Fenwick taps veteran coach to take over football program

Mark Mueller previously was head coach at New Albany and CHCA

Mark Mueller took a year off from coaching football to watch his son complete his senior season at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Not surprisingly, he got the “itch” to coach again and an opportunity presented itself that he said he couldn’t pass up.

Fenwick High School announced Mueller, 50, of Mason, as its new football coach last week.

Mueller, a 25-year coaching veteran who most recently served on staff at CHCA from 2015-2019, replaces George Moore after one year. According to Fenwick athletic director Michael Coleman, Moore and the Falcons mutually parted ways following a 1-7 (0-5 Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Division) season.

The Falcons now move forward with Mueller, who has met with the team and begun assembling his staff.

“I wasn’t really looking to get back into coaching, but it was something where once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get away from it,” said Mueller, who Coleman also helped hire at CHCA in 2016 when Coleman was the assistant athletic director there. “It just would have to be the right place. After looking at Fenwick and knowing Mike and what he stands for, it made sense. I think it will be a great place to work, and so far everything has proved me right. The kids are great, and I think potentially they could get back where they used to be.”

Fenwick had not experienced a losing record since 2008, but the past few years have proven challenging for the program amid unexpected coaching changes. Mueller, an assistant general agent at Integrated Financial Network, is the team’s fifth head coach in six years.

Over his last two head coaching stints at CHCA and New Albany, Mueller was 97-29 in 11 seasons. He spent eight years at New Albany, where he led the team to two state semifinal appearances and was a three-time conference coach of the year. The Finneytown High grad began his stint at CHCA in 2015 as a volunteer assistant before taking over as head coach the following year. After going 28-5 in three years, he stepped down in 2019 into the defensive coordinator role amid some time restraints with his job at the time.

“He was an attractive candidate,” Coleman said. “He’s got a good history, great track record, great presence. He wants to build men, not just football players. He’s got great connection in communication. It’s a win-win for us after we vetted everything out and talked through everything.”

Coleman said he was grateful to Moore for his dedication and commitment over the better part of the last decade that he served on staff as an assistant and coach. While he’s hoping Mueller will be able to stick around for a while, Coleman also noted the circumstances of some of the past departures were unique and not planned.

Moore had replaced two-year coach Dan Haverkamp after he departed to follow his wife’s career path to Texas. Prior to that, John Aregood served as an interim coach for a year after Joe Snively unexpectedly resigned in May 2017.

Mueller is aware of what Coleman calls the “big elephant in the room with the turnover” and said his goal is to bring more consistency.

“I wasn’t really looking for a job so I’m not looking for the next job, I’m not looking to climb the ladder,” he said. “I’ve had a decent career. My goal is to give consistency, especially to the seniors because that’s something they haven’t had with job changes. Something I pride myself on is building a staff that can carry the torch, so to speak, … so once things get going, if God forbid something happens to me, they can keep it going. I like to leave a place better than when I found it.”

New Albany, for example, has hired his former assistants there as its next two head coaches since he left.

In terms of his new staff at Fenwick, Mueller already has hired some experienced assistants. Dave Simon, a McNicholas graduate who worked with him at CHCA, will serve as associate head coach and lead the defense. Former Waynesville head coach Brandon Philpot will serve as an assistant on the offensive side and is bringing three of his former assistants as well. At least four of the former staff members will remain on board.

Mueller describes himself as “a player’s coach” who wants to help the players use football to develop good attributes that will serve them well in their futures outside of the game. He said Philpot will install a spread-like offense with a little more running involved and some option football. Simon utilizes a 3-4 defense focused on getting to the ball and being fundamentally sound.

After watching film of the Falcons, Mueller believes it will be a good fit for everyone.

“I remember a week ago texting back and forth (with the assistants) watching film, and there were two things that stood out to all of us,” said Mueller, who is married with three kids, including two who will be in college next year and a 15-year-old daughter at Mason. “One thing I saw was effort. Even though they were down in games, they still showed effort. And then the second thing, I remember when we played Fenwick at CHCA, you always knew they would play tough. They’ve got effort and toughness, so if we can go in and tweak a few things, add in a few skills, we will be right where we want to be.”

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