(WKBN) – People across the Valley are feeling shock and disbelief after hearing the news that veteran high school football coach Phil Annarella was found dead unexpectedly on Saturday.
“Tremendous loss. You know, Phil was just well respected about how he went about his business at hand,” said Arnold. “Again, touched so many lives, coaches, players, and anytime you can do what he did and remain humble about it, that is what Coach Annarella did,” said Warren Harding head coach Steve Arnold.
Annarella began his career over four decades ago in 1976 at East Liverpool. Along the way, he had stops at Niles, Hickory and most recently at Austintown Fitch, but maybe his biggest accomplishment came in 1990.
The then-head coach at Warren Western Reserve oversaw the merger between Reserve and Warren Harding on the football field, which ended in a state title.
“You know, when you are talking about two-storied programs coming into one, it was difficult, but he was able to get the job done,” says Arnold.
“Through all the colors, schools, players, booster clubs and it was Coach Annarella that was able to conquer that task of accomplishing a goal, and that was going 14-0 and winning a state championship.”
For Arnold, Annarella was something particularly special. Before that season, Coach Phil took a chance on him.
“He gave me my start in coaching in 1990,” said Arnold. “A kid that was four years out of college. Came back home, he was formulating a staff and he hired me as a 9th grade coach. He gave life lessons to players, assistant coaches who he had who have gone on to be head coaches. They are instilling what he taught us, now as head coaches. Not maybe everything, but there are still bits and pieces that we are still using today and back from 1990 when he hired me.”
Cincinnati Bengal center Billy Price posted on Twitter, “Austintown lost a legend today. Wouldn’t have been at Fitch if it wasn’t for Phil. God rest his soul.”
Annarella won 246 games in his 40 plus year career, highlighted by that state championship back in 1990.
Coach Phil Annarella died at 70 years old.
To see the full interview with Arnold, click here.