The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

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Remembering Coach Hayes

Tuckahoe Yearbook
Coach John Hayes established Bellwood-Antis as a football powerhouse during his 38-year career.

As we make our journey through life, there’s always one person who stands up as a mentor. For many people in Bellwood, that person was John R. Hayes, who was the coach for the Bellwood-Antis football team for thirty eight years.

Coach Nick Lovrich

On the 30th of September, Coach Hayes passed away at the age of 76.

He was laid to rest last Saturday following a memorial service at Memorial Stadium. Almost 100 former players were there to form a tunnel on the track to allow Coach Hayes to make a grand entrance onto the field one final time.

Before becoming the legend he is known as today, Hayes began his career at the home of B-A’s rival, Tyrone. In 1969, Hayes began his work for the Golden Eagles as an assistant coach under John Shonewolf. Hayes would work there for 9 years when in 1978, Shonewolf stepped down. Coach Hayes attempted to get the head coaching position after Shonewolf stepped down, but he did not get the job.

During a short period in 1978-79, Coach Hayes took a year and traveled, going to the 1979 Super Bowl and witnessing the Steelers beat the Cowboys. After his short adventure, Hayes returned to the coaching scene in 1980 when he replaced Bellwood’s head coach, Jim Gardner.

At the time, Coach Hayes wasn’t only coaching, but also teaching. Hayes taught history at Tyrone for a two years while still coaching at Bellwood. Hayes would eventually get a job teaching at Bellwood, where he ultimately became the school’s athletic director.

While coaching at Bellwood, Hayes had 34 winning seasons in  38 years of coaching. Of those seasons, Hayes led 5 District 6 titles and 3 PIAA final fours, but it wasn’t easy work.

Hayes was notorious for having difficult and tough practices. “As tough as everyone thought Coach Hayes was, he was gracious and humble too,” B-A principal Richard Schreier recalled.

Coach was always well respected.  He was tough but that toughness made us better.  He did soften up as time went by, but kids were different back then,” said Mr. Lovrich, a former player for Hayes who graduated in 1991 and Bellwood’s current football and track head coach.

Almost 100 former players were on hand at the memorial service for Coach Hayes, forming a tunnel for the legendary mentor to be led onto the field one last time. (Nick Lovrich)

Although Coach Hayes was tough on his players, he still cared for them deeply. Hayes came from a different period where access to information was limited to books and news articles, and not phones. And yet he was normally on the cutting edge of the coaching profession. For example, Hayes was one of the first coaches to introduce IMPACT testing for head injuries on the high school level in Pennsylvania.

“You have to think that when he started, water was for the weak, it was ok to get your bell rung, and there was no social media,” said Mr. Lovrich.

Not only did Hayes care about his players, he also cared about his community. In 1996, Coach Hayes oversaw the complete renovation of Bellwood’s Memorial Stadium. The stadium that was built remains one of the best in District 6.

By 2019, the stadium was renamed in part to reflect Hayes’ impact on the district. It is now officially John R. Hayes Field at Memorial Stadium.

Hayes also worked on creating the Big Blue Football Camp, a summer program where young football athletes work on their football skills with coaches and older players from the varsity team. Big Blue Camp was also a way to spread the positive mindset that Coach Hayes had presented to his players.

In 2017, Coach Hayes announced he would be retiring as head coach. He stayed on briefly as athletic director and officially retired in 2018.

Throughout his legendary career, Coach Hayes received many individual accolades, including induction into two coaching halls of fame and the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame in 2022. He retired with 323 wins, the most for any coach in the history of Blair County.

Coach Hayes continued to be a mentor to many of his players even after high school.

“Coach loved coaching football,” Coach Lovrich said. “He loved the guys who played for him.  He loved being in Bellwood.  All those things made it an honor to play for him.”

Coach loved coaching football.  He loved the guys who played for him.  He loved being in Bellwood.  All those things made it an honor to play for him.

— Coach Lovrich

In 1993, Coach Hayes hired 1988 B-A grad Charlie Burch as a junior high assistant. It was one of many instances when former players returned to work on Coach Hayes’ staff.

Coach Burch would be a part of the junior high staff for 30 years, 26 of which were as head coach. Later, Hayes would influence Burch into pursuing the position as athletic director for Bellwood.

In 1997, Coach Hayes brought Coach Lovrich into the program. Coach Lovrich recalls his love of coaching even in college. When he came back to Bellwood, Hayes brought up the opportunity to be a coach and Lovrich was quick to the gun.

Coach Hayes would also go on to mentor and inspire Mr. Schreier, influencing him “to be truthful in evaluations and how to have difficult conversations.”

“Coach Hayes was a mentor and friend. I value the wisdom he relayed to me in our conversations about life, work, and football,” Mr. Schreier said.

Although it’s sad to see the ones we cherish pass away, it’s better to remember the good times than the fact they’re gone.

Coach Hayes always had a famous saying, “It’s a beautiful day in central Pennsylvania!” Coach Lovrich probably encapsulates Hayes’ sentiment the best.

He would say that on the coldest, rainiest, hottest days of the year, so we always thought it was about the weather,” Coach Lovrich said. “I figured out what it was about the last week or so.   It was not about the weather at all.  It was about loving what you do, being with the people you love, in a place you love.  That is what makes a beautiful day.  Coach loved coaching football.  He loved the guys who played for him.  He loved being in Bellwood.  All those things made it an honor to play for him.” 

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Jayden Bartlebaugh, A&E Editor
Jayden Bartlebaugh Grade 12 Years in BluePrint: 3 What you hope to do this year: Write some silly satire stories and win an SNO Award. Outside activities: Track, long walks on the beach Why did you take BluePrint: I read my brothers stories and thought it would be a good way to improve my writing skill.

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    Dawn MurrayOct 14, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    This was beautifully written. Thank you so very much for honoring him. Well done.

    (BAHS Class of ‘89)