Battling Adversity: Berea thriving with Aaron Stepp at the helm

Published: Sep. 24, 2019 at 8:39 PM EDT
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It's very clear that Berea loves its high school football, but over the last ten years, losing was the standard.

“I will be honest with you," said wide receiver Cody Moore. "You are in the second quarter down 40 and you just want the game to be over with.”

From 2014 to 2018, the Pirates lost 43 games in a row.

“In our school, everyone laughs at us and thinks we couldn’t do it," said Berea nose guard Matthew Crutcher.

So Berea made a change and hired former head coach Aaron Stepp.

“The expectation is we aren’t going to be mediocre," said Pirates head man Aaron Stepp. "We aren't going to be somebody’s homecoming ten times a year. That was just not an option.”

In his first season of his second stint, the Pirates started 0-9, but won their final game to snap that streak.

“Trust the process," said Berea assistant coach Shawn Thacker. "Hard to swallow when you lose 43 in a row.”

With a win under their belts, the Pirates couldn't wait for the 2019 season, but just a few months ago on July 12, the thought of football was put on hold. Aaron Stepp was involved in a serious crash.

“It was difficult. Melissa his wife called me and said Aaron has been in a wreck," said Thacker.

“I had multiple injuries," said Stepp. "Multiple fractures."

Rehab included, Aaron spent seventeen days in the hospital.

“You start to appreciate things a lot more," said Stepp. "Especially when you realize I’m still here and very well could not have been.”

Once he left the hospital, Aaron returned home with a fresh perspective and refused to miss a practice or a game.

“It is inspiring," said Moore. "All the stuff he is going through and he is out here even with the cane. He is coaching us wanting us to get better.”

“He doesn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him," said Crutcher. "We know what he would want. Put the helmets back on get in the game.”

When the season began, Berea used that setback as a rallying point and is making history in the process. From 43 straight losses to five straight wins, the Pirates are off to a 4-0 start for the first time in eleven years.

“It’s amazing," said Crutcher. "Never felt this way before. Best feeling in the world.”

A feeling that started with a mission to win.

“This hasn’t been a pleasant experience to me from a personal standpoint being injured but it has been a very rewarding experience," said Stepp. "I’ve seen these kids grow. I've seen these kids embrace one another, our community embrace these kids and step up and become a bigger family."