O’Donnell takes over as SouthLake football coach

by Cliff Mehrtens

SouthLake Christian Academy offensive coordinator Geoff “Bub” O’Donnell is the team’s new head football coach.

O’Donnell replaces Rich Landis, SouthLake Christian’s coach for the past 11 seasons, who will concentrate on duties as the school’s athletics director and dean of students.

Landis will continue as SouthLake Christian’s baseball coach.

“Geoff’s impressive collegiate coaching experience will serve him well as he builds on our football program’s already solid foundation and takes it to the next level,” SouthLake Christian Headmaster Dr. C. Wayne Parker said.  “Most important, however, is that Geoff agrees with SouthLake’s philosophy of excellence on and off the field. Our football program’s mission is to produce young men who not only perform on the gridiron, but in the classroom as well.”

Landis was 56-40 in 11 seasons as head coach, and guided SouthLake Christian to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II semifinals each of the past two seasons.

In 2011, the Eagles won 10 games for the second time in school history and earned the No. 1 playoff seed before losing 21-17 to Asheville School in the semifinals.

“Over the past 10 years, SouthLake Christian’s athletic program has grown beyond our wildest expectations,” Parker said. “In large part to Rich’s commitment to leading our student athletes and coaches, SouthLake Christian now offers 17 varsity sports that compete at the NCISAA Class 3A level and fields 38 middle school and high school teams. In order to meet the tremendous challenges ahead, SouthLake Christian has hired Geoff to take over our football program so that Rich can devote more time and energy to the global vision of our athletic department.”

O’Donnell said he took the job because of a commitment to excellence, loyalty and a ministry opportunity.

“I made a commitment to SouthLake  two years ago that I’d help them build a winning program that consistently does the right things right,” O’Donnell said.  “Next to my head coach at Dickinson College (Ed Sweeney), there has been no one more instrumental in my coaching development than Rich’s brother, Tim Landis. So when Rich told me two weeks ago to take the football job, I accepted it, to honor him and his brother as well as their tremendous parents. The Landis coaching legacy will continue to be represented on SouthLake’s sideline this fall. When you see our special teams play, you’ll be watching Tim Landis’ playbook.”

O’Donnell was a linebackers coach, strength and conditioning trainer and offensive coordinator/running backs coach at Da vidson College from 1993-98.

He was a three-year starter at fullback for Dickinson (Pa.) College from 1989-91. As a senior, O’Donnell was an all-league selection and team captain, helping the Red Devils to their first undefeated season in school history. Dickinson won the Centennial Conference Championship all three years O’Donnell was a member of the team and twice advanced to the NCAA playoffs.

O’Donnell said a parents-only meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21 for all grades to explain how the spring and summer weightlifting and speed programs work.

“I want the moms and dads of the little guys to buy into my ‘organic growth plan,’” he said.  “They are our future, so let’s water what we want to grow. They’ll be confident that SouthLake is the place to stay for excellence on the football field.”

His other immediate goals include getting college recruiters interested in the Eagles juniors, and finding leaders for the MENS (Mentoring Eagles’ Next Steps) group, in which successful fathers mentor football players toward a righteous life path.

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