Bill McDonald spoke with his Elizabethtown Area High School football players one last time. In the high school auditorium at the end of the school on Friday, Dec. 15, McDonald informed them he was resigning as the Bears’ head coach after only three years at the helm.
“The reason I am stepping down has nothing to do with the effort you all put forth when I was here,” McDonald said. “It’s not anything you had done.”
The school sent an email Monday, Dec. 18, advertising for the head coaching vacancy, and McDonald confirmed the move when reached by phone.
“There’s a few reasons involved,” McDonald said when asked why he is stepping away. “First of all, over the last three years when you take over a program like I did at Elizabethtown, the state of affairs they were in when I got there, you understand there’s some changes needed to be made.”
Elizabethtown was a combined 2-28 in the previous three seasons when McDonald was hired in 2015. A former Lancaster Catholic quarterback in his heyday, McDonald went on to become the Crusaders’ offensive coordinator and QB coach for Lancaster Catholic’s PIAA title teams in 2009 and 2011.
Elizabethtown was McDonald’s first head coaching position of his coaching career. The Bears went 2-8 in 2015 in McDonald’s first year steering the ship before back-to-back 6-4 seasons the last two years, holding their own amongst the vaunted Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two ranks that includes football powers Manheim Central and Cocalico.
“I thought we made a pretty good dent at things that needed to be rectified over the last three years,” McDonald said. “Some of the things we got done and some of the things we couldn’t get done … I appreciate the three years they gave me at Elizabethtown.”
McDonald, 56, is self-employed and runs his own business.
“I was the only coach with a flexible schedule,” McDonald said. “Over time, anything that had to be accomplished at the school, they’d take advantage of myself … it becomes a lot and builds up over time. You realize, after time, you can’t keep going on that way. The time-commitment there … there are things there that still need to be rectified. Things we agreed on and disagreed on as far as getting things done.”
But McDonald made a point to note the accomplishments of his players.
“The program had two 0-10 seasons in the previous three seasons before I got there. Being able to have two back-to-back winnings seasons in my last two years there … and the three years there we were competitive and probably 95 percent of the games we were in,” he said. “The two goals that I had when I got there was to re-establish pride back in the football program and to win. I think we did that.”
Elizabethtown graduates 15 players from its 2017 squad, seven of whom were L-L all-stars or honorable mentions. But quarterback Cole Patrick and all-star linebackers Devyn Clair and Paul Beiler will return amongst a roster of 44 football players across three grade levels – not including next year’s freshman class.
“The one thing over the last three or four days I’ve been thinking about is that I feel bad for some of those kids that were looking forward to me coaching them in their final season,” McDonald said. “The thing is there’s a good group of seniors coming back and underclassmen coming up through, so the cupboard’s not bare. It’s gonna be a great opportunity for the right guy.”