Chautauqua Lake tabs Morton as new varsity football coach
The Chautauqua Lake Central School varsity football team has a new head coach.
Jamestown native Rich Morton will serve in that position this season as well as fill an open high school physical education teaching position. The approval was made at a board of education meeting Wednesday night.
“We’re getting a really good person,” said Joshua Liddell, Chautauqua Lake high school principal and director of athletics.
Morton arrives at Chautauqua Lake with football experience, both on the field and on the sidelines.
Married and the father of two young children, Morton is a 2000 graduate of Jamestown High School, where he played two years of varsity football for the Red Raiders under legendary coach Wally Huckno. Upon his graduation, Morton attended SUNY Brockport where he played four seasons for the Golden Eagles and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
Graduating from Brockport in 2004, Morton did his student teaching at Frewsburg Central School where he helped head coach Terry Gray with the varsity team before ultimately landing a teaching position in the Baltimore City Public Schools in 2005. In his five years there, Morton served as the school’s athletic director and coached basketball for two years.
In 2011, Morton returned to Jamestown where he did another round of student teaching and assisted on the Red Raiders’ freshmen team. The following year, he landed a job at St. Christopher’s, a private all-boys school in Richmond, Virginia, where he served as a junior varsity football coach, while also coaching basketball and golf.
Morton, 35, is replacing Adam Erickson, who guided the Thunderbirds to a 2-6 record last season. Erickson, a Falconer native, has accepted a teaching position at Williamsville South High School.
“It feels great and I’m excited to take on an opportunity like this,” Morton said. “I know what football means in Western New York.”
He also knows that he doesn’t have much time before the season opener, which is Sept. 1 at home against Southwestern.
“Ideally, I’d be coming in six months ago,” Morton said, “but I think we have a lot of talent. … I know these guys have a lot of potential.”
He also has some veteran assistants who he will be relying on, especially with fall practice scheduled to start Monday. They include Sam and Jerry Aults, Tom Walsh, Cody Jacobson, Ken Rowe and Jim Morrison.
“I think it’s an opportunity to really work together with guys on my staff,” Morton said. “They’ve been there and I’m coming in with not a whole lot of preparation time. That’s just an opportunity to really work as a team. I’m going to rely on the coaches. We don’t want to make big changes.”
Even though the Thunderbirds are just weeks away from their first game, Liddell is confident that the search committee made the right choice, both on and off the field.
“I called (JHS coach Tom Langworthy and JHS athletic director Ben Drake) and they both said the same name, and it was Rich Morton,” Liddell said. ” … He kind of stood out with his character piece for the coaching position. He’s really grounded with very good values.”
Added Morton: “Coming in, I’m hoping to bring stability and develop the character of the players I’m coaching. I want to win, but, more importantly, I want to develop men of character.”
Morton can also stress the importance of fitness. An avid runner, Morton has competed in 11 marathons, including one in Boston and another in Philadelphia where he posted a personal-best time of 2 hours, 49 minutes, 30 seconds.
“That’s taken a backseat (now),” he said of his running.
Morton’s wife, Amanda, a Brocton native, had a baby girl earlier this year. When combined with raising their 4-year-old son, taking on a new job and coaching a new football team, Morton has plenty on his plate to occupy his time.
“I’m excited to take on an opportunity like this,” he said.