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New Salem football coach was part of Canton’s gridiron renaissance

 New Salem football coach was part of Canton’s gridiron renaissance

New Salem Football Coach Brendan Murphy watches the Rocks run sprints at the end of a recent practice.

Murphy brings several years of college coaching to Rocks’ rebuild

When it comes to high school football, Brendan Murphy was red (Canton), now he is blue (Salem). He won with the Chiefs; can Salem’s new head coach find success with the Rocks, too?

Only time will tell, but given the former high school quarterback’s track record and resume, don’t bet against him.

The Rocks are 4-34 since 2018 — and the current senior class has played for three different head coaches — so Murphy has his work cut out for him. But he knows first-hand rapid turnarounds are possible.

Murphy was part of the first Canton graduating class of his current boss and high school football coaching Hall of Famer Tim Baechler (Salem’s current athletic director), who took over a Chiefs program in 1998 that had registered just four winning seasons in the previous 25 years and led them to a Division 1 state championship game appearance by 2005.

“Like any good program — no matter what level — it’s all about being consistent and transparent with the players, which is something I learned from Coach Baechler,” said Murphy, who has served as an assistant coach at several Division II colleges. “I learned from Coach Baechler you have to have clear expectations, which is something we’re trying to instill in our guys here.”

Salem Head Coach Brendan Murphy has the undivided attention of his team following a recent practice

Moments after a recent two-a-day practice wrapped up at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park varsity stadium, Murphy shared what he loves about this season’s Rocks.

“They want to be good, they want it so bad,” he said. “Our job as coaches is to teach them how to work hard, be on time, how to run through a cone — that’s our job. There’s a lot of want; now we have to see more execution of the want.”

Senior starting quarterback Robert Ahlgren said the players have bought into Murphy’s coaching.

“Coach Murphy is holding everybody accountable and I love that,” Ahlgren said. “This coaching staff is making it more of a senior-led team, so they have to yell less if we — me and my fellow seniors — set an example for the younger guys and help lead.”

Murphy reiterated the importance of all-out effort to his players toward the tail-end of a recent two-a-day practice.

As the Rocks ran sideline-to-sideline sprints — the number of which would be determined by how much each player put into the drill — Murphy repeatedly reminded them that “99% (effort) is a (word that rhymes with ditch), 100% (effort) is a breeze.”

“The main thing with this coaching staff is that everyone has to try hard, be accountable and show up — all the little things,” said senior running back/linebacker Robert Jones. “And they’re stressing all the big things, too, like having a good attitude.”

Salem Head Coach Brendan Murphy introduced Robert Jones left and Robert Ahlgren at the KLAA Football Media Day event

Among Murphy’s collegiate coaching gigs were successful stints at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia, and St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, where he also played. Two former St Joseph’s players — including Zach Caswell, Murphy’s former teammate at Canton and St. Joe’s — have joined his staff at Salem.

“I really enjoyed my time at St. Joe’s, where I was an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator,” Murphy reflected. “We won a lot of games, put up some good numbers.

“The thing I remember most, though, is celebrating big plays and big wins with the other coaches and the players. My best memories of playing on this field are the same — celebrating success with the ones you work hard with every day.”

Murphy was an assistant coach at Canton for two seasons prior to making the short move across the P-CEP campus to Salem.

“The first conversation about taking the Salem job with Coach Baechler was quick,” Murphy said. “At first, I wasn’t sure how serious he was and I don’t think he knew how serious I was.

“We’ve always had a great relationship — which is why I still call him coach — so it was a unique conversation. It’s been fun, we’re fired up. Everything is good.”

Salem opens the 2022 season Thursday at 7 p.m. at Dearborn High School.

If you have a story idea for, please contact Editor-In-Chief Ed Wright at 734-664-4657 or


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