me on anything in the past and I'm not going to judge them," Wright said. "It's going to be a clean slate for all of us. It's about what we do from here on out. It's about 2013 and beyond. I know they have talent and I'm going to have high demands on them, but I'm not going to live in my past and I don't want them to live in theirs either."
Superintendent Richard Bereschik said during his time with Beaver Local Schools, he had been on the committee that selected Wright as head football coach at BLHS.
"It was a good decision then, and it's a very good decision for Wellsville now," he said.
NOTES: Wright said he doesn't believe it will be too strange wearing black and orange as opposed to the red and white he was used to at Beaver Local. "I'm from East Liverpool and went from blue to red," he said. "I can handle any color. I want to win so bad, it doesn't matter what color I'm wearing." Bereschik said during the meeting, "We've sold more orange and black in the last 24 hours than can be imagined." ... Of Bereschik, Wright said "It's nice to have a guy in charge that you've worked with before."
(Staff writer Richard Sberna contributed to this story.)