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BY JEFF FALK

Some Photos Submitted

Cedar Crest was looking for new blood to instill life and stability into its program.

Todd Gingrich was passively seeking the right coaching opportunity.

It was a match made in local boys’ soccer heaven.

On Monday, April 20th, Gingrich’s recommendation as Cedar Crest’s new boys’ soccer coach was approved by the Cornwall-Lebanon school board. Gingrich, who replaces Travis Bensing, will receive an annual stipend of $6,118.

For Gingrich, a 1992 graduate of Cedar Crest and a former player under living legend Glenn Hibshman, it is a bit of a homecoming. For the Falcons, Gingrich represents a hope for returning their boys’ soccer program to respectability.

“It’s a really great opportunity,” said Gingrich. “To have an opportunity as an alum to go back and coach, I just appreciate it. Since Monday, I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me about getting the job.

“Actually, I didn’t find out about it until a month ago,” continued Gingrich. “We all get busy with our lives, and I wasn’t in the loop. But I had a couple of friends say, ‘What do you think about this?’ As an alum, you always wonder about coaching at your alma mater, but I never really thought about it.”

The Cedar Crest boys have not been competitive on the pitch in recent seasons.

Last year under Bensing, the Falcons went 2-14 overall and 0-10 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. In 2018, Cedar Crest sported a 6-10 overall mark and a 3-7 Section One record, which was preceded by seasons of 7-11 and 4-13-1.

Bensing had taken over the program from Dustin Bixler. Cedar Crest was much more competitive in Hibshman’s day, and then under his former assistant, Daryl Neiswender.

“I just want to change the level of expecations,” said Gingrich, a 45-year-old resident of North Cornwall Township. “Travis did a really good job of creating the right culture. Travis is the nicest guy you’re ever going to meet. Coming into the program, there are a lot of things already established that I want established. At Cedar Crest, we have kids who are multiple-sport athletes and well-rounded guys. To me, teaching is teaching.

“As somebody who played in the program, I think we all know the potential is there,” added Gingrich. “One of my first questions to Coach Groff (CCHS athletic director, Chris) was, ‘How are the numbers?’, and they’re really good. There’s potential there to improve. I can’t predict the future, but the goal this season is to be competitive. We have to set realistic goals.”

After playing soccer at Cedar Crest, Gingrich matriculated to Elizabehtown College. He’s pretty much been coaching soccer ever since.

Gingrich spent 16 years coaching high school and middle school soccer at Lebanon – both boys and girls – the last of which were spent as the Cedars’ head varsity coach. Gingrich has also coached locally on the local-club soccer level.

“While I was the coach at Lebanon, I was also coaching club soccer,” said Gingrich. “I’ve coached at every level, from elementary to college, both boys and girls. I was coaching youth girls, and that’s going to be tough to give up. But this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“When I played at Cedar Crest, Coach Hibshman was my coach,” Gingrich continued. “Playing for him was really cool. He’s a real passionate guy. He was a legendary figure even back then.”

Partly because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Gingrich has yet to meet his current players. At this point, he is relishing that moment, and the day he first gets to step on the practice field with them.

“One of the things Coach Groff pointed out was how active the parents are,” said Gingrich. “That’s great. Hopefully, I can have a Zoom meeting with the boys soon. It’s almost like we’re hurrying up to stand still.

“A lot of it depends on when Governor (Tom) Wolf says we can go back to school,” Gingrich added. “The program has always had a youth camp in July. Hopefully that’ll stand. I’d like to connect the high school program with the youth program. I’m hoping to grow the program in that regard. I’m hoping to build some bridges. Strictly from a results standpoint, our program should be competitive in Section One and for making the district playoffs.”

The Falcons returning to respectability will be a process, one that might be best served by building from the ground up. Gingrich knows he has his work cut out for him.

“Life is funny,” said Gingrich, who’s employed by Barnes and Noble during the day. “I’m not even sure that five years ago I would’ve been ready for this position. Coaching is so interesting. You need experience. At this point of my life, I’m ready for this job. I want to teach. That’s my passion. Winning is important and competing is important, but so are all things on the journey.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” continued Gingrich. “I’m excited to get on the field, whenever that may be. Mr. Groff seems like a motivated A.D. But everything right now is potential-based.”

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