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Lyon names new head football coach

By Sam Pierce

This article was published December 17, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

Casey Creehan was named the new head football coach at Lyon College in Batesville. He has 19 years of coaching experience, including 13 seasons in the Canadian Football League. Creehan said Lyon fans can expect their team to be very physical under his leadership.

— “I will do everything in my power to win here,” said Casey Creehan, the new head football coach at Lyon College in Batesville. “I make no apology for wanting to win.

“Winning is the American way.”

Creehan was announced as the new head coach on Dec. 5.

“We are extremely excited about Casey joining our staff,” said Kevin Jenkins, the director of athletics for Lyon College. “He has a great background in football and has experience at many different levels.

“His knowledge and awareness of football and the educational system and his ability to recruit the right kids will fit Lyon College and fit our football program.”

Jenkins said he is just excited about “[Creehan] and his family joining our family here.”

Creehan has spent the past two seasons as defensive line coach with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. This is his first job as head coach.

“I am very excited about the opportunity,” Creehan said. “It is a great opportunity, not only for me, but also for my family.

“We immediately felt like Batesville was a home. We visited a couple weeks ago, and we are excited to be a part of this community.”

Creehan has been married to his wife, Lori, for six years, and they have two children — a daughter, Camille, 3, and a 1-year-old son, Weston. The family currently lives in Florida but is looking to buy a house in Batesville.

“My career path that I have been in to this point has not afforded us the opportunity to become entrenched in a community,” Creehan said.

In an email Nov. 27, Jenkins informed students, faculty and players of previous head coach Kyle Phelps’ resignation.

“He is resigning from his position to pursue other opportunities,” the email reads. “We want to thank Coach Phelps for his service and wish him well as he and his family enter a new chapter of their life.

“Lyon College is committed to having a strong football program and providing a great experience academically and athletically for our student athletes.”

On his personal Twitter page (@CoachK_Phelps), Phelps released a statement concerning his resignation.

“You can read between the lines and know that this was not a mutual decision,” Phelps said in his statement. “I would never quit on my team — this was just the beginning for us, and I hate that it has been cut short.

“When you look back on what we have accomplished in the past two seasons, the student-athletes we have developed, the impact we have made in the community and our success on and off the field, this doesn’t make sense, but politics rarely do.

“Thank you, Batesville, for the hospitality and all you have done for our family; we love you, and we will miss you.”

Phelps was hired as head coach in 2016 and led the Scots to a 3-8 record in his first season and a 6-5 record in his second.

On his personal Twitter page, freshman wide receiver Reace Kinley (@R_K_7) said there is “nobody I would rather go to war with, and I know [Phelps] has each and every one of our backs.”

“Not very happy with this decision, but we will move on and strive to achieve the same goals we had in place,” Kinley wrote. “Taking this program to new heights and leading us to our first winning season in just three short years, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

In his statement, Phelps said coaching at Lyon was the ultimate opportunity for his career.

“This program was more than a job for me; it was a family,” Phelps said. “My staff, players and this community hold a special place in my heart.

“Our success was more than tallies in the win column. It was about the life lessons taught, growth spiritually and mentally, and the young men who were able to leave this program better than when they came in.”

Creehan’s hire marks the third head coach in the program’s short history.

“There are some challenges, but those challenges bring opportunity,” Creehan said. “I see a lot of exciting opportunity and potential for growth this year.

“Dr. [Joseph] King, [president of Lyon College], has a vision for this football program, and I share his vision. That’s exciting to me. The team he is putting together on this campus is great, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Creehan said Lyon has an amazing faculty, and “although they teach in a class, my lab is the football field. I consider it all vital in the liberal arts education.”

In a statement released to the Three Rivers Edition, King said, “I am pleased that Coach Creehan has agreed to lead the football program at Lyon College.

“He received his undergraduate degree at a selective liberal arts college and, therefore, understands Lyon’s mission and what it takes to be a scholar-athlete. Both his personal and professional

experience make him an excellent fit for Lyon.”

Creehan said Lyon fans can expect his team to be a very physical team.

“It is a physical game, and we need physical players to succeed,” Creehan said. “It’s a mindset. You have to have a physical mindset on the football field and in everything we do.

“The issue is never the opponent; it is always us.”

After 19 years as a coach, “you get your beliefs, and those are some of mine,” he said.

“We will attack the defense vertically and horizontally,” Creehan said. “We will attack the offense with pressure, and we will be sound on special teams.

“I will make no apology for wanting to win, but I want to win with the right people, and the people are student-athletes. Notice, I said student first.”

A defensive specialist, Creehan started his coaching career as a defensive assistant at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He has also coached at Southern Illinois University (2000-01), Clarion (2001-03), and James Madison (2003-04.) He has spent 13 of the past 14 football seasons coaching in the Canadian Football League.

“I have a lot of colleagues who have shaped me as a coach,” Creehan said. “I have worked with a lot of coaches over the years and have learned something from each and every one of them.

“And I am grateful for that. In terms of someone who has been in the forefront of that, I didn’t have to leave my house.”

Creehan’s dad, Dennis, is a former football coach and currently the athletic director at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia. Creehan’s dad was also the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro in 1997.

“I grew up around the game,” Creehan said, “so that was a large part [of my decision to become a coach.]

“I was a player myself and began my coaching career when I started graduate school. I realized that’s also what I wanted to do.”

Creehan was a member of the football team at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and in 1998, he set a school record for the most tackles in a single season as a linebacker.

“This is a hard game to coach if you didn’t play it,” Creehan said. “I’m not saying it can’t be done. It has been done and has been done very successfully.

“But the strenuous game that it is, having a point of reference, having done it myself, makes it easier in dealing with players.”

Creehan said that in his short time with the team, he has met with every player individually and has started working on putting together a staff full of professional and like-minded individuals who “believe in the mission statement this college has put forward.”

“As we move into [Creehan’s] first year as a football coach,” Jenkins said, “we are looking to him to continue to recruit the quality student-athletes that we need here and continue on the success that we have this year.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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