Brentwood’s Kevin Kissel retires after 40 years on sideline

Friday, December 30, 2022 | 10:51 AM

Kevin Kissel is considered a Brentwood institution, particularly in the high school football program.

Kissel, 66, has been coaching football for 40 years, or much more than half his life.

After working 14 seasons as an assistant (from 1983-96), Kissel has been the Spartans’ head coach for the past 26 years (from 1997-22).

He also played football for Brentwood in 1972 and ‘73, leading the Spartans to a conference championship for the first time in school history his senior year.

Despite having blue and gold blood circulating through his veins, Kissel has decided it’s time to step aside as Brentwood’s head coach. He announced his retirement in mid-December.

“I’ve thought about it the last couple of years. I was really serious about it this year,” Kissel said. “I like coaching and I still want to do it, but I just can’t anymore. I’ve just had enough.

“I’ve been there a long time and I’ve had a great career. It’s the right time to do it. There’s a lot of change (at Brentwood). It’s time to let someone else try.”

Football has been a major function of Kissel’s life since as far back as he can remember.

A lifetime Brentwood resident, Kissel was an All-WPIAL Class AA selection at Brentwood in 1973. He also was named to the Kodak Who’s Who All-American Team.

Kissell accepted a football scholarship to Maryland and competed as a lineman for the Terrapins, coached by Jerry Claiborne, in the Gator Bowl in 1975 and Cotton Bowl in 1977.

As a freshman at Maryland, one of Kissel’s teammates was Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award winner Randy White, a senior defensive end that season who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.

“Maryland always had good teams,” Kissel said.

Kissel was hired as Brentwood’s head coach during the summer of 1997 when Larry Podbesek retired from teaching and was unable to coach in the district.

“They had to hire somebody quick,” Kissel said.

And the affable Kissel was the man for the job.

He guided the program with dignity and respect for the next two-and-a-half decades, and ended his career as the winningest football coach in school history.

“One thing that really aggravates me is we never were able to get back to the stadium (for the WPIAL finals),” Kissel said.

The Spartans’ coaching staff was unique in a holistic sense, as Kissel was assisted by an all-Brentwood staff led by offensive coordinator Dan Golvash, defensive coordinator Greg Perdziola and Mike Vickless, who were joined of late by Nick Caponi and volunteer Mike Zdrojewski.

All are Brentwood graduates and, remarkably, have 122 years of coaching experience between them.

“I coached every one of those guys in high school except for ‘Z,’” Kissel said. “We took pride in what we did. It was Brentwood pride.”

Under Kissel, Vickless coached the running backs, receivers and linebackers, Caponi the receivers and defensive backs and Zdrojewski the offensive and defensive linemen.

Kissel and his staff weren’t big on strict team rules and regulations.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of rules,” Kissel said. “I didn’t treat everyone the same but I was fair with everyone. And we never cut a guy.

“I’m going to miss the interpersonal one-on-one stuff, the time up there (at the high school) with all the guys, and just being around the guys. I will miss being on the sidelines.”

The four members of the Kissel family are Brentwood graduates, as well, as is Kevin’s sister Kim.

Kevin and his wife and high school sweetheart Donna graduated in 1974, and their two daughters, Shannon and Megan, both talented athletes at Brentwood, graduated in 2008 and 2009.

The Kissel girls, Donna, Shannon and Megan, organized a retirement party at the Theme Lounge over the holidays on their favorite coach’s behalf. An estimated 100 former Brentwood football players attended the event.

“It was overwhelming. Now I know why I did it all those years,” Kissel said. “It was really nice. It makes you humble. All those players made the effort to show up. I guess I made my impact, but it’s time for me to get out. How fast it goes. It was fun.”

The Spartans advanced to the WPIAL playoffs 16 times under Kissel with the best seasons being 2006 and more recently 2019.

Brentwood advanced to the WPIAL Class AA semifinal round both years.

After sharing the conference title with Seton LaSalle and winning 10 games in a row including two playoff contests, the Spartans finished 10-2 overall in 2006.

“The ‘06 team was loaded with players,” Kissel said. “And we had big linemen.”

The Spartans were led that season by the likes of RB Da’von Moore, WR Akeem Moore, QB Eric Coxon, FB Nick Fields, WR Steven Hubsch and WR Jesse Gonzalez, among others.

“Pound for pound, Da’von Moore was the best athlete I’ve ever seen. He was the most talented player I’ve ever had,” Kissel said.

“Another talented player we had a little earlier was Ryan Mendel, who rushed for 4,000 yards and went on to play at W&J. He was phenomenal.”

In 2019, Brentwood posted an 8-2 regular-season record, won seven consecutive games and nine of 10, including two playoff contests.

Headlining the Spartans’ efforts that season were John Milcic, at quarterback, Aiden Wardzinski, at running back, and Luke Bauer, a 200-pound lineman.

“I always said (that season) I had the three best players on the field at quarterback, running back and on the line,” Kissel said.

Brentwood qualified for the playoffs seven years in a row from 2008-14 and 11 seasons since 2006.

The varsity program has hit the skids of late, missing the playoffs the past three years with 3-4, 1-9 and 3-7 records, marking the first time during Kissel’s reign the team failed to qualify for three consecutive seasons.

“I can go 3-7 every year,” Kissel said. “but we can’t even compete. We’ve lost quality guys (to other schools) the last few years. It’s frustrating.”


More Football

Trib HSSN Pennsylvania high school football rankings for Dec. 5, 2023
Belle Vernon players, coaches recall ‘The Stand’ ahead of return to PIAA championship game
Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 14
5 WPIAL teams, Westinghouse make March to Mechanicsburg for PIAA championships
Trib HSSN football player of the week for Week 14