Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/18/21
The Ridley Board of School Directors will receive a recommendation to appoint veteran mentor and Ridley alum Jef Hewlings as the head boys’ lacrosse coach, schools superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel announced today,
The recommendation goes to the board for approval at the Dec. 6 meeting. Hewlings would replace Rory Friel, who stepped down in September.
Hewlings, a 1976 Ridley grad, has a distinguished history of coaching in the region and is No. 8 on the all-time list of Philly boys coaching wins with 345. He recently stepped down as coach at fellow Central League member Strath Haven after posting a 101-65 record in 9 seasons while leading the Panthers to the PIAA Class AA title game in 2018 as well as a share of their first Central league title in 2016 when they reached the PIAA semifinals (one class at that time).
“I count each of my coaching experiences as unique and special, and having the opportunity to lead the Ridley program takes me back almost 50 years to the place where I first learned to play lacrosse,” Hewlings said. “I look forward to working with the school administration, our players, and our lacrosse families to make a positive impact in the Ridley community, both on and off the field.
“Ridley is one of the traditional hubs of Delco lacrosse, and with a strong alumni base and dedicated support for the program, I’m excited to have a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our young men.”
“We are very excited to recommend Jeff Hewlings to the Board as a coach at Ridley High School,” said Ridley principal Dr. Kenneth Acker in a statement. “His experience as head coach will help us continue the achievements and tradition one associates with our boys’ lacrosse program.
Athletic Director Jack Signor added, “Jef and his staff will uphold the expectations our community has for being a Green Raider. Jef’s vision is aligned with the Ridley High School Athletic Department philosophy of putting students first.”
Hewlings formerly coached in the Central League at Penncrest from 1989-99, after serving as head coach at Malvern Prep from 1983-87. He also was head coach at Emmaus from 2007-2011 and was an assistant at Ridley in 2012.
Hewlings, who played college club lacrosse for West Chester (just before it became an NCAA program), was Phillylacrosse.com Honorable Mention Coach of the year in 2016.
Hewlings understands that Ridley – a storied program for many years – has struggled in the Central League in recent years.
“I accepted this position because I love coaching – and it was hard not to accept a chance to bring me back to my Ridley roots,” said Hewlings. “Our lone goal is to get better every day – if we work to make that happen, other successes will come our way.
“I do wish my dad was still with us to see me at Ridley (he lived in Ridley Park for 65 years), but beyond that, I’m just excited to be part of a program that has the support of the alumni, the school, and the community. We are stronger together, and with support from all, we’ll do well.”
The Central League has always been a powerhouse for public school teams. The league has produced state champions in 2010-2012 (Conestoga), 2014 (Penncrest), 2015 (Radnor), 2016-2017 (Springfield-Delco) and 2021 (Radnor).
“My coaching philosophy comes down to four behaviors for us all: 1) work hard 2) team first 3) be accountable and 4) overcome adversity,” he said. “The Central League is one of the best leagues in the country to be a part of – I love the competitiveness of the programs and also the camaraderie of the coaches.
“I love how we make each other be our best on every day. Playing a CL schedule prepares us all for lacrosse beyond our league. If you can get through the CL, you are well prepared for playoff time.”
Hewlings also has built a major community service initiative. In 2013 founded “Play for A’s,” a grassroots foundation that has raised over $120,000 to support families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The “Play for the A’s” event, typically featuring between two to four high school games, formerly held each year at Strath Haven, will be moved to Ridley High on April 30 for the 10th annual event.
The schedule is still tentative for 2022, but Hewlings expects there to be three games, beginning at 10 a.m. Springfield-Delco (vs. Pennridge) and Strath Haven (vs. Mount St. Joseph-MD) also will be playing in the event. Ridley’s foe is to be determined.
“Of course, we would not be where we are without the efforts of the Strath Haven lacrosse community, which has fully supported this effort to help others who can use our help,” said Hewlings.
Hewlings guided Emmaus to a record of 66-22 in his tenure there and won the Penn Valley League crown in 2008 and then the Lehigh Valley Conference titles from 2009-11. His Hornets claimed the District 11 championship in 2009 and 2010, while also reaching the second round of the PIAA tourney.
Hewlings began his coaching career at Malvern Prep where he was an assistant from 1981-82. In 2000 Hewlings started the program at Oneonta High in central New York. He also was an assistant at Hartwick College for five years before coming to Emmaus.