Last Updated: Tue Mar 14, 2023 - 5:35PM
When Nick Keefer was in kindergarten, he dressed up as a football coach for career day. The son of a longtime head coach, Keefer now has the chance to live out that dream, as he was approved by the Hempfield Area school board on Monday to lead the Spartans football program.
“I’m not sure words can accurately describe how excited my family and I are for this opportunity,” said Keefer, who has been an assistant at Hempfield Area since 2011.
“I thought the timing was right for me and my family. This has been a goal of mine to be the head coach of Hempfield.
“I live in this district. I teach in this district. It just feels right,” he continued.
Keefer, a 2006 graduate of Belle Vernon Area, played for the Leopards, and continued his career on the gridiron at Lock Haven University. After graduating in 2010, he joined the Frazier Area football program for one year.
The following season, though, he shifted to Hempfield Area, and since then, he has coached wide receivers and quarterbacks, served as the offensive coordinator, and led the ninth-grade program. He has also been an assistant with the Hempfield Area track and field and softball programs.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some really good head coaches. They all knew I had aspirations of getting to this point in my career, so they were able to delegate certain things to me that most head coaches do,” said Keefer, who served under Greg Meisner, Rich Bowen, and most recently, Mike Brown. “I have been preparing for this role for the past 12 years.”
His biggest coaching mentor, though, has been his father, Tim, who is the head coach for men’s basketball at Carlow University.
“He truly is my hero. He was my role model growing up,” the younger Keefer stated.
In the fall, both his father and his brother, Zach, will join him on the Spartans’ staff.
“It’s an opportunity that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he noted.
Keefer’s predecessor, Brown, served as the helm of the program for two years. After winning just two games in his inaugural season, Brown engineered a spectacular turnaround, as the Spartans started the 2022 campaign by winning their first five games. Hempfield Area, plagued by an injury to starting QB Jake Phillips, went just 1-4 in the second half of the campaign, though, missing the WPIAL playoffs.
During the offseason, Brown stepped down to take the head coaching position at Norwin, which competes in the same conference as Hempfield Area.,
The Spartans graduated the vast majority of their starters from last year’s squad, but that early-season success should pay dividends in 2023 and beyond, according to Keefer.
“I think that these underclassmen are able to see the leadership that those seniors had,” he noted. “I think they are buying in, and they just have to really focus in on that and make sure they are committed the rest of the spring and into the summer.”