Retirement was never a thought that crossed Phil Annarella’s mind.
“What am I going to do?” Annarella once said when asked if retirement was in the near future. “I don’t play golf.”
Coaching football was Annarella’s fairway, and he rarely found the rough in more than four decades striding sidelines from East Liverpool to his final stop at Austintown Fitch. His love of coaching and developing young men could only be stopped by his sudden death at age 70 last week.
A career record of 246-146-3 is impressive at first glance, but you have to look beneath the surface to see Annarella’s true value as one of the area’s legendary coaches. The numbers were important no doubt, but Annarella seemed most at ease when he could sit and talk about one of the players he coached.
His deep voice and direct manner in dealing with people had a fatherly way of impacting young men. In some cases, he was a paternal figure that was needed at critical times in their adolescence.
“Just wait and see what his ex-players say about him,” former coach Bill Bohren said. “All the kids he has done things for. Phil didn’t bend. He did exactly what was right for the kid. Maybe mom and dad didn’t like it. He did what the kid needed, and the kid became a much better person because Phil didn’t bend.”
Darrin Hall, a recent running back at Fitch and the University of Pittsburgh, was still coming to grips with the stunning news Saturday. Hall had a tryout at the Cleveland Browns rookie camp in late April, and no one was pulling for him more than Annarella, who spoke like a proud dad of Hall’s collegiate success.
The All-American Conference is an OHSAA-sanctioned league, created in 2008 as the result of the merger between the Trumbull Athletic Conference and the Metro Athletic Conference in Ohio. The league has 21 different member schools, with 17 sports offered throughout fall, winter and spring sports seasons.
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