Tonawanda High School will have a new football coach as the board of education appointed Joe Kelly to the job previously held by Rob Gross, according to athletic director Charlie Jufer.
This is the first time Kelly will be head coach of a varsity program, but he has plenty of experience on the sidelines. Kelly served as defensive coordinator for a Burgard team that lost in the Section VI Class B final last season. Prior to that, he worked three seasons at North Tonawanda in various capacities, including head coach for modified for one season and another season as junior varsity head coach. He also served as defensive coordinator at East for five seasons under coach Starling Bryant.
"It's going to be a great challenge," Kelly said. "There's a lot of work we have to put in, a lot of hours as players and coaches. There hasn't been a lot of success (at Tonawanda) in a while and it's my job to turn it around."
Gross, a Tonawanda alumnus, coached the Warriors for six seasons, including a 3-6 finish last fall. Tonawanda made the playoffs in 2013 while in Class C but played most of the time in Class B, a classification where Kelly admits is "a murders' row of really good football" teams. Gross finished 15-40 with the Warriors.
Still, he's beloved by players.
"I know he cared about the kids and the program," said Kelly who has coached against Tonawanda the past four seasons. "Knowing how much the kids cared about him, I'm in an extremely tough position (being the one to replace him) ... but I believe we can do a lot of good things this year."