08-17-2017 Tri-City Area Sports

Manning hits the field as Hartford’s new football coach

A very recognizable face is taking over as head coach of the varsity football program at Hartford. Brad Manning, Middle School Literature teacher and track coach, was selected last year to helm the Indian squad.

Manning has been involved in and with football for years. He has nine years’ prior experience coaching the sport at different levels. But, perhaps the most influential component of his interest in the game is what was garnered as his father coached the sport at Hartford for 29 years.

“I have been involved in football all my life,” Manning said.

He is a student of the game. He studies film. He researches teams; labors over offensive spreads; seeks structure in team’s setups.

Manning played football in high school and says of himself, “Football consumes people.” And in Hartford, that is one of the truest testaments there is. Once his high school football playing days ended he watched as his father called plays, reviewed film, built relationships and guided young men.

For Manning, his playing days were over but he did spend time with a clipboard in hand as a coach. Then, he took a year off and spent Friday nights driving around the area and attending football games. He viewed each game with fresh eyes, seeking what worked for each team.

Football practice in Southwest Michigan opened Monday, August 7 and Manning returned to the field, this time as the head coach.

“The call to coach was much too strong when the opportunity in Hartford again came around,” said Manning.

So, he takes the reins of a team that has had a revolving door of sorts at the head coach position over the last four years.

The Indians, once a guaranteed pick for a playoff game, has only seen two in four years. Their last winning season was 2013-14 when the squad ended the year with a 6-4 season.

The Indians then went 4-5 and followed that with a 5-4 regular season and qualified for post-regular season play. The loss in that playoff game gave the Indians a 5-5 record in 2015-16.

Last year, the Indians only won two games. Hartford began the year with a four-game loss before securing their first win of the season.

Hartford would tally two more losses before scoring their second victory of the season. The team ended the year with a loss.

Expect a systematic approach back to the basics of football from Manning. “I enjoy football in the nerdiest sort of way,” he shared. “While I appreciate different schemes and play designs I recognize that no matter what a team does it all comes down to being able to do basic things well.

“Hartford will be a fundamentally sound football team, and we plan to emphasize blocking and tackling as the base for our program. We will stress the fundamentals from varsity all the way down through the younger programs.”

When practice opened on Monday, August 14, the team ran drills, and those drills included tackling… again and again… over and over.

“I think my experience in focusing on the little details and helping players do those things well is key for our overall program.”

Manning will not only rely on basics this year but his relationship with the players. As a teacher, he has watched them grow. He taught them in class. He knows the