There are two high schools at which Mike Ewing envisioned himself becoming a head football coach.
He is a Ridley guy, through and through, a 2001 graduate of the high school. He was a varsity captain for coach Ralph Batty his senior year. He’ll always bleed green.
But the Ewing name is perhaps most synonymous with Cardinal O’Hara football. Mike’s other dream job became a reality Monday when he was named the next head coach of the Lions.
The grandson of the late Bob Ewing, the legendary O’Hara football coach, Mike takes over from Lions alum and school athletic director BJ Hogan, who was fired from his coaching position after six seasons.
Ewing’s late father, Mike Sr., was a longtime assistant coach at O’Hara. Mike Jr., who spent the last two seasons as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under Dave Wood at Ridley, couldn’t resist the chance to apply when the O’Hara position opened in February.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity,” Ewing said. “My grandpop was there for 16 years as head coach, and my dad was his offensive coordinator. I spent the first nine years of my life on those sidelines and in that locker room. It obviously hurts to leave Ridley, but honestly, these opportunities don’t come around very often, so I took a shot at it.”
Ewing hopes to carve his own legacy at O’Hara. His grandfather was inducted into the Delaware County Athletes Hall of Fame and Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s Delaware County chapter. Bob Ewing had a record of 116-55-4 and guided O’Hara to three Catholic League championships and a city title before retiring in 1990.
Mike Ewing has spent much of the last two decades on great coaching staffs. Before returning to Ridley, he spent 15 years on Jason Vosheski’s staff at Academy Park. He coached multiple positions and eventually became the defensive coordinator. During his tenure, the Knights captured three District 1 championships and several Del Val League titles.
While his stay at Ridley was brief, Ewing was one of the masterminds behind an explosive Ridley offense that produced All-Delcos at quarterback (John Heller), running back (Tahir Mills) and offensive line (Hayden Brown). Heller had the best season by a Green Raiders quarterback in more than a decade, and his 2,197 yards are fifth most in Ridley history. Mills, the Daily Times Player of the Year, became Delaware County’s single-season rushing champion with 2,519 yards and 31 touchdowns. His 36 total touchdowns were one off the county record.
With Ewing as OC, Ridley had its best season in 12 years, advancing to the District 1 Class 6A semifinals.
“Coaching is a people business, and you’ve got to make connections with people,” he said. “I loved the kids at AP and I loved the kids at Ridley. Kids play for each other, and if you let them know how much you care about them, they’ll play for you, too.
“I was very fortunate to have coached with great people. Jason gave me an opportunity to start my career and I’ll be totally remiss if I didn’t mention (longtime Academy Park coach) Chuck Buechler by name because that dude’s an absolute stud who taught me a ton about the game and that there’s a certain way to do things. If you want to be good at it, you’ve got to do what it takes and put the time and work in. Dave is different and that’s OK. He shows you how to do things from an organizational standpoint and I learned a lot from him.”
Few coaches in the Delco football fraternity are as genuinely liked as Ewing. That surely is reasons he was tabbed to replace Hogan, who won a Catholic League division championship and is equally respected among his peers.
Ewing knows the turnaround won’t come overnight for a program that played one game in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and went 3-8 last season. He is looking forward to making relationships in the community to rebuild the Lions’ feeder system within the local parishes.
He will have many familiar faces with him on the sideline, Ridley guys with whom he’s spent years cultivating relationships on and off the field. The staff building is also a work in progress.
“The mission is the same all the time. If you want to be good, you’ve got to put the work in and do whatever it takes,” Ewing said. “Building relationships with the community and the parishes and the CYOs, we’re going to have to be out there and present and connect with people. I think O’Hara is a great place to be and it’s going to be fun.”
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